Bruno, an adventurous nine year old, his father, his mother, and his sister, Gretel, move from their home in Berlin, Germany to a place that Bruno refers to as Out-With. While out exploring his new yard, Bruno finds Shmuel, a 9 year old prisoner in the concentration camp. Bruno can tell that Shmuel is unhealthier and skinnier than him, but he does not understand why they are separated by a fence.
Bruno, I've decided it is best for you, your mother, and Gretel to go back to Berlin.
I don't want to leave!
Since Bruno does not have any neighbors, he is extremely bored everyday, so he decides to explore the fenced in area he can see from his bedroom window. Bruno quickly becomes best friends with Shmuel even though they are separated by a fence. Aware that his family does not like the people on Shmuel's side of the fence, Bruno knows he must keep his friendship with Shmuel a secret.
Shmuel, what's happening?
I don't know. Whenever the soldiers take people on marches, they don't come back.
Bruno continues to meet Shmuel at the fence every afternoon. Bruno brings Shmuel food because he can tell he is unhealthy. Whenever Shmuel does not show up to the fence, Bruno worries about him. Shmuel often shows up to the fence with bruises or cuts on his face. After asking Gretel who the people on the other side of the fence are, Bruno discovers that Shmuel is a Jew, but Bruno does not care.
Bruno's father decides that it is best for Bruno, Gretel, and Bruno's mother to move back to Berlin, Germany. Bruno does not want to leave because Shmuel is his best friend. Bruno tells Shmuel that he has to leave, so Shmuel and Bruno create a plan for Bruno to go on Shmuel's side of the fence.
On Bruno's final day in Out-With, Shmuel brings Bruno a pair of striped pajamas. After changing into the striped pajamas and cap, Bruno crawls under the fence to Shmuel's side. Suddenly, soldiers begin to command the prisoners to get in line. Shmuel informs Bruno that the soldiers are taking them on a march, but Shmuel doesn't know what happens on a march. Without knowing, Bruno and Shmuel are forced into the gas chamber and die while hugging each other.
After realizing Bruno is missing, Bruno's father frantically searches for Bruno. Bruno's father finds Bruno's clothes on the ground next to a hole in the fence. Since the prisoners were just forced into the gas chamber, Bruno's father realizes that Bruno died in the gas chamber. Heartbroken, Bruno's mother and Gretel move back to Berlin.