What is the relationship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?
Bruno and Shmuel, both characters in the poignant novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, become best friends, despite their backgrounds and realities being worlds apart.
Bruno is the son of a Nazi officer who works at the Auschwitz concentration camp and has close ties with Germany's dictator, who Bruno calls "The Fury." Shmuel is Jewish, and is a prisoner in Auschwitz. Bruno has lived a sheltered life, which is the cause of his naivete, while Shmuel has been denied basic human rights, imprisoned, robbed, and exposed to untold horrors.
The friendship is a surprising one in many ways, with Bruno having been indoctrinated to think that "Germany is the greatest of all countries," and Shmuel being a Polish Jew. It also stands to reason that Shmuel, as someone imprisoned due to the beliefs of Germany's dictator, could have been skeptical about befriending a German boy.
When Bruno and his family first arrive at "Out-With," Bruno is devastated to have had to leave his close friends, Karl, Daniel, and Martin, behind in Berlin. His friendship with Shmuel, which soon evolves to be deeper than any of those he had back in Berlin, becomes a central focus in Bruno's life. Friendships and having someone to play with are extremely important to Bruno.
While Bruno redeems himself at the end of the novel, he is not always a good friend to Shmuel. When Shmuel is brought to Bruno's home as a servant, he begs Bruno for some food, which Bruno gives him. However, when a Nazi officer catches Shmuel eating, he accuses Shmuel of stealing the food, and Bruno's failure to defend his friend earns Shmuel a beating.
When Bruno's mother hatches a plan to move back to Berlin with the children, having realized that a house next door to a death camp is no place to raise children, Bruno is once again devastated at the thought of leaving a friend behind. In the ultimate display of loyalty to his friend, Bruno climbs under the fence and dresses in the titular "striped pajamas" to help Shmuel find his father, who has gone missing. The book has a tragic ending when the friends are inadvertently swept up in a march to the gas chambers. By this point, Shmuel is the closest friend that Bruno has ever had. This friendship has caused his former friendships with Karl, Daniel, and Martin to fade into such insignificance that he can no longer remember their names or what they looked like.