In The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, how do Bruno and Shmuel die?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As different as the lives of Bruno and Shmuel are in The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, they suffer the same cruel fate, highlighting the futility of war and how no "fence" can protect anyone, especially when the evil is to be found on the outside of the fence, as much as inside it. Bruno's family, except his father will shortly return to Berlin. 

Bruno has forged a friendship with Shmuel and they find many things to talk about although Bruno never understands the extent of Shmuel's suffering as he sits on his side of the fence. Eventually, he ventures into the camp shortly before his expected return to Berlin. Shmuel brings him a pair of "pajamas" and remarks how they look almost "exactly the same.". With his shaved head and now in his own "pajamas," Bruno blends in and the reader is chilled by Bruno's recollection of his dressing-up at his grandmother's house; "You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you’re pretending to be," he remembers his grandmother saying. 

Bruno discovers that the idyllic life he perceived is nowhere to be found. He longs to go home but cannot disappoint his friend and the boys search fruitlessly for Shmuel's father. Just as they are returning to the fence, they are caught up in events and are ushered into a room that is “surprisingly warm.” The "best friend(s) for life" hold tight to one another as they, along with the crowd, are gassed.   

Although it may seem inconceivable to some that any such event could ever have happened and some people are offended by any suggestion that Nazis suffered as Jews did, Boyne plays with the idea that it could have happened to anyone; the tables could have been turned and the boys could have been anyone's children! 

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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