Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Ch 17-18

In the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of The Book Thief, Liesel witness’s her father’s heartbreak and then experiences some of her own as well. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Book Thief.


Against all hopelessness, Liesel still checked the mailbox each afternoon, throughout March and well into April. This was despite a Hans-requested visit from Frau Heinrich, who explained to the Hubermanns that the foster care office had lost contact completely with Paula Meminger. Still, the girl persisted, and as you might expect, each day, when she searched the mail, there was nothing.

I was actually kind of surprised that Liesel persisted in this routine, given the end of the last chapter, since I felt that Liesel had finally gotten some emotional closure on the idea that her mother was never coming back. But she’s got a fickle, hopeful heart, and I mean that as a compliment. Liesel is quick to forgive and even quicker to forget. That’s why what happens in this chapter and the next are even harder to tolerate.

Molching is the scene of a dazzling and unsettling display of propaganda power when Hitler’s birthday arrives in the spring of this small German town. Further building on the idea presented earlier, the German obsession with fire will play a large part in this parade honoring the Führer’s birthday in 1940. As soon as death mentioned that men and women were knocking on doors to see if residents had anything “they felt should be done away with or destroyed,” I knew we were about to come to the second time that Liesel would steal a book: at a public burning. The local paper confirms this, that there would be a “celebratory fire” in the center of town, not only to celebrate Hitler’s birthday, but to further the propaganda of the Nazi party by burning materials associated with the enemy.

As we’ve progressed through The Book Thief, Zusak certainly hasn’t avoided discussing the realities of the non-fictional world this fictional account is set in. However, I feel that chapters seventeen and eighteen are the first time that the setting becomes so much more blatant. I think it’s sort of unavoidable at this point, so I’m not saying this as a criticism of where this story is going at all. But the reality of living in Nazi Germany during World War II is painfully evident here, and I certainly didn’t expect how much it would play into shaping Liesel’s life.

“They’ll come for us,” Mama warned her husband. “They’ll come and take us away.” They. “We have to find it!”

I like that Zusak expands yet again on this idea that some unnamed “they” has power in Liesel’s life and I enjoy it even more that he doesn’t make her fully knowledgeable at her age about what’s going on around her. It’s far more realistic to me that she maintains that there’s some sort of entity working against her in this case. Sadly, though, she soon begins to discover that this is not really the case.

Very late in the book, we’re finally introduced to the Hubermanns’s other kids in a much more comprehensive way. Trudy takes after Rosa in physical appearance, but Death describes her as having “a quiet voice,” which she surely got from her father. Hans Junior, on the other hand, is much more like her mother in terms of his righteous anger and fury, and it’s the first chance we get to see someone besides Frau Diller who is completely consumed by Nazi propaganda. Well…I don’t want to resort to reducing the entire history to something that simple, that people simply “bought” propaganda, because there were certainly so many more reasons why a person followed Hitler or, at the very least, obeyed what was going on in the country.

What’s also fascinating is that Hans himself is very open about the fact that he is not a Nazi supporter at all and how that contrasts with how vocal and frightening his son is. We see that contrast pretty blatantly in Death’s bolded aside about the two Hans’, as Death says:

Everyone knew you weren’t supposed to paint over slurs written a Jewish shop front. Such behavior was bad for Germany, and it was bad for the transgressor.

Which puts the earlier scene of Liesel going through that part of town into an entirely new (and entirely terrifying) context. It doesn’t seem like Liesel actually knows this herself, but I’m interested to learn more about the “story” Death refers to about Hans was “on the verge of joining the party.” What broke Hans, who is so defiant here?

“Well, have you even tried again? You can’t just sit around waiting for the new world to take it with you. You have to go out and be part of it—despite your past mistakes.”

Thanks for the brooding condescension, Hans Junior. It’s truly stunning.

He looked now for some reason at the girl. With her three books standing upright on the table, as if in conversation, Liesel was silently mouthing the words as she read from one of them. “And what trash is this girl reading? She should be reading Mein Kampf.”

Well, Hans Junior sure is subtle, isn’t he?

But Hans Junior wasn’t finished. He stepped closer and said, “You’re either for the Führer or against him—and I can see that you’re against him. You always have been.” Liesel watched Hans Junior in the face, fixated on the thinness of his lips and the rocky line of his bottom teeth. “It’s pathetic—how a man can stand by and do nothing as a whole nation cleans out the garbage and makes itself great.”

Which takes this from an uncomfortable, presumptuous conversation to one filled with fright, for everyone involved. The silence that Death describes here feels so palpable, beyond awkwardness into the kind of fear you hope to never experience in a family setting like this. I was completely floored (and not in the good way) that Hans Junior was the first to respond to this unbelievable confrontation.

He calls Hans Hubermann a coward. Hans is incredulous at the accusation and chases his son out of the house, but the event is still scarred onto Liesel’s mind. Still, Death can’t resist giving us a bit of the future:

Yes, the boy was gone, and I wish I could tell you that everything worked out for the younger Hans Hubermann, but it didn’t.

When he vanished from Himmel Street that day in the name of the Führer, he would hurtle through the events of another story, each step leading tragically to Russia.

To Stalingrad.

You know what this style feels like? It’s as if Death is literally sitting on the other side of a dining room table, slightly drunk, relating this story as chronologically as he can, but taking brief trips down tangents and laying groundwork for thoughts and avenues to travel down later. That’s what this feels like to me.

When he appeared inside, Mama fixed her gaze on him, but no words were exchanged. She didn’t admonish him at all, which, as you know, was highly unusual. Perhaps she decided he was injured enough, having been labeled a coward by his only son.

Just simply heartbreaking. I found it even sadder that after dealing with his shame about his cowardice during World War I and the realization that his son may never come home again, he tells Liesel to forget the incident and then tells her to get ready for the Hitler Youth parade. He knows in his heart this is wrong, but the fear and oppression are just too much for him to resist.


I don’t think Liesel truly understands what just happened to her, though she knows it upset her father. But Zusak continues in the theme of taking Liesel through life and losing her naivete, time after time, and her own heartbreak follows that of her foster father’s.

Chapter eighteen is all about the parade of Nazi youth on Hitler’s birthday, a deeply serious event aimed at celebrating the Führer. There’s a small hint towards the future here, when Tommy Müller accidentally walks into the boy marching in front of him, ruining the otherwise flawless march:

“I’m sorry,” said Tommy, arms held apologetically out. His face tripped over itself. “I couldn’t hear.” It was only a small moment, but it was also a preview of troubles to come. For Tommy. For Rudy.

Ok, is someone else going to mess up? Or is Death referring to something else. (Clearly, do not tell me the answer to this.)

The parade ends and the youth scatter about the square; Liesel loses sight of Rudy, but the prospect of the upcoming public burning is far too exciting to her to care that much. I don’t believe that she even thought once about stealing a book. Rather, she just wanted to see the spectacle.

She couldn’t help it. I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that’s where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.

The scene is absolutely chilling and it’s hard for me to understand it or fathom it in any realistic way. I can’t relate, I can’t conceive of it, and it’s really kind of scary. But Zusak writes about the rally with an unsettling tone. He contrasts the ferocity of the rally and the speaker’s voice with Liesel’s desperate attempt to find someone recognizable. It speaks volumes to what is going on in these two worlds, the man on the podium and Liesel in the crowd. And then Liesel’s world is completely destroyed.

Halfway through the speech, Liesel surrendered. As the word communist seized her, the remainder of the Nazi recital swept by, either side, lost somewhere in the German feet around her. Waterfalls of words. A girl treading water. She thought it again. Kommunisten.

And in that moment, Liesel gets a much better idea of what is happening to her and what has happened to her and her family.

She saw it all so clearly.

Her starving mother, her missing father. Kommunisten.

Her dead brother.

“And now we say goodbye to this trash, this poison.”

Just before Liesel Meminger pivoted with nausea to exit the crowd, the shiny, brown-shirted creature walked from the podium. He received a torch from an accomplice and lit the mound, which dwarfed him in all its culpability. “Heil Hitler!”

One of the best written bits in this book, complete in its terror and the realization by Liesel that this movement and possibly this leader may have been the one to take her parents away from her.


There is a small moment of hope and beauty amidst the horror of this scene. Ludwig Schmeikl finds Liesel, his ankle crushed by the crowd, and the two help each other to safety at the steps of a church:

Sitting down, he held his ankle and found Liesel Meminger’s face. “Thanks,” he said, to her mouth rather than her eyes. More slabs of breath. “And…” They both watched images of school-yard antics, followed by a school-yard beating. “I’m sorry—for, you know.

Liesel heard it again.


She chose, however, to focus on Ludwig Schmeikl. “Me too.”

Ugh, just amazing. I’m so happy that they had this chance, despite the horrifying situation. What’s happening around them is so scary, yet they can still find a chance to forgive each other. Goddamn I love this book.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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69 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Ch 17-18

  1. SecretGirl127 says:

    I had been waiting for the escalation of WWII/Nazi depictions. I assumed a story told from death's point of view during WWII had to involve the war and it's implications on the girls life. A book thief amongst book burners. I am just waiting for her to get caught with a contraband book at this event! Must read next chapter!!

    Also, Death as a slightly drunk narrator is perfect. That's exactly what he seems like with his asides.

  2. Cheri says:

    I agree with you 100%. This book is terrifyingly beautiful.

  3. Ugh, this book can be so intensely gutting yet beautiful. The scene with Rosa choosing to leave Hans be speaks volumes to me. I see Rosa as being a bit of a "shrew", yet hardly a Nazi. She loves her husband, imperfectly like many of us, but it is love nonetheless.
    A lot of the youngsters like Hans Junior were very susceptible to Hitler's propaganda partially thanks to the hardships they grew up under because of the harsh sanctions against Germany following the first World War. He has all the fire and zeal towards this sick new era that I saw in Percy at first in Harry Potter.
    Yes, everything relates back to Harry Potter or Jane Austen in my world, did I warn you?
    This scene hurts me to watch, because these radical beliefs always tear families apart, and who knows if they will ever have the chance to patch things up with war coming? So many people were so brainwashed that they sold out their own families. I can't understand it, but that's because I have the privilege of living when I do and in America.

  4. Hotaru-hime says:

    Oh God. My heart is going to be in my mouth every time I read this book.

  5. monkeybutter says:

    You know what this style feels like? It’s as if Death is literally sitting on the other side of a dining room table, slightly drunk, relating this story as chronologically as he can, but taking brief trips down tangents and laying groundwork for thoughts and avenues to travel down later. That’s what this feels like to me.

    Ah, that's the perfect way of describing it.

    I liked the ending, too. Liesel finally knows who and what is responsible for the loss of her family and misery. Ludwig might have humiliated her, but it's a lot easier to deal with him after realizing who put her in that situation to begin with. Poor Liesel.

    "Fickle…heart" reminds me of Adele. 🙂

  6. enigmaticagentscully says:

    Love the mental image of a slightly drunk Death relating the story. It made me smile. 🙂

    This is probably one of my favourite parts in the book – Liesel starting to understand for the first time exactly what's happening to the country and how it has affected her. I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like, realising that all your troubles aren't just bad luck, but come from an obvious direct source. A man and a party that everyone is supposed to follow and revere.

    That scene of her being excited about the book burning, and then the sudden, horrifying realisation of what it actually represents…that's so incredibly powerful.

    On a random note, I found out my Mum is reading The Book Thief for the local book group that she runs! (She's a librarian). So that's a lucky coincidence, we hardly ever read the same books, it's nice to be able to talk about it with her. ^^

  7. cait0716 says:

    These chapters were the hardest for me to read yet. When Hans Junior claims, "you're either for the Furher or against him" I could taste the bile and had to stop reading for a bit. That "with us or against us" sentiment makes me sick and it's still being used in many contexts. But it leaves no room for gray area or even a conversation. It's agree with me completely or be my enemy. I hate it.

    The book burning was horrifying, but I don't know how much that was my own projected hatred and fear of book burnings. I hate everything they are, everything they symbolize. And the way the Nazi's went about it. They weren't just burning enemy propaganda. They were burning everything that wasn't their propaganda. They probably would have burned Liesel's books if they'd found out about them (and I was half scared they would).

    For much of this reading, I found my brain latching on to other pop culture references to Nazis and WWII. When Death mentioned Stalingrad, all I could here was Eddie Izzard saying "Hitler never played Risk when he was a kid" (because humor makes it easier to deal with). Liesel's growing awareness of Hitler made me flashback to the Tales of the Slayer story, Sonnenblume (a story with a young German slayer in 1939 figuring out who she wants to fight, it's only tangentially related to Buffy). And I had Edelweiss running through my head for a while. It's interesting how much my perception of this time has been colored in by the books I read and the movies I watch. Yes, I learned about it in school, but I've learned just as much or more from simply going about my life. And this book is adding another layer to it all.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Ideological purity ridiculous, frustrating, and incredibly harmful. You're right, there's no room for conversation or discovery. I hate it and its persistence, too.

      I was also so worried that Hans Jr was going to snatch her books. Even though I'm rereading it and knew what was going to happen, Hans Jr demanding "what trash is this girl reading?" makes me apprehensive.

      • cait0716 says:

        I'm kind of curious what stopped Hans Jr. Maybe he has just enough respect left for his parents to not interfere so extremely? Or maybe they aren't burning everything and anything yet.

        • monkeybutter says:

          Maybe he would have if he had stayed until the book burning? I don't know, I think Hans Jr's anger was focused on his father, so he didn't really care about Liesel's books so much as his father's failure to be loyal to the state by allowing her to read anything non-doctrinal. He seems just as motivated by spite for Hans as by party loyalty, and this was just the last straw for him. He probably wanted to leave on self-righteous fury more than he wanted to fight with a kid over some novels.

          • mildlyconfused says:

            As sickeningly thorough the book burning events were, they did not burn everything taht wasn't "mein Kampf" but only such literature that examined or portrayed concepts (both fictional and factual) that contradicted the NSDAP ideology. Communist writings, genealogy science papers on racial equality, art books concerning "entartete Kunst" such as cubism, expressionism and anything that wasn't deemed "strong and beautiful" in art and so on and so forth. They were not opposed to knowledge (or only to that degree that extremist governments til this day are opposed to educating all classes).
            Much in the same way why people keep trying to ban Harry Potter or And Pongo makes Three from school libraries.

      • widerspruch says:

        I was also so worried that Hans Jr was going to snatch her books.

        I swear I was panicking right then because I really thought he was going to do that too.

    • It's why Radicals scare me so much. The thing about humanity is that any ideology can be corrupted by terrible people looking for an excuse to persecute others.
      Poor Liesel, I remember when JM Barrie spoke about the first time a child realizes that a great unfairness has been "done" to them, instea of just happening. It's something you never get over..

    • lyvanna says:

      You win cookies for mentioning Sonnenblume.

  8. zulaihaha says:

    This book taught me more about WWII than high school did.
    Maybe it was just me, but I felt like I was always told Hitler and Nazi Germany was communist so I was really confused by this chapter when I first read it. A little research later, ohhhhhh. I is stupid.

    • cait0716 says:

      I had that impression for a while, too. I think a lot of it was American media constantly bombarding us with Nazis = evil and Communists = evil. A misapplication of the transitive property results in Nazis = Communists. So yeah, all a bit muddled and I was definitely confused, too.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Whaaaaaaat. Do you mind me asking where you went to school (like region, or urban/rural/suburban)? Because that's just awful. And you're not stupid, it sounds like your school system failed you. Given how common Nazi=Communist rhetoric is in the US today, I doubt you're the only one. But you were smart enough to research it and change your mind. You're not stupid at all.

      • I hear ya, I'm in a passionate family too. I'm going to put myself out on a limb and admit that I'm conservative on a lot of issues (PLEASEDON'TBITEMEITASTELIKEBRUSSELSPROUTS!), but am far more liberal than a lot of conservatives on a lot of issues like immigration and gay marriage. (Dude, if I can do it, let everyone else for the love of nunchucks!) A lot of people I know won't even discuss politics with me because they have that scary "with me or against me" attitude that I despise. Thankfully in my family they don't mind discussions, and we can debate then hug it out, reminding ourselves that people are people, whether we agree or not.

        • Kaybee42 says:

          (You put this comment in the wrong place, I think? But I'mma reply anyway)
          I think a lot of the time it's important to specify if we are talking about social issues in politics (on which it sounds like you're right in the centre to me, at least on my personal perception of the political spectrum from living all my life in England) and economic issues.
          I was gonna say more but I think I'm pushing the limit on sparking a debate if I do,I just wanted to say that there are differences between agreeing with conservative economic policies and conservative social policies 🙂
          (For full disclosure I wasn't old enough to vote in the last election in the UK but it would have been libdem if I had and I would currently be kicking myself. As for future elections I'm undecided but swinging towards Greens currently)

        • monkeybutter says:

          Hehe, did you mean to reply to my comment to stellaaaaakris? And I happen to like Brussels sprouts, so you're out of luck! That's the good thing about family: unconditional love and a loooong relationship make it a lot easier to disagree.

          • Yes the comment box jumped and it is in the wrong place. Curse my computer, the page jumps weird. Sorry to everyone who was confused by the strange comment in the wrong place!

      • hassibah says:

        I remember a while back on Mark reads HP somebody commented that in WW2 Umbridge would have been a communist.

        Given that communists were targeted by the nazis and Soviet Russia was fighting against them in WW2 this comment just confused the hell out of me. But I wasn't really in the mood to start a fight about it at the time.

        It's not just communists though, it's pretty common anytime there's a war to compare who you're fighting to to Hitler. It has less to do with what their ideology than it does to do with the fact that WW2 is identified as a war that we HAD to fight and where we were doing the right thing. For the wars that came after it, it's not always so cut and dry, so if you're going to sell a war, of course you're going to compare your current sitch to one where you were in the right and not, say, Vietnam.

        • monkeybutter says:

          I think I remember a comment like that, and yeah, sometimes it's just not worth it. It'd be nice if everyone was clear that authoritarianism and totalitarianism aren't unique to a particular ideology.

          Agreed, and I hate it. There's know way to admit that there are grey areas, especially when making preemptive strikes, and still get your war, so Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot — whoever you snag in your grab bag of terrible dictators — are used to make the argument for you. Hitler's just the easiest one, and it muddies the actual history of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, and makes it easy for absurd claims like "Nazis are Communists."


      • zulaihaha says:

        I grew up in Sri Lanka, where world history was never really covered all that much in history class, and I finished my last 2 years of high school in the US. I think I had a good education on the whole, but I think I missed out on the communism lecture somewhere in between haha. Or I just wasn't paying attention. Highly probable. But yeah, I caught up on my own 😉

        • monkeybutter says:

          Ah, thanks for answering! And to be fair, most Americans don't learn anything about Sri Lanka. Given that Sri Lanka was (and I guess still is) a Non-Aligned country, it wouldn't make sense to approach WWII and the Cold War the way the US does. I'd say you had a good education if you came out of it inquisitive and happy to learn new things. 🙂

    • FlameRaven says:

      I remember being really grateful that my 9th grade English teacher took the opportunity to use our reading of Animal Farm, as a chance to also teach us 'Communism 101' and give us a fair explanation of a system that as she described it, "sounded REALLY good on paper, but did not take into account that people are people," while also explaining the allegory. It gave me a chance to understand something that is unfortunately rarely explained to kids.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      It's kind of interesting, over here in England we have the whole 'EVIL NAZIS BAAAD' thing, but (as far as I know) there's no similar thing about communism at all.
      I remember learning about McCarthyism and the Red Scare and all that in school, but whereas WW2 was pretty much portrayed as 'The Good Allies against the Evil Nazis', the Cold War was just…a thing.

      I feel like we don't have such a history of demonising Communism like the US does, so it's much less likely to get the two ideologies muddled up.

      Though I'm fully aware I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject! I'd be interested to hear if there is still a remnant of seeing Communists as the 'bad guys' or if that's mainly a historical thing now? I mean, obviously Nazis are still acceptable targets as bad guys in the media and video games and such.

      • Kaybee42 says:

        I stopped taking History after year 9 (age 13) (WHY WAS THAT EVEN AN OPTION I AM NOW SO UNEDUCATED GAH!) and so as far as I remember I never had a lesson on the Cold War! (It's possible that it was covered lightly before that as I seem to have basic knowledge on the subject but that could jusy be cultural osmosis idk!)

        England NEED to stop letting people stop taking History at 13. I did RS till year 10 why don't they do the same with history it's just as,if not more, important! (I did short course RS which was basically half a GCSE and therefore meaningless. Still got an A though! Most of the year did the same with only 40 people doing full course)

      • monkeybutter says:

        In the US? Yes, it definitely is. I think part of it is due to several generations being indoctrinated that Communism is the single largest threat to the American way of life, and everyone remotely left-of-center (or even in the center) is a dirty communiss. Obama and the Democratic Party are Marxist-Fascists, if you listen to far-right pundits and politicians (the Health Care Reform debate is a great example). The John Birch Society has been reborn as the Tea Party. It's really frustrating. This isn't to say that I like communism, but I don't piss my pants and get all frothy-mouthed about it, either.

        Oh, and as for media? There's currently a remake of Red Dawn in the works, wherein North Korea (originally China, but being digitally changed) and Cuba are the commie invaders instead of Russia and Cuba. And I doubt there would be much interest in a three-part film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged if there wasn't so much anti-labor, anti-collectivist, I'm-fantastic-and-would-be-wealthy-and-unstoppable-if-only-the-government-and-sheeple-weren't-keeping-me-down sentiment in the US.

        • 'Course sometimes we have the exact opposite where people assume that the Right is a bunch of Fascists. 😛 I agree with you though, I get really sick of people accusing the Left of being a bunch of "Commies".
          I kind of wish that both sides could go to their respective corners to breathe before the best-behaved members of both groups are allowed to have a helpful dialogue. Can we do that? I've always wanted to put politicians on Time-Out. (Let's do eet, eet'll be fun!)

          Yeah, there is an obsession with Communism here, probably because we used it to justify the Korean War and Vietnam. I don't know that Lenin and Mao's crimes against humanity can be justified, but they didn't exactly subscibe to the policies they liked to spout either.

    • Thiamalonee says:

      As a senior in college, I'm finally starting to "get" WWII. That's because I'm not taking a pure history class, that is concerned with dates and battles, etc. I'm taking History of US Foreign Relations since WWI, and it's totally fascinating. The class is totally concerned with WHY we (the USA) did the things we did, and how it affected other nations and their motivations. Learning about WWII this was was incredibly disturbing, because we were forced to admit how the US and the other Allies encouraged fighting to continue between Russia and Germany, in the hope that after the war, the USSR would be too weak to take advantage of winning. It was only when it seemed that Russia might win the war on its own, that we got serious with D-Day.

      Wow, that was a really long story just to explain that the US government was more ideologically afraid of Communism than Fascism, but Hitler was enough of a threat to make us ally with the USSR. Also, high school history programs aren't great for anything after the turn of the century, I've noticed.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Ah, I loved my 20th Century Foreign Relations class! I agree that for the most part, high school US history instruction about the 20th century is pretty crap, but I lucked out. We went into detail about everything through Vietnam; it was really only the late-70s to the present that suffered due to time constraints, which is really unfortunate, but still better than most, as I came to realize in college. Man, I apologize if I sound douchey.

      • zulaihaha says:

        Absolutely. I remember we ran out of time as the end of the year in high school and sloppily rushed through WWII, so I barely learned anything about it.
        And that sounds really interesting, there's a similar class at my college too. I'm a freshman and I see all these 300/400-level classes with cool names and I just want to skip ahead and take them all haha.

    • widerspruch says:

      I thought the same, yeah |'D

    • Saber says:

      What we get a lot of where I live is Communism = Socialism and it's ALL BAD PEOPLE.

      I just hate how we're taught Democracy is automatically the best form of government, Communism is automatically evil, and everything else it just… there. And I wouldn't know any better if I didn't stumble on the topic and start reading about it.

  9. maybenow says:

    anyone else reminded of percy's alliance with the ministry when reading this chapter?

    • tethysdust says:

      Yeah. Except, given the Stalingrad aside, I'm guessing Hans Junior will never get a chance to make up with his family.

    • ldwy says:

      Absolutely, I thought of Percy too.
      Yes, it seems like young Hans went off and got killed. Sad that he can never make up, or even if he and his father would have always had different politics, that their last meeting (I think, so far based on what Death has said) was so so volatile.

    • Saber says:

      *Waves hand*

      Everything can be related back to HP.

  10. Emily Crnk says:

    I imagine Death could use a drink now and again…

  11. Mitch says:

    I'ma post something here, because lots of people seem not to have noticed: Liesel is Lutheran. She's not Jewish, she's Lutheran. This is not a spoiler, it's on page 28 of my online edition. Regarding the school: "Although it was state-run, there was a heavy Catholic influence, and Liesel was Lutheran."

    So, there you have it. And now you know, there is no plotline about her secretly being Jewish and about to get discovered. Or if there is, I will be very confused, because her (Christian) religion has been referenced.

  12. monkeybutter says:

    I mostly agree with my parents about politics and we still get in shouting matches, haha. There was also one great fight with my uncle that could be heard from outdoors, but that just rallied family members from various generations who agreed with me that, no, Ronald Reagan did not single-handedly end the Cold War. So I understand loud and heated, but nothing like Hans and Hans Jr .

    I'm not sure about the exact ages of conscription, but I believe at the outset of militarization it was 21, but it dropped as the war continued. I do know that the Hitler Youth was mobilized in defense of cities, and there was even a freakin' Panzer division of 16-17-year-olds. And the Volksstrum conscription at the end of the war bottomed out at 16.

  13. LisBAMF Salander says:

    Seriously, I was such a hopeful little girl. I wrote letters to people (THAT DID NOT EXIST WHAT) and hoped to hear back from them. Bad stuff just went through me and it wasn't until much, much later that I realized the impact of disappointment and I would cry it all out.
    This is why Liesel is such a dear to me. As I read through her journey I felt like I was reading about bits of myself. That's Zusak, though (and any other writer that's just as good). I sometimes feel like his images SLAP YOU in the face. Or it's like when you are in an argument and you think you're winning but then the other person says something that TOTALLY BLINDSIDES YOU and then you have to take a step back and examine your life.
    Can we officially declare Liesel and Hans as BAMFs yet? Or is it still too soon?

  14. doesntsparkle says:

    I never realized that Hitler made the entire country celebrate his birthday. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that he was an egomaniac. Knowing that he was powerful is different than seeing how it effects everyday Germans. So much of what I know about this period comes from other books and movies, but I've never read anything from this point of view.

  15. Shanella says:

    Such a hard passage to read, the book burning. But I loved every second of it. Zusak has made a fan out of me.

    • Sophie says:

      Your last little sentence totally made me think of "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" from Mulan. Just saying.

  16. cait0716 says:

    I have different politics from my father which results in a lot of silence and avoiding the topic. Whenever I do accidentally open my mouth and say something (we shouldn't have extended the tax cuts for the rich) he completely blindsides me (Next time you see a rich person, you should hug them. They pay for everything in this country) and I'm left too flabbergasted to say anything at all. It's good that you can find enough common ground to have a debate

  17. cait0716 says:

    Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking of.

  18. hungriestgame says:

    Ugh. I'm crying in public right now, reading this. I mean, there's nothing really here to cry about, but the way Markus Zusak writes, it's so perfect for this story. Stuff like "slabs of breath" and "his face tripped over itself" are so perfect for this particular story because Nazi Germany doesn't make sense, and so it's like Zusak is stringing words together in new ways to try to find meaning in a world completely and utterly devoid of it.

    "You know what this style feels like? It’s as if Death is literally sitting on the other side of a dining room table, slightly drunk, relating this story as chronologically as he can, but taking brief trips down tangents and laying groundwork for thoughts and avenues to travel down later. That’s what this feels like to me."

    Also this. Also this. I love this style for this story. God. I just think it works so well for making you feel at once as horrible and as good as possible.

    • ldwy says:

      …because Nazi Germany doesn't make sense, and so it's like Zusak is stringing words together in new ways to try to find meaning in a world completely and utterly devoid of it.

      Such a fantastic way of putting this. Bravo to you. I love Zusak's style, and I think it really really enhances this type of story.

  19. lilygirl says:

    Yes, I Goddamn love this book so much! Farce and drama in one paragraph. I snorted my tea at:

    " –onslaught of Heil Hitlerling. You know, it actually makes me wonder of anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all that. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can only tell you that no one died from it, or at least, not physically."

    Then the reality of 40 million dead because of all the Heil Hitlering

  20. widerspruch says:

    I feel like we should all start to gather and (re)read this book while cuddling in each others arms because. Damn this book.

    It's so wonderful, so heartbreaking, so breathtaking. Seriously, I adore it.

  21. monkeybutter says:

    Thanks, I'm still suppressing rage about the early aughts…

  22. Phoebe says:

    this is literally the best book ever. moving, emotional, real, and depressing, yet hopeful, funny, energetic, and uplifting at the same time. this man is brilliant.

  23. It’s as if Death is literally sitting on the other side of a dining room table, slightly drunk, relating this story as chronologically as he can, but taking brief trips down tangents and laying groundwork for thoughts and avenues to travel down later. That’s what this feels like to me.
    So you're saying this book is like an episode of Drunk History.

  24. I had a real problem with the way my school taught the Holocaust pre-high school. We learned about it in 8th grade from a more "adult" perspective, but our teacher never went beyond the Jews being rounded up into ghettos…which was also known as "being Jewish in Europe, 1400-1800." That was basically the status quo for Jews, so it wasn't what made the Holocaust so horrifying (not that it's okay, or anything…). We never talked about concentration camps, or gas chambers, or the Final Solution, or anything that really made the Holocaust, well, the Holocaust. My friend and I actually approached our teacher about it, and he understood why we were upset, but didn't think it was appropriate (parents would get upset? Something like that) to teach anything more.

    • Now contrast that to what we were learning in Hebrew school that year (8th grade is apparently Holocaust year in my area). I remember when we got up to Kristallnacht, we showed up to our classroom to find the lights off, all of our desks and chairs overturned, our books and papers strewn around the floor amongst ripped paper, and fake fire taped to the walls. We were dead silent. It was absolutely chilling, but in my opionion, age appropriate.

  25. ween says:

    I've been lurking since Twilight, but haven't had much to contribute to the discussion (hence the lurking).

    I came across this article ("Who Would Dare", Roberto Bolano) on the NY Review of Books site and thought it would be worth sharing with this community. If it's a re-post I apologise, but the opening – "The books that I remember best are the ones I stole in Mexico City, between the ages of sixteen and nineteen, and the ones I bought in Chile when I was twenty, during the first few months of the coup." is too good not to share. As is the interesting question posed at the end: what book would you give to a condemned man?

  26. syntheticjesso says:

    "…he would hurtle through the events of another story…"

    When I was a kid, I found the drive to my aunt's house (a whole forty-five minutes!) unbearably boring. I spent a lot of the time reading or playing my Gameboy, but sometimes I would just stare out the window, too. I remember one time I was doing this, and I started noticing the people in the other cars on the road. The realization hit me like a lightning bolt that hey, these people are people just like I am. They have their own memories, and their own thoughts, and their own feelings, and if they turn their heads, they will see me, and I'll be just another person to them, the way they are to me. I remember being completely fascinated by this idea. For a long time, I would sit in the car and look at the other people and wonder what their story was. Were they happy? Where did they live? What did they do for a job? What was their family like? It completely blew my mind that there could be so many people who were different.

    This curiosity stuck with me, and to this day I'm interested in people and their stories. Even in fiction, I love to know more about the side characters. The day that I realized that a given book was only a story about one person in a given fictional world, my little kid brain was blown even more. Why, you could tell a story about the exact same time, but from another person's eyes, and it would be a totally different story! To this day, I love it when we get a glimpse into a side character's life, because it lets me into their story, too.

    So I love this line. I love it so much, I want to give it a hug.

  27. mildlyconfused says:

    I'm German, and we learn pretty much from the word "go", but year 5 (age 11) at the latest. Visual materials that accompany the lessons grows "appropriately" gruesome was we grow older, though I'd wager it's always above what the FSK (or bbfc in you case ;)) would rate in a film (edited down relating of the facts one year, mildly censored photographs the next, then uncensored, then video…) The subject matter is also injected into all classes, so, in a typical year we'd obviously talk about it in History for at least a third of that year, then discuss exiled literature in German, the impact of the war on France/the UK etc in french/english and other language courses, the results of the Milgram experiment and other theories on conformity and social hirachy in sociology, the moralities in religions/ethics, a side-track about the horrors of chemical warfare in biology or chemistry, interbellum art or propaganda graphics in art and so on and so forth.

    Politics and Histroy are also among the list of obligatory subjects, only to be dropped during you final year of A-Level prep (though many do end up with a history or politics a-level class. :))

    Long post is long. Sorry. 🙂

  28. Brieana says:

    I had decided that considering how Death likes to hint at the future so much that I’d wait and read all these at once. There would be times when Death would be like this, this, this is all to come, and it was too much because it made me want for you to get to those parts faster and anyway here I am now, reading and commenting maybe five weeks late.
    I had forgotten so much about this book, like this moment between Ludwig and Leisel and not only that but when she associated this guy that everyone praised with the thing that tore her family apart. With the Harry Potter books, I pretty much knew what many of the chapters were comprised of, but maybe since this book is so nonlinear and so much happens I’ve forgotten. It’s good to be reminded anyway and I’m exciting to go on to the next chapter review.

  29. Brieana says:

    Hans Junior kind of reminds me of Percy.

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