In the novel, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Shmuel is a boy the same age as Bruno. In fact, they both have the same birthday, April 15, 1934.
Shmuel is a Jewish boy from Poland and is a prisoner of war in Auswitz. In many ways, he is the antithesis of Bruno. They represent opposite sides of the war: the German “Nazi” side, and the Jewish side. Bruno is a German, living in a beautiful, comfortable home, with parents who love him. Shmuel is living in a prison camp, wears striped “pajamas,” and has a Star of David armband. He is separated from his mother, and he and his father were imprisoned together.
The boys form a friendship and Bruno learns many hard lessons from Shmuel. He learns that Shmuel is hungry, that he has no freedom, and that he gets beaten by the soldiers. On one occasion, Shmuel is brought into the house to clean glasses because his hands were small. Bruno notices the difference in their hands.
“Although Bruno was small for his age, and certainly not fat, his hand appeared healthy and full of life. The veins weren’t visible through the skin, the fingers weren’t little more than dying twigs. Shmuel’s hand, however, told a very different story.” (pg 167-168)
When Bruno sees Shmuel in the kitchen, he is thrilled. However, Lieutenant Kotler finds them conversing and notices that Shmuel has eaten something, something that was given to him by Bruno. When Shmuel says that he and Bruno are friends, Bruno, in fear of Lieutenant Kotler, denies it.
"He’d never seen anyone look so terrified as Shmuel did at that moment and he wanted to say the right thing to make things better, but then he realized that he couldn’t; because he was feeling just as terrified himself.” (pg 172)
Shmuel is severely beat, and Bruno feels very ashamed.
“He had never felt so ashamed in his life; he had never imagined that he could behave so cruelly. He wondered how a boy who thought he was a good person really could act in such a cowardly way towards a friend.” (pg 174)
Two boys the same age, nine, represent two sides of the war. They were born the same day and died the same day.