Life changed little at Out-With in the ensuing weeks. Gretel remained unkind as ever, and soldiers like Lieutenant Kotler continued to walk around as if they were more important than everyone else. Eventually, Father decided that Gretel and Bruno needed to return to their studies, and a man named Herr Liszt started coming to the house to tutor them. Though Herr Liszt was outwardly kind, Bruno sensed anger in the man. Bruno also felt disappointed that the new tutor refused to teach art and literature. Herr Liszt insisted that stories were useless and vowed to focus solely on history and geography. He believed the children should know the history of “the Fatherland” and “the great wrongs” that had been done to the German people.
A few days after the new lessons began, Bruno sat alone in his room and recalled how he’d spent his childhood exploring his family’s massive house. He decided to try exploring again, though he’d have to do it outside since the new house was too small. Bruno thought about the people in the striped pajamas outside his window, and he realized that in the months his family had been at Out-With, he hadn’t wondered much about who they were or what they were doing there. He asked himself if those people were really all that different from the people on his side of the fence. He’d seen soldiers mix in with the people in the striped pajamas on the other side of the fence, but he’d never seen people in striped pajamas on his side of the fence.
Setting off to explore, Bruno left the house and started walking along the fence. As he walked, he tried not to think about the fact that his parents had expressly forbade him from going anywhere near the camp.
Bruno walked along the fence for nearly an hour. During that time, he didn’t see anyone near the fence. But suddenly he saw a moving dot in the distance, and as the figure moved closer, the dot grew bigger until Bruno saw it was a boy.
Bruno cautiously greeted the other boy, who wore striped pajamas and an armband with a star on it. The boy sat down on the ground, and Bruno examined him. He had grayish skin and large, sad eyes. He was also very skinny. Bruno announced that he’d been exploring and that he’d found very little except for the other boy. He introduced himself, and the other boy said his name was Shmuel. Bruno liked the sound of Shmuel’s name. When Bruno asked Shmuel how old he was, he said he was nine and that his birthday was April fifteenth. Shmuel’s answer shocked Bruno since he, too, was nine and shared the same birthday.
The boys continued to talk. Bruno asked Shmuel if he had any friends, and Shmuel indicated that there were more boys his age on his side of the fence. Bruno complained about being stuck on his side where he was the only boy. Bruno said he came from Berlin, and Shmuel said he came from Poland. Neither boy knew where in Europe Poland was located, but Shmuel explained that they were in Poland now. Shmuel said he came from a much nicer part of Poland, and Bruno insisted that wherever it was it couldn’t be as nice as Berlin.