In the movie Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008), the young protagonist Bruno befriends a Jewish prisoner, Shmuel, at a concentration camp near his home. At the end of the movie, Bruno sneaks away from home, breaks in to the camp in order to help Shmuel find his father, and subsequently is taken to a gas chamber to be executed, as he is mistaken for an actual prisoner.

His parents quickly discover he is missing, track him to the camp, and Bruno's father sees an empty barracks, indicating a gassing has taken place. However, they spend very little time searching the camp, and his mother breaks down in tears outside the fence without even seeing the empty barracks.

Why do they assume he has been killed so quickly, without a more extensive search of the area? Is this a case of the viewer knowing Bruno has been killed and they will find evidence eventually?

2 Answers 2


Since the Father is the commander of the camp, he knows how thorough his orders are carried out, and the lack of mercy his subordinates use. Since the son has never met the subordinate guards, they don't know him by sight. When the barracks are emptied, they are emptied with extreme prejudice. As soon as the Father and mother see the empty barracks, their first thought is obviously that there is no hope in finding their son alive.


Bruno's father was a highly ranked soldier and commander of that particular camp. He knew the way orders were carried out - ruthlessly and immediately. If Bruno was not out then he was getting gassed because there was a whole hut empty of people, a good indication of what would be taking place. The mother broke down because Bruno's father yelled and his tone of voice was sad and despairing, leading her to the conclusion her beloved son was dead.

  • 1
    Please add details to your answer. As it currently stands, I am afraid it will be removed.
    – A J
    Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 4:13
  • 1
    How is this answer different than Ben's, other than that the poster has a lower rep? In fact, IIRC the wife for a long time does not know what is going on in the camp, and so its more plausible she's taking cues from her husband, rather than drawing conclusions from the empty barracks herself.
    – sebf
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 14:01

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