The main character in the story is a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. One day, Bruno finds out that he’s moving away from his house in Berlin to a place called Out-With, near the border of Germany. His new house is close to a military camp where Bruno's father starts working.Bruno, as well as most other people in his family, doesn’t like Out-With at all and finds it dull and dreary.
Bruno hates Out-With, as he doesn’t have anything to do in it or any friends to play with. He thinks of things he can do to entertain himself and eventually decides to build a swing. After playing on it for a while, Bruno falls off it and ends up with numerous cuts around his body.
Bruno eventually decides to start exploring Out-With and after following a fence for around an hour, he finds a boy on the other side sitting beside it. Bruno talks to the boy and learns a bit about him. Bruno then starts regularly speaking to him and they both become close friends.The boy is named Shmuel and is a lot like Bruno but is a bit more agitated because of various events in his life. Bruno learns that Shmuel lives in a concentration camp on the other side of the fence.
One year later, Bruno finds out that he’s moving back to Berlin. He tells Shmuel about this, and they decide to have one final adventure together around the concentration camp, to try and find Shmuel’s father, who had recently gone missing. The two friends weren’t able to find him.
Bruno and Shmuel - amongst other people - are ordered to march into a long, air-tight room. The doors to the room are locked so that the amount of air in it is limited.
After a long time of mourning for Bruno, his family eventually moves on and goes back to Berlin.