Bruno, the nine-year-old son of a Nazi commander, arrives home after a day at school to find the house being packed up. At first, he's concerned he's being sent away, but quickly notices that his mother's things are also being packed. He asks his mother about this change, and she confirms that the family is embarking on a "great adventure." Bruno learns that they are moving for his father's work. The Fury, as Bruno calls him, sees a lot of potential in his father, and is sending them someplace important to conduct a key job. Bruno doesn't understand his father's job and has little perspective for what this means.
Bruno is upset as he learns more about the move. Realizing he will be traveling far away and not returning to school causes a great deal of stress. He will have to say goodbye to his friends, Karl, Daniel, and Martin. His mother tries to reassure him but eventually tells Bruno that they don't have a choice.
Bruno reflects on everything he loves about their house: the five stories, the long banister, and the proximity to Grandfather and Grandmother. He wonders if they'll move along with the family. He can hear his parents argue, and it becomes clear that his mother does not want to move any more than Bruno does. He eventually returns to his room and helps the maid pack his things.