Chapter 13 Summary
Every afternoon, after his lessons are finished, Bruno takes the long walk along the fence and spends time talking to his new friend, Shmuel. One day as he is filling his pockets with food from the kitchen for his daily excursion, he notices the piles of vegetables waiting for Pavel to peel and is reminded of a question that has been bothering him. In confidence, Bruno asks Maria why Pavel told him he was a doctor on the day he fell from the swing. Maria is startled and at first lies, but she is clearly troubled. She looks out the window to make sure no one is coming and tells Bruno that Pavel was once a doctor “in another life.” Warning Bruno that he must keep what she is about to tell him a secret, Maria reveals to him what she knows about Pavel’s past.
When Bruno meets Shmuel a short time later, he tells him about Pavel, who also comes from Poland. Bruno tells Shmuel that Pavel, who had been a doctor in his hometown, fixed his knee when he hurt himself and that there will be trouble if Father hears about what Pavel has done. Shmuel, knowing that Bruno’s father is the Commandant, replies that in his experience soldiers “don’t normally like people getting better,” but Bruno does not understand. He changes the subject, asking Shmuel what he wants to be when he grows up. Shmuel wants to be a zookeeper, and Bruno wants to be a soldier like his father. Shmuel says that he would not want to be a soldier and adds that “there aren’t any good soldiers.” Bruno feels insulted and describes for Shmuel his father’s “impressive uniform” and
the big things...the Fury has...in mind for him because he’s such a good soldier.
Shmuel at first does not reply, then he very quietly says, “You don’t know what it’s like here.” Bruno tells Shmuel that he greatly dislikes one soldier in particular, Lieutenant Kotler; the simple mention of the lieutenant’s name causes Shmuel to turn pale and begin to shiver.
To Bruno’s great disappointment, Lieutenant Kotler joins the family for dinner that night. During the meal, Bruno complains about his lessons, especially history, which he finds hopelessly boring. Lieutenant Kotler reminisces that although his father was a professor of literature, he had enjoyed history most of all as a child. Mother innocently asks if his father...
(The entire section is 621 words.)