One of the true terrors of the Holocaust was how few people were able to assert a sense of the collective good. Understandably, many people felt they could not stand up for one another because they were afraid for their own lives. Fear dominated the time period of the Holocaust, and we see this echoed throughout the story. For example, Bruno is fearful when his friendship with Shmuel might be exposed, and he lies to protect himself. However, Bruno later feels bad for betraying his friend and apologizes to Shmuel for abandoning him in his time of need. Later, Bruno demonstrates greater courage and sympathy when he decides to go on an "adventure" to help find Shmuel's father.
When studying the Holocaust, it is common to hear that people "did what they had to do" in order to survive, and there is no doubt that this was often the case. Yet there are moments in history where individuals went above and beyond and looked beyond their own survival to help others. As the novel progresses, we see Bruno begin to look outside himself to better understand the suffering of his friend.