set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

Start Free Trial

What did Lieutenant Kotler do to Pavel after he spilled the wine in his lap?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter thirteen of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Pavel—an old Jewish man and former doctor who is now working as a servant in the house of Bruno's father—mistakenly spills wine on Lieutenant Kotler's lap. The arrogant Kotler then drags Pavel into the next room and beats him so badly that he dies, leaving the maid, Maria, to clean up the mess.

This is startling to Bruno, who has two reactions to the beating. First, he decides (much like his father) not to get involved in such situations out of a desire to protect his own self from harm. Second, it forces him to start questioning what is occurring at Auschwitz. Bruno is generally willfully ignorant of his father's involvement in the atrocities, despite the fact that his promotion to Commandant has caused the family to move to "Out-With" (Auschwitz); however, he can clearly detect that something is not right after this incident.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Boy with The Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, Pavel is an old man, a doctor, who is now a servant in the house of Bruno's father. Despite his medical skill, he must remain quiet and subservient, since he is also a Jew, and so considered of a lower class, and unworthy of attention.

In Chapter 13, near the end, Pavel accidentally spills wine on Lt. Kotler, a Nazi guard who thinks of himself as important. In his fury at being shamed by the spill, Kotler drags Pavel out of the room and beats him; it is probably, though not stated in the text, that Pavel died from the beatings. The serving girl Maria cleans up the mess in the kitchen.

The beating gives Bruno cause to question what he has seen at Camp Auschwitz; although he is slowly coming to the conclusion that there are evil things happening, he had never directly associated them with the people he knew directly. Since a running theme in the book is Bruno's love of his father, and his unwillingness to understand that his father is involved in evil deeds, the violence of Kotler -- while his father says and does nothing -- allows him to understand that allowing evil to happen is just as bad as committing it. However, the violence of the beating also leads Bruno to resolve to not get involved, in fear of retribution, unconsciously mimicking his father's behavior.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team