The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Questions and Answers
by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How did Bruno and Shmuel die in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne?

Bruno and Shmuel die at the end of the novel when Bruno sneaks into the concentration camp to visit Shmuel and they are sent to a gas chamber by Nazi soldiers. They are tricked into going into the gas chamber by being told they are going to be taking a shower. The boys are not seen again after they enter.

Expert Answers info

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write4,539 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Bruno is a nine-year-old boy from whose perspective The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is told. The story starts in Berlin, but Bruno's father is a Commandant in the Nazi army and gets promoted by Hitler himself. This promotion comes with a new assignment: the commandant of the concentration (death) camp called Auschwitz. Bruno is naive and tells the story just as he sees and experiences it.

Bruno is out exploring one day and discovers another little boy sitting morosely on the other side of the fence. His name is Schmuel and he is exactly the same age as Bruno; they even share the same birthday. Their relationship continues over time, but eventually Bruno is going to be moving back to Berlin with his sister and mother and he wants to play at least one time on the same side of the fence with his best (and only) friend, Schmuel.

Schmuel has been unable to find his father (we deduce that his father has been exterminated), so Bruno agrees to come inside and help his friend look for clues. Schmuel brings Bruno a uniform (which Bruno refers to as "striped pajamas"), and Bruno fits right in since his head had been shaved because of lice--though he is "fatter" because he has, of course, been eating well.

The boys discover nothing as they explore the camp, but just as Bruno is considering sneaking back under the fence and go home, some soldiers come and round the two boys and some others up and herd them into 

a long room that was surprisingly warm and must have been very securely built because no rainwas getting in anywhere. In fact, it felt completely airtight.

Bruno assumes the soldiers are just being nice and trying to keep this group from standing in the rain and catching colds. Bruno and Schmuel are glad to have each other as they wait together in the dark, neither realizing what is about to happen to them. 

The next line of the novel says this:

Nothing more was ever heard of Bruno after that.

Obviously what happened is that Bruno, Schmuel, and the others the soldiers rounded up that day were gassed to death and presumably their bodies were then burned.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

user5156764 | Student

Did his dad move house and start a new work which wasn't war 

kjohnson0204 | Student

This is so sad this whole period in history. Nobody deserves this I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy but I truly love learning about it 

smart0415 | Student

Bruno and the other jewish kid also known as shmuel have died because bruno and his mother and sister were moving some where else and he wanted a last chance play with his bestfriend so he dug a whole and put on the uniform although bruno thinks its a striped pajamas. Bruno and shmuel webt looking for pa and webt in a dmall area with abunch of men then the soldiers told them to take off their close so they did. They were asumming that they were gonna take a shower but instad they were locked up in a room and the soldiers put gas and they were burned to death.

mileygirl123 | Student

lori steinbach is wrong he was 8

ssandhu05 | Student

Bruno had put on the outfit that the Jewish had to where in the camp, and all the whole Jewish community that Bruno and Schmuel where near were striped of their clothes and told that they were going to take a shower. Really, the whole community was shoved into the gas chambers, where everyone had died due to the gas released inside. Bruno and Schmuel were both inside during that time.

ainsleyharris | Student

As Bruno put on his pajamas and entered the other side of the fence, all Jewish prisoners (including Bruno and Shumel) were ushered by Nazi soldiers into a gas chamber. They thought they were simply going to have a shower, but they had to strip their clothes, and walk into the big chamber in which they were locked within.
The boys and all the other prisoners were unfortunately and cruelly gassed to death by the Nazis.

A positive aspect or way of looking at this though is that Bruno and Shumel died together, as friends.