In The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, at the end,

Bruno sneaks into the death camp to help Shmuel find his father. While they're there looking in Shmuel's cabin, the Nazis round everyone in the cabin up and take them "to the showers". Shmuel and Bruno are gassed to death by the Nazis.

After that,

Bruno's family is seen devastated

And the movie fades to black on this scene:

gas chamber door

What is this final scene, showing the gas chamber door, supposed to tell us? What's the message?

2 Answers 2


Bruno, Shmuel and the other inmates are stopped inside a changing room and are told to remove their clothes for a "shower". They are packed into a gas chamber, where Bruno and Shmuel hold each other's hands. A Schutzstaffel soldier pours some Zyklon B pellets inside, and the prisoners start panicking, yelling and banging on the metal door. When Ralf realises that a gassing is taking place, he cries out his son's name, and Elsa and Gretel fall to their knees in despair and mourn Bruno. The film ends by showing the closed door of the now-silent gas chamber, indicating that all prisoners, including Bruno and Shmuel, are dead.

from wiki

I don't think it means anything, it is what it is, it's a poignant, lingering shot, the silence allows the viewer to be alone with their thoughts for a few moments and digest what has happened, the horror of it all, not just for the death of Bruno, but for all of those who were murdered in such a way. It's something that goes beyond the 'horror of war' cliche and allows us to imagine something more, that at that time, even amongst the accepted wartime horror, an even greater evil existed.


What is this final scene, showing the gas chamber door, supposed to tell us? What's the message?

  • The uniforms

    By showing all the prisoner uniforms, the scene is able to emphasize the vast number of people that died in the gas chamber, and ultimately, the Holocaust in its entirety. In doing this, the scene is able to visualize those who have just died without being so graphic about it.

    If they actually showed a room full of recently gassed people, in the same fashion they did the uniforms, it would not have fit the style of this film.

    enter image description here Left - beginning position of the scene with few uniforms in frame; Right - final position, with prisoner uniforms scattered everyone.

  • Camera movement

    The use of a dolly shot offers the audience an ampule amount of time to process the horror, and the scale, of the Holocaust. It gradually reveals the scattered-about uniforms, instead of all at once, which further amplifies the profoundness of the scene. At a certain point, the audience may even begin to wonder how much longer the shot will last; i.e., how many more uniforms there are.

    And then, the scene also allows the audience a chance to consider the father's recently shown realization, and the mother's devastation.

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