Thanks so much for bothering to read this! I hope you enjoy it, it's an alternate ending to the book =)
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, they're John Boyne's property. Yozef and most of Shmuel's family are characters I have made up for my Boy in the Striped Pajamas stories.
That morning, Maria had predicted a rainy day. Grey clouds slid through the open sky, preventing the small population near Auschwitz not to come outside. Not that I cared anyway. I felt determined to go outside and meet my friend Shmuel, to help him find his dad. I needed to do it before we left, I couldn't fail my friend again. He needed help and I would be there for him.
Too bad mom didn't let me out when it started raining.
I had been ready to sneak out of our house an hour ago, but mom had insisted on us having lunch before she phoned the car. When Gretel and I had walked out of the dining room, it was pouring outside.
Everything was packed and ready for us to leave. Gretel sat on the couch, reading a Nazi pamphlet our tutor had given her as a goodbye present. He had given me another thick book to read, but I had just left it with my bags, determined not to read it. I watched thick raindrops falling down and splashing into the garden's fresh green grass. I wondered if Shmuel would be searching for his father, thinking I'd failed him once again. I clenched my teeth. Shmuel couldn't think that, because I had tried my best, but mom didn't even let me out to the garden. I would have tried to sneak away, but two of my dad's soldiers blocked the door, and those men were the kind of soldiers you wouldn't like to get mixed with. I just sat in the red couch, hopping impatiently, hearing Gretel scoff softly.
"I'm sure you want to see your friends Derek, Klaus and Max again, but just stay put for a second, will you?" she scolded me every now and then.
"They're Daniel, Karl and Martin," I corrected her. "And it's not because of them."
Gretel would just scoff once again and keep on reading.
I heard Dad's typing machine from his office. He was hitting the keys so hard I sometimes thought they machine would eventually break down. I knew he felt sad about us leaving, but I didn't understand why shouldn't we stay in Auschwitz. I had met my very best friend there, and I didn't want to leave him. I knew he was a Jew, and I didn't care. I wanted to be friends with him forever. I wanted to sit in front of him, telling each other stories about our lives before we met, things that happened in our everyday lives and playing checkers.
Mom came into the living room with an exasperated gesture. I'd heard her trying to phone someone, but appearently she hadn't succeeded. I saw her furrowing her brow.
"What's wrong, mom?" I asked worriedly.
When she heard my voice, she looked at me and faked a smile.
"Nothing, Bruno," she answered, kissing my forehead. "The phone doesn't work because of the rain. We'll have to wait until the rain stops to phone for the car that should take us to the train station in town."
My face seemed to lighten. We still had some time until we left! I could go visit Shmuel. But no, mom would notice I had been outside, I would come back with my clothes soaked and she'd get angry. I finally decided I would stay inside until the sun came out and then, when mom and the soldiers went outside to wait for the car, I would sneak out to the fence and see how Shmuel was doing.
Yes. It was a perfect plan.
When rain finally stopped, an hour had gone by. The cloud seemed to slide away to the north, while mom smiled as she finally heard a voice in the phone.
"Yes, Herr Fehlin!" she exclaimed happily. "Okay, Herr Fehlin. So the car will be here in half an hour? Fantastic. Thank you very much. Oh, it was no problem. Yes, sure. Thanks again, Herr Fehlin."
Mom came into the living room once again, smiling.
"We're finally leaving, kids!" she chirped happily. "We're going back to Berlin!"
"I can't wait to show my friends all of my new posters!" my sister exclaimed. "I'm sure they will love them."
I grinned too, but not for the reason Mom would have expected. I would finally be able to visit Shmuel! Mom approached me and gave me a big hug.
"See, Bruno?" she asked. "We'll be back home in no time. I know you're missing your friends, and I'm sure they're missing you too. Everything will be back to normal, sweetie."
I nodded. I know I wouldn't make anything out of complaining, so I just told Mom I missed them a lot and about how we would be playing together in the streets in no time.
Mom signaled the two soldiers to follow her outside, and I knew this was my chance. I slid out of my seat and dashed to the door. I was about to open the door when I heard a voice calling me.
"Bruno, where are you going?" asked Gretel from her seat, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading about Hitler Youth.
"I'm going to my swing," I lied. "You know, to say goodbye."
"Twerp," she grunted with a giggle.
I thought that had been a yes, and ran outside, to the front door. I knew Mom and the two soldiers would be waiting in the car path, a few yards away from our house, so I just had to run to the left and get to the fence as soon as possible.
I ran through the forests, knowing the path leading to our fence by heart. I skipped over the stream, ducked under some big tree branches in my way and even played aeroplanes for a couple of minutes.
When I reached the fence, I felt exhausted. I looked around, hoping to see Shmuel around. Surprisingly enough, he wasn't there. A shiver travelled down my back. What if he had thought I was a chicken and had gotten angry at me? That would be so unfair.
I looked around. Surprisingly enough, there were fewer workers than the last time I'd visited. I did recognize a young man around the age of seventeen – the boy named Yozef who was like a brother to Shmuel – and a couple of adult workers who usually pulled faces at me and mouthed things I couldn't decipher, but believed as rather mean.
At first, I thought Shmuel would be working. Yes, that had happened many times. He had been late to our meetings because he had been working. Or perhaps they sent him to sleep because of the rain. I didn't care, I just wanted to see my friend and help him.
I knew I couldn't go into the labour camp without a striped pyjama, because the soldiers would do bad things to me. Shmuel had never told me exactly what 'bad things' meant, but I was sure I wouldn't come inside without one of those pyjamas.
I waited for a few minutes, sitting there in silence. I saw Yozef glancing at me from time to time, but the young man said nothing. I had never talked to him, but he seemed to be a good boy. He had black hair, thick lips – which were actually quite pale, just as Shmuel's – and big brown eyes. But perhaps the most significant of his features would be his long, hook nose. Shmuel had told me many Jews had that kind of nose, although I had never seen one as big as Yozef's. I had the feeling that Yozef knew me too, because he was one of the slight amount of Jews who weren't rude to me.
Fifteen minutes had gone by, and I hadn't seen Shmuel. I started to worry. He wasn't even working. Yozef kept on glancing at me, but said nothing. I was surprised to see him approaching the fence slowly, just a couple of minutes later.
"What are you doing here, Nazi boy?" he hissed at me, still a few feet away from the fence.
"I'm Bruno," I corrected him. "And I want to know where Shmuel is."
Yozef didn't answer. He seemed to furrow his brow even deeper. I knew he was thinking of an answer to give me.
"He's gone," he mused finally.
My jaw dropped. Shmuel had left without telling me? How come that? I had promised to help my friend, and he had just left!
"What?" I yelled. "He's gone? You mean he has returned to Poland?"
Yozef did another sigh and nodded once again, although this time he seemed to doubt about what he was going to tell me.
"Yes," he finally answered. "We could say that."
I felt like crying. My friend was gone? Back to Poland? I was sure he had preferred his old friends over me. At least he would be back with his family...
"Is he with his dad?" I asked hopefully. "With his mom, with his siblings?"
Now Yozef was the one who seemed about to start sobbing. He seemed to hold back the tears and nodded.
"Yes!" he exclaimed. "They're all freaking gone, Nazi boy! Thanks to your father and all those you call your friends. Go...go to hell, all of you!"
I stood up, watching how the young man trembled slowly. I nodded and turned back, ready to go back to Berlin. If Shmuel could forget me and go back to Poland so easily, why couldn't I go back to Berlin and live my old life again?
"Bruno, wait," Yozef croaked. Well, he seemed to have learned my name after all. "I shouldn't have said that. It's just- "
"Don't worry, Yozef," I cut him. "I know you miss them all. But don't worry, I'm sure you'll all be back together soon."
I didn't even turn around to see the young man's face as I walked away. I just wanted to leave, forget Shmuel and everything that had happened. How could he just leave me? Had I done something wrong? Maybe he had been mad at me since the glassware incident, and perhaps he just didn't want to tell me. Or perhaps he had known all along he would be leaving and didn't tell me in case I got angry. I felt so frustated I didn't feel the splashes of cold mud on my thin legs. Tears started streaming down my face as I started running away.
It would take years for me to understand the hidden truth behind those last words Yozef heard before I ran into the woods again.
When I reached our house, mom asked where in the world had I been, and started worrying when she saw my wet cheeks and red eyes. I just told her I had been to the woods, saying goodbye to our life there. Then, I helped with our bags and hopped onto our car. Both journeys, the first one to the train station and the second one to Berlin, were a torture to my almost ten-year-old mind. I couldn't get Shmuel out of my head, thinking it had been so cruel of him to leave without saying goodbye. We had been best friends for a year, which appeared to seem nothing for him.
When we arrived to Berlin, we were met in the station by Grandpa, Karl, Martin, Daniel and their respective mothers. We spent an excellent afternoon, playing in the park together. I was glad to see them again, and for the first time in that day, I smiled. I could get back to my old life, pretend Shmuel had just been a dream, just as my Jewish friend had seemed to do with me.
Now it's May 1946 and I have just turned thirteen. For three years, Shmuel has left my mind, only popping in every now and then. I'm back to my jokes with Karl, my chess games with Martin and my book trading with Daniel. Everything fitted right into its place a few days after we arrived to Berlin. Maybe it was my childish frustration about how Shmuel had left me alone, how he had never even said goodbye.
Now everything is different. Gretel is sixteen and she has a boyfriend. Surprisingly enough, he's not into Nationalsocialism, but was a young man named Arnold who liked reading and had enchanted my sister with cheesy, romantic words. He wasn't a bad guy, not at all. And Gretel was so happy, I had to feel happy for her too.
But Gretel's romantic relationship isn't the most important change we have lived over the past months. Just when war ended, Dad was imprisoned and the Nuremberg trials were celebrated. He's bound to be sentenced to life imprisonment, but there is still a hope he will be able to come out in a few years. Mom feels so heartbroken, Gretel and I must comfort her every night whenever we hear her soft cries.
Now I'm thirteen, I know about all the horrible things my father and the Nazi Party did over the war years. Of course I can't feel worse about how I had thought of my father up to now – but can a son really hate his father? I don't think so. I feel so shocked when I think about the millions of lives my father and his comrades have taken away, lives that could have been full of joy and happiness, but instead were filled with misery and hunger. The ghettos all around Poland, fascism in Italy, prosecutions all around Germany against Jews...the sole thought of it gave me chills. Of course, I trusted these thoughts to no-one, I kept them to myself.
A few minutes ago, Shmuel came into my mind, when Auschwitz was mentioned by Gretel. I remembered my blond, shaved friend, his toothless grin and his starving face every time I met him. It gave me chills to think about him. But then it struck me. Six millions Jews had been killed during wartime. A day Shmuel disappeared and never came back, just like his other family members. I had stumbled back and had fallen on the couch with the most horrified expression ever.
Shmuel had died the day I left Auschwitz.
I'm sitting in my room now, my head on my hands. I feel so wrong. How could I have thought Shmuel had left me? Well, I was just a kid. But I should have understood what Yozef meant when he said he was gone! I had been so stupid... and now I have been cursing Shmuel whenever I thought of him for three years, when my best friend had died without any saying that bloody midday I was bound to help him find his dad. Now it strucks me that his father, his mother and all his siblings and friends, and presumably Yozef too, are dead. I can't stand the pressure, I want to cry but tears don't seem to come to my eyes. I feel my palms all sweaty and I don't know what to do. I feel just about to collapse, when Gretel comes into my room.
"Bruno, Karl's on the phone," she tells me. "He's asking if you want to go to the movies this afternoon."
I shake my head quietly. Gretel just nods and closes the door. I think she suspects something is wrong with me. But oh, she doesn't even know the half of it.
I glance around my room in frustration. My eyes stop at a book my old tutor in Auschwitz had given me. Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler. I clench my teeth and stare at it.
Then I yell. I yell my lungs out, until I can't yell more, until I'm completely out of breath.
I jump out of my bed and grab the book. I open it and start ripping pages out, breaking them carelessly and tossing them around my room furiously. I don't stop until the book is completely broken, with more than four hundred pages thrown around my room. When I started ripping it, I felt in a pure state of anger, but now I just breath in and out slowly, remembering every single minute I had passed with Shmuel. If only I had known, if only I could have saved him...
But there's no use in grieving for it. Shmuel's dead, and I can't do anything about it. I have to live my life, he would have wanted me to. He would have been disappointed if I had wept over him for years, not living my own life.
I hear how my door creaks open. It's Gretel again. She looks at the pages of Mein Kampf tossed around the room and gulps.
"Are you okay, Bruno?" she asks softly. "I was going to answer Karl when I heard you yell."
"It's fine," I assure, faking a smile. "I just got really frustrated." I look through the window, and for the first time, I smile truthfully. I know Shmuel wants me to live old and to live like a good boy and man, and not to cry over him and what has happened, but to battle against it happening again.
"Okay," Gretel answers. "Well, I'll go tell Karl you don't feel like going to the movies then."
When my sixteen-year-old sister is about to close the door I run behind her and give her a big hug. She seems surprised, but hugs me back.
"Tell Karl I'll be there in half an hour, okay?" I ask, smiling. "I heard they're playing Along the Navajo Trail. We'll like it."
Gretel smiles too, and nods. "All right, I'll tell him. Get your shoes on...you're twenty minutes away to the movies from here!"
My sister goes downstairs, ready to answer my friend's call. I run inside my room and tie my shoes happily. Summer's about to arrive to Berlin, and the sun shines bright above the city. It looks like a wonderful afternoon to spend with friends, in the movies and then telling jokes and playing football in the park.
I smile, because now I know Shmuel is somewhere up there looking after me.
Okay, so that was my story! It's an alternate ending to 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas'. I know it's sad because Shmuel still dies, but I think it doesn't look that bad anyway =)
As a fact, I have reseached the life of Rudolf Hess, the real character Bruno's father is based on, and read he was sent to a life imprisonment after WWII, so I thought I could apply that sentence to Bruno's father too!
Anyway, stay tuned for more stories in this fandom and please R&R!