Narrated by Death, the book is set in Nazi Germany, a place and time when the narrator notes he was extremely busy. It describes a young girl’s relationship with her foster parents, the other residents of their neighborhood, and a young Jewish man who hides in her home during the escalation of World War II. First published in 2005, the book has won numerous awards and was listed on the The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks.
In April 1938, the movie opens with a voice (representing the Angel of Death) telling about how the young Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) has piqued his interest. Liesel, her brother and mother are on a train to meet with foster parents when Liesel’s brother dies. After she finds her first book beside her brother’s graveside, she is sent to foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann. When she arrives she makes an impression on a neighbor boy, Rudy Steiner.
|The Book Thief – By Markus Zusak|
1st Edition front cover
|Cover artist||Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images|
|Publisher||Picador, Australia; Knopf, USA|
|Publication date||14 March 2006|
Liesel is on the train, on her way to be fostered when her brother dies. At his funeral, she picks up a book and keeps it to remind her of him. However, she can’t read. When she arrives at her foster home, her papa (Hans Hubermann) teaches her how.
At a Nazi book burning ceremony, an officer gives a speech about the importance of cleansing of the German society from “immoral” and “indecent” thoughts through burning books, which provokes Liesel.
After the book burning ceremony, Liesel hides a book that survived the fire and takes it home. She is seen by Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife and mama’s (Rosa Hubermann) customer. When Liesel is at the mayor’s to drop the laundry, Ilsa shares her magnificent library and its books with her. The mayor eventually discharges Liesel.
This forces her to start “borrowing” books from Ilsa’s library, hence earning the nickname “The Book Thief”.
Kristallnacht (English: “Crystal Night“), also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and November pogrome, was a pogrom (a series of coordinated attacks) against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and non-Jewish civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed.
But things get dicey when they, along with hot tempered Rosa Hubermann, begin to hide a Jew named Max in the basement. As a security measure and to save his life, Max is not allowed to leave the basement.
Max and Liesel start bonding as they read and share stories together. But he is forced to leave after an incident in which Hans defends a Jewish prisoner against a Nazi officer.
~~Liesel Meminger (born February 1929)~~
The protagonist of the story. She is an adopted girl on the verge of adolescence, with blonde hair that “was a close enough brand of German blonde” and dangerous blue eyes. She is fostered by the Hubermanns when her father “abandons” their family and her mother is forced to give her up for adoption. Her brother Werner dies on the journey to the Hubermann household. She is very close to her foster father, Hans Hubermann, and has a rough but loving relationship with her foster mother, Rosa.
She befriends Max, the Jew whom the Hubermanns are hiding, as well as the mayor’s wife, who allows Liesel to read, borrow, and “steal” books from her home library. She also befriends the other children of Himmel Street, among them Rudy Steiner, who becomes her best friend.
Despite her many refusals of Rudy’s requests for a kiss, her love for him is clear. Liesel finally grants Rudy’s much-awaited kiss as he lies dead among the ruins of Himmel Street. Liesel eventually marries, moves to Australia, and has several children and grandchildren. Liesel then dies in Sydney.
Liesel’s foster father. He works as a painter and enjoys rolling and smoking cigarettes. He served in the German army during World War I. During that war, Hans became his company’s only survivor when he was left behind because of a job, when they were sent on what became a suicide mission.
In The Holocaust era, he does not agree with the Nazi party but is forced to join, and after being accepted into the Nazi party is drafted into the German army. He has silvery-grey eyes and is tall, although despite this he is described as being very capable of blending in with the crowd. He was taught the piano accordion by Max’s father Erik Vandenburg, a friend from the army (who saved Hans’ life), and he occasionally performs in pubs to make extra money.
He becomes very close to Liesel, as he calms her after her nightmares of her brother’s dying, and teaches her to read. However, he has a falling-out with his actual son, Hans Jr., because of his son’s support of the Nazis. Hans Hubermann is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
Liesel’s foul-mouthed, often aggravating, foster mother. She is short, with a wrinkled face, brown-grey “elastic” hair often tied up in a bun, and “chlorinated” eyes. To supplement the household income, she does washing and ironing for five of the wealthier households in Molching.
However, as the war causes economic problems, she loses her jobs one by one, the last being at the Hermann household. She has a quick temper, rules the household with an iron fist, and is known for straightening out previous foster children; however, though she often swears at Liesel, she cares very much for her.
She has two children of her own, Trudy and Hans Jr. She is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
~~Rudy Steiner (born June 1928)~~
Liesel’s neighbor. He is eight months older than Liesel, has bony legs, sharp teeth, blue eyes, lemon-colored hair and likes to mess with the ladies. Despite being the German ideal (blond hair and blue eyes), he does not support the Nazis. As part of a household with six children, Rudy is habitually hungry.
He is known throughout the neighborhood due to the “Jesse Owens incident” in which he colored himself with coal one night and ran one hundred meters at the local sporting field. He is academically and athletically gifted, which attracts the attention of Nazi Party officials, who try to recruit him; when he declines, they take his father, Alex Steiner.
He also gets into trouble at the Hitler Youth due to his smart mouth and rebellious nature, and their vindictive group leader. Rudy becomes Liesel’s best friend, often accompanying her on her adventures and talking her through her problems. He also teases her, regularly (though always unsuccessfully) asking her for a kiss mostly after he has helped her to accomplish something – for instance when one of Liesel’s books (and most prized possession) is thrown into a river, he rescues it.
Rudy is killed in the Himmel Street bombing; Liesel finally grants him a kiss after his death.
~~Max Vandenburg (born 1916)~~
A Jewish fist-fighter who hides in the Hubermanns’ basement. He is the son of a WWI German soldier who fought with Hans Hubermann. He has feather-like hair and swampy brown eyes. Max’s father saved Hans’ life in WWI. When visiting his widow, Hans gave her his address and told her if she needed anything to contact him.
Years later, during the Nazis’ reign of terror, Max’s mother calls upon Hans for help. Max’s friend travels to Himmel Street to ask Hans to shelter Max, and Hans agrees to do so. After a tortuous journey to the Hubermanns’ residence, Max finally regains his health, and befriends Liesel due to their shared affinity for nightmares and words. He writes two books for her and presents her with a sketchbook that contains his life story.
Another child on Himmel Street. A hearing problem, due to being stranded in the snow, caused him to have multiple ear surgeries. One surgery caused nerve damage that makes him twitch.
As a result, he is frequently teased by his classmates and later punished by the head of the Hitler Youth, when he is unable to obey commands promptly. Tommy is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
The wife of the mayor of Molching. They had a son, Johannes Hermann, who was killed in Russia. Rosa and Liesel do the Hermanns’ washing and ironing for a time; eventually the bad economy forces the Hermanns to discontinue the arrangement, in reaction to which Liesel causes a scene.
Despite this, Ilsa allows Liesel to continue visiting and read books in the large library in her home. Ilsa takes Liesel into her home after Liesel survives the Himmel Street bombing.
A neighbor of the Hubermanns, whom Rosa initially hates because she always spits on the Hubermanns’ door due to an old and now-baseless feud between the families. She eventually asks Liesel to read to her, stops her door-spitting, and pays Liesel for her service by giving her coffee ration to the Hubermanns.
Of her two sons, Robert died on the battlefield, while his elder brother Michael committed suicide a few months later because of his guilt at “wanting to live”. Frau Holtzapfel is killed in the Himmel Street bombing.
The narrator throughout the story, Death is sympathetic to humankind and dislikes all of the despair and destruction brought upon humans by War, contrary to the common assumption that Death and War are friends. He comments on the thoughts, morals, and actions of humanity throughout the story while keeping a close eye on Liesel, even though at the beginning of the story he states that it was stupid for him to follow her. He does not seem to have any control over life and death, and frequently calls upon God with, “I don’t understand”, and answers himself with, “But it’s not your job to”.
Death says that he has a “circular” heartbeat, making him immortal, though he says that he looks like a human and acts like a human most of the time. He is not invincible. He is tired of his job and wants a vacation, but cannot take one because there would be nobody to replace him. While many people find Death devastating, he is surprisingly humorous.
~~SUMMARY OF THE END~~
On the way home from school one day, Liesel believes she has seen Max in a Jewish refugee line that is being marched through their town and she begins screaming his name, walking through the line. She is thrown off the street twice by a German soldier and finally relents when Rosa picks her up and takes her home.
Within a few days, Hans returns from the front because he was injured in a bomb that hit his unit’s truck. The family is reunited only for a short time though as one night the city is bombed and no air raid siren alerts the citizens. Hans, Rosa and Rudy’s family, excluding his father who has joined the Army, have been killed in the blast. Liesel was spared from the bombing by falling asleep in the basement while writing in the journal given to her by Max.
Rudy is brought out of his house by neighbors and he is barely alive. He begins to tell Liesel that he loves her but he dies before he can finish the sentence. Liesel begs him to not die, telling him that she will give him that kiss he has been asking for and actually kisses him, but he has already died. During this scene, Death is heard speaking again telling about how he received the souls of the dead.
Two years later, Liesel is seen working in Rudy’s father’s tailor shop, who has returned safely from the war, and she looks up to see Max enter and she runs to hug him. The final scene is Death speaking again, telling us about Liesel’s life, and death at the age of 90, as we look over her apartment.
Death says that he has seen many good and bad things over the years but that Liesel is the only one that ever made him wonder how it would be to live life.
The Book Thief | Trailer US (2013)
We ALL are ONE!!
I have always found this period in history a fascinating one. There is some sort of attraction to the era. It feels as if I was there … could it have been a past life?
Any story, movie, tale related to that moment in time, attracts me.
This was a very interesting movie … not directly related to the incidents surrounding the Holocaust but definitely affected by those events and Nazi Germany.
We ALL remember the TIME!!