set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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Where does Bruno's family move in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Chapter one of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is set in Berlin, Germany. Bruno and his family--mother, father, older sister Gretel, and nine-year-old Bruno--live in a large house which Bruno enjoys exploring. They all have friends in Berlin, and Bruno's father's parents live quite near them,...

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as well. In this chapter, Bruno is surprised to learn that he and his family will be moving very soon.

We learn that Hitler had come to dinner at Bruno's house and gave Bruno's father a promotion; Bruno's father is now a commandant and has a new job. The story is told through the eyes of young Bruno, so we kind of have to figure out where they are moving. Here are our clues:

  • Bruno assumes they are not moving very far away, but his mother says it is quite a long way. Bruno still does not quite realize what this means as he approaches his new bedroom window for the first time:

He walked slowly towards it, hoping that from here he might be able to see all the way back to Berlin and his house and the streets around it and the tables where the people sat and drank their frothy drinks and told each other hilarious stories. 

  • They have moved into a house right next to a place Bruno calls "Out-With," but everyone in his family tells him he is pronouncing it incorrectly.
  • The place next door is some kind of camp, and the people inside it all wear a kind of uniform (which Bruno calls "striped pajamas").
  • Gretel later tells Bruno that the people in the camp are all Jews, their enemies. 

Putting all the clues together, we can surmise that Bruno's family has moved from Berlin, Germany, to southern Poland, where the Auschwitz concentration camp was located. They live in isolation near the camp, not near a specific city. 

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In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, how did Bruno's life change from moving to Auschwitz from Berlin?

Bruno's life dramatically changes when he moves from his lovely, five-story home, "if you include the basement," in Berlin to Auschwitz, which Bruno refers to as Out-With. In Auschwitz, Bruno does not have his three best friends to play games with, and there are no bustling town streets to walk up and down. His new home at Auschwitz is significantly smaller, uncomfortable, and has a cold, threatening atmosphere. Bruno cannot slide down a massive banister at his new home in Auschwitz and cannot spend time with his grandparents because they stayed in Berlin. There are also fewer places to explore at Auschwitz, and the environment is extremely perplexing.

Bruno does not understand that Auschwitz is a Nazi concentration camp and believes the prisoners are wearing striped pajamas. He also cannot understand why there is a large fence surrounding the camp and initially wants to head back to Berlin. As time passes, Bruno becomes close friends with a Jewish boy named Shmuel, who is a prisoner on the opposite side of the fence. Eventually, Bruno gets used to his life at Auschwitz and enjoys spending his days secretly talking to Shmuel.

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Where did Bruno find himself when he moved away from Germany in the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Once Bruno and his family leave Germany they relocate to the Polish town of Oświęcim, which the Germans had renamed to Auschwitz after they took it from Poland in the first days of World War II. Bruno does not like his new house, which is smaller than the one they had in Berlin, nor does he like the fact that soldiers are continually coming and going from it.

In the story, Bruno's father is made commander of the concentration camp located in that city (which Bruno knows as Out-With.) In real life, the camp's commander, Rudolph Hess, testified in war crimes trials after the war that about 3 million people were killed while at the camp (though the Auschwitz museum has revised the number down to about 1.1 million, 90% of whom were Jews.)

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