The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

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Chapter 12 Summary

Bruno has asked Shmuel why there are so many people on his side of the fence and what they are doing there; Shmuel reflects upon his past in searching for an answer. He recalls that before he came there, he had lived with his parents and brother in a small flat in Cracow. Shmuel’s father had been a watchmaker and had given him a beautiful watch that was taken away by the soldiers.

Shmuel’s idyllic life began to unravel when his mother made an armband with a star on it for each member of the family, and they had to wear it whenever they left the house. Bruno says that his father also wears an armband, one that is “bright red with a black and white design on it.” Bruno draws the design on the ground so Shmuel can see it—it is a swastika.

Shmuel remembers that, after a while, his family was told they could not live in their house anymore. Bruno is delighted to hear that he is not the only one who has been forced to move against his will. He asks his new friend if the Fury had come to dinner at his house, too, just before everything had changed. Shmuel says no and goes on to tell how his family had been relocated to a part of Cracow where the soldiers had built “a big wall.” There, he and his parents and brother had to move into one squalid room with another family—eleven people crammed in all together.

Then one day soldiers in trucks had forcibly taken all the people to a train. Conditions on the train had been unspeakable. Bruno, remembering the two trains at the station when he had left Berlin, naïvely suggests that Shmuel should have ridden in the one that had brought him to Out-With. Shmuel goes on to describe a journey in an airless, stinking boxcar, an experience completely beyond Bruno’s comprehension. When the train had finally stopped, the people had been forced to walk a long way in the freezing cold. Shmuel’s mother had been taken away when they arrived where they are now, and he and his father and brother had been...

(The entire section is 563 words.)