Why does Lieutenant Kotler behave as he does towards Pavel in Chapter 7 of John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? 

Why does Lieutenant Kotler behave as he does towards Pavel in Chapter 7 of John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?


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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lieutenant Kotler is thoroughly indoctrinated in the ideology of Nazism; therefore, he speaks in an abusive manner to Pavel, who is one of the Jews contained at the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

When Bruno decides that his friends from Berlin will not be coming to visit him, he feels that he will just have to entertain himself; so, he decides he can have some fun by swinging in a tire. Seeing Lt. Kotler who is talking with his sister Gretel, Bruno approaches him in order to ask the young officer if there are any spare tires around the place that he may have. After joking about another soldier who is wearing a spare tire, Kotler notices Pavel heading toward the house, and calls out to him, using a pejorative term for "Jew" when he does,

"Hey you! ...Come over here, you ----"

Speaking to Pavel insolently when the much older man nears him, Kotler orders Pavel to take Bruno to the storage shed behind the main house and let the boy pick out an old tire and carry it back for him. After he has done so, Kotler tells Pavel, he is to return to the house and be certain that he thoroughly washes his hands "before touching any of the food, you filthy ------." Again Kotler says this pejorative term that makes Bruno look away and be ashamed to be associated with Lt. Kotler.

Lt. Kotler is representative of the Nazi belief that the Jew is "a deformity on the body politic." In reality, the Jews became the scapegoat for the economic problems of Germany after World War I and were rounded up and treated most inhumanely:

In Germany, Hitler used the Jewish people as a scapegoat for all of Germany's problems. With disproportional numbers of wealthy Jewish business owners, Hitler convinced much of Germany that the Jews were to blame for the poor economic state.


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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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