In John Boyne's The Boy With the Striped Pajamas,  where does Gretel think they are?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In John Boyne's The Boy With the Striped Pajamas, unbeknown to them, children Bruno and Gretel are moved with their parents to a house on the property of the death camp Auschwitz, and their father is in charge of orchestrating the mass executions. Unknowingly, Bruno develops a friendship with one of the Jewish prisoners, a friendship that soon leads to dire consequences.

In Chapter 3, twelve-year-old Gretel mistakenly informs her brother that they have just moved to "Out-With," as opposed to Auschwitz. In fact, she informs him, "That's the name of the house ... 'Out-With'" (p. 17). However, as the two children continue to discuss, Gretel's mistaken name actually has very significant, even symbolic, meaning. Gretel decides "Out-With" means, "Out with the people who lived here before us" (p. 17). Gretel's misunderstanding ironically perfectly fits the principle behind the Holocaust launched by Hitler. The Nazis had every intention of being out with, getting rid of, all but themselves because they believed the Aryan race to be superior.

Unbeknown to her, Gretel also discloses another tragedy associated with her misnomer "Out-With." Gretel has heard that the last inhabitants of their house left quickly because they were doing a poor job, so Gretel decides the name "Out-With" has to do with the old employees being kicked out of the house to make way for her father, who can do the job correctly. Sadly, Gretel is correct in believing her father will perform the job intended to be performed at Auschwitz much better than his predecessor. Her father's actions lead to a herding of the prisoners and a mass execution by gas chamber in which Gretel's brother Bruno accidentally becomes one of the victims.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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