How would you describe the relationship between Mother and Gretel? 

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the mother maintains a decent relationship with her children.  She does care for them and is trying her best to be a supportive wife and a protective mother.  The mother understands that what is happening at Auschwitz is something that does offend her sensibilities and wishes to shield her children from it.  In terms of domestically, she is there for her children.  She does not exert a very strong moral force on the children.  She probably recognizes that it would fly into direct conflict with what the father does as a Nazi officer.  It is for this reason that she does not speak out when Gretel becomes a Nazi "disciple" in transforming her room as a shrine to the Nazi movement.  Gretel's mother is a moral woman, recognizing that what is happening at Auschwitz offends her sensibilities.  Her moral treatment of others is seen when she treats Pavel with respect.  However, Gretel's mother does walk a fine line between the roles dictated to her as mother and wife.  As the novel concludes, it seems her characterization pivots towards the former and from the latter. When Gretel is discovered to have lice, the mother is quick to take care of her and help her.  When Bruno disappears, the mother takes Gretel out of Auschwitz, reflecting how she can no longer deal with the reality of what is going on in front of her eyes and remain silent.  She has recognized that her lack of voicing humanity has come at the cost of her son, something that she will not permit happen to her daughter.