The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

What different attitudes do the boys have to the armbands?

in chapter 11 & 12

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Chapter Twelve returns to Bruno and Shmuel's conversation from opposite sides of the fence. Chapter Ten had ended with Bruno's question to Shmuel: "Why are there so many people on that side of the fence? And what are you all doing there?" (115). Shmuel answers by explaining his experience. He lived with his mother, father, and his brother Josef in an apartment above his father's watchmaking store. One day, his mother was making armbands for the family with the Star of David on them, and she told him he had to wear his whenever he left the house. Bruno tells Shmuel that his father wears an armband, too - only Father's armband has the Nazi symbol on it, while Shmuel's family's armbands have the Star of David.

In Chapter Twelve, Shmuel describes how he came to have to wear his Star of David armband and draws the symbol in the dirt. Bruno points out that his Father wears one, too, and draws the Nazi symbol in the dirt on his side of the fence. They were both forced to leave their comfortable homes against their will. When Shmuel describes how he and his family were forced to come on a train to Out-With, Bruno cannot understand why Shmuel seems so sad, since "much the same thing had happened to him" (130).

But the key difference between them - that Shmuel is Jewish and thus a member of the oppressed group in this genocide, while Bruno happens to be German and thus a member of the oppressing group - is clear. When Bruno tells Shmuel that Father also wears an armband, Shmuel observes, "Yes, but they're different, aren't they?" (127).