In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, what was Bruno's description of "Out-With"?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas traces the life of Bruno when his family has to move from his beloved Berlin to a place Bruno can only describe as "Out-With," which is "a horrible place." Bruno loves his house in Berlin with banisters for him to slide down and good friends to play and explore with. Bruno feels that there is "nothing to be happy about" in his new home; it has a strange atmosphere and Bruno wonders if anyone even laughs there. 

Bruno is intrigued by the people he can see from his bedroom window but his father tells him that "they're not people at all, Bruno... at least not as we understand the term." Bruno is confused by this and many things in this strange place but, as a young boy, does not dare to question his father further. Despite being banned from exploring, Bruno sets out one day, bored by his lessons and, as ever, anxious to leave this place or to find something interesting about it.

Bruno sees Shmuel, and is convinced that he has "never seen a skinnier or sadder boy in his life." Shmuel is on the other side of the fence which has so mystified Bruno where everybody wears the same grey striped pajamas. Bruno, in his innocence, can only see the unfairness of being alone on his side of the fence at "Out-With" when Shmuel has so many "friends" to play with on his side. 

juanamac eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bruno refers to the death camp "Auschwitz" as "Out-With," which is a brilliant piece of writing that gives us insight into the time through the eyes of our unreliable narrator.  Bruno, a mere child, attempts to understand what is going on in WWII Germany. The son of the camp commander calls "Auschwitz," which he mishears as "Out-With" and doesn't understand.  Readers gain insight as he goes "out" "with" Shmuel, the Jewish boy in the "striped pajamas" he meets through the fence in the concentration camp.  To him the two words, Out and With, have none of the fear that we, a more educated reader, bring to them.  We feel for him as he climbs under the fence.  We know how his story will end long before it happens.

He also misunderstands the term "Fuhrer" and thinks of Hitler as "the Fury," which also is an apt description.