The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas story
An SS General moves figures around a map as soldiers rise from the smoke. The Fury (the Führer) enters and promotes the SS General to Commandant. Bruno arrives and lovingly embraces his Father, the Commandant.
Bruno is playing in the street with his best friends Daniel and Carl when they bump into Bruno’s grandparents. Elsewhere in the city, soldiers are identifying and evicting Jewish citizens. A Jewish doctor, Pavel, is stripped of his medical attire before being taken away.
Bruno’s family prepare for their move away from Berlin as part of Father’s promotion. Maria, the family maid, announces the arrival of Bruno’s grandparents who have come to say goodbye. The whole family bursts with pride for Father - except for Grandmother, who bitterly disapproves of her son’s position. In the empty house, the dark presence of The Fury prowls.
Arriving at 'Out-With' (Auschwitz)
Jewish prisoners are herded through the gates of Auschwitz. Father arrives and is greeted by Lieutenant Kotler. Meanwhile, the family have moved into their new home near the camp, much to Bruno’s disappointment.
In the distance, Bruno sees people dressed in what he believes are striped pyjamas. Amongst them, a boy is forcibly separated from his father. Soon the commotion is over, leaving one prisoner, Pavel, who will act as the family’s servant.
Kotler screams orders at Pavel as Gretel watches; she is visibly attracted to the young Lieutenant. Bruno follows Pavel, who is struggling to carry a heavy tyre. Together, they make a tyre swing using the large tree in the garden. Bruno swings high but falls. Pavel takes Bruno to the kitchen and tends to his wounds until Mother arrives. Uneasy, she tentatively thanks Pavel.
The children’s new tutor, Herr Liszt, arrives. He teaches Bruno and Gretel about the purity of what he calls the ‘superior race’. Gretel is fascinated but Bruno is uninterested. Mother is troubled by the material in their study books and Father is unable to reassure her. Bruno notices their discord. Bruno runs away from the house until he reaches a barbed wire fence and sees a boy, Shmuel, approaching from the other side pushing a cart. They enjoy each other’s company until Shmuel runs out of energy. A siren blares and Shmuel runs off.
In what feels like a dream, soldiers and prisoners come in and out of focus, leaving Kotler, who is being manipulated by The Fury. Back in reality, Kotler and Gretel’s flirtation grows, but when Mother returns from a shopping trip Kotler turns his attention to her. Tired of Kotler, Bruno slips away from the house unnoticed.
At the fence, Bruno and Shmuel play with Bruno’s football. A strong connection develops between them and the fence seemingly no longer exists. Suddenly Shmuel stoops to the floor with hunger, returning the boys to reality.
Bruno goes back to the house to steal food for Shmuel. Maria catches him, but he does not give up his secret and swiftly returns to the fence with food for his friend.
A soldier drops a striped uniform from a laundry cart. Gretel picks up the uniform while flirting with Kotler. Mother takes the garment to Father horrified that her children are being brought up in such an environment. They argue until Father is called away by an SS Officer.
In Father’s absence, Kotler and Mother share a lustful moment. They are caught in a compromising situation by Father who questions Kotler’s loyalty.
In the dining room, Bruno is surprised to see Shmuel who has been brought to the house to help prepare the table for a dinner party. He offers food to Shmuel who only accepts after Bruno insists. At that moment Kotler arrives. In his terror, Shmuel explains that Bruno gave him the food, but a fearful Bruno denies this. Bruno walks away, consumed with guilt as Kotler beats his friend.
The dinner party guests begin to arrive, including Bruno’s grandparents. When Pavel, who is serving, becomes unsteady on his feet, Grandmother moves to his aid to the disgust of the men at the table. After Grandmother leaves in anger, Pavel accidentally spills wine over Kotler who beats him.
The Fury prowls as heavy clouds draw in. Father strips Kotler of his Lieutenant ranking and sends him into battle as a front line soldier. As the storm approaches, we see images of Kotler dying in battle. When Bruno runs away again, Mother, Gretel and Maria notice his empty tyre swing and become concerned.
Bruno arrives at the fence and begs Shmuel’s forgiveness. Shmuel explains that his father is missing, so Bruno disguises himself in a striped uniform from Shmuel's cart and crawls under the fence to help him search. Meanwhile, Mother rushes into Father’s office in despair for their missing son.
In the camp, soldiers herd a group of prisoners towards a gas chamber. Bruno and Shmuel are swept up amongst them. The boys embrace in terror as they are enveloped in noxious gas.
Mother and Father find Bruno’s clothes by the fence. Mother collapses, grief stricken, and Father is left clutching his son’s clothes in deepest remorse.