Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapters 25-28

In chapters twenty-four through twenty-seven of The Book Thief, Liesel and Rudy’s stealing increases in volume and frequency, and a lone struggler finds his way to the Hubermann household. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Book Thief.


I didn’t necessarily intend to jam four chapters together in one review, but they were short and flowed naturally to the end of part three, so I figured…what the hell? Why not? The pacing of this book is also starting to increase, as Death moves more rapidly between other characters, bringing us to a surprising point at the end of chapter twenty-seven.

What worries me about Liesel is greed. Her two chapters in this section are full of her antics with Rudy Steiner and how comfortable they are becoming with stealing. I’m worried that they are going to get too comfortable and take things too far. But I also can’t deny that I am enjoying their growing friendship, one built on trust and humor, and chapter twenty-four is a great sign of that.

As the two of them stand outside Frau Diller’s shop, arguing about how many sucks they’ve taken on a piece of candy they bought that was impossible to split in half, I couldn’t help but grin at the happiness of it all:

“This is great, isn’t it?”

“It sure is, Saumensch.”

Just one piece of candy, handed back and forth after ten sucks, can bring these kids unbridled joy. I love that. I know how it feels, having grown up in poverty, to experience undying elation at finding a coin on the street. Finding a quarter meant I could pop the coin into those machines with the dull silver winders and maybe get a bouncy ball or a fake tattoo or another one of those tiny baseball caps with team insignias printed on them. I remember the first time I found a dollar and I tucked it away inside of a sock in the top drawer of my dresser, terrified that someone would take it from me, and some times I would slip away just to make sure it was still there, take it out and look at it, knowing that this one dollar was mine.

I imagine it’s not hard to think that Rudy and Liesel felt the same way. They proudly take that lone coin to Frau Diller’s shop, dutifully giving her the Heil Hitler she always requires before purchase, before Rudy slams it down on the counter.

Frau Diller smiled. Her teeth elbowed each other for room in her mouth, and her unexpected kindness made Rudy and Liesel smile as well. Not for long.

She bent down, did some searching, and came back. “Here,” she said, tossing a single piece of candy onto the counter. “Mix it yourself.”

Frau Diller sure feasts on devouring the joy of others, doesn’t she? Still, even with that working against them, Rudy and Liesel refuse to allow the situation to dampen their spirits. “This is the good life,” Rudy says at one point, and there’s nothing that can take this away from them.

The day had been a great one, and Nazi Germany was a wondrous place.

Which leads me to believe that Zusak is hinting that this is going to change soon.


Death switches back to Max, the Jewish man being hidden somewhere, and now it looks like that information is given: Max was hiding in Stuttgart. He’s on a train, reading Mein Kampf, and the pieces start to fall together. We’ve only had the book mentioned in one context, and that context was always tied to Hans Hubermann. Hans bought the book because of an “idea” and that book ended up in Max’s hands. What’s going to become of Max?

Max’s visitor, now named as his friend Walter Kugler, doesn’t return as promised in a few days, as it turns out to be more than a week and a half, then another week, and Max takes a turn for the hopeless in terms of how he feels about his life.

“I’m leaving soon,” his friend Walter Kugler told him. “You know how it is—the army.”

“I’m sorry, Walter.”

Walter Kugler, Max’s friend from childhood, placed his hand on the Jew’s shoulder. “It could be worse.” He looked his friend in his Jewish eyes. “I could be you.”

That was their last meeting. A final package was left in the corner, and this time, there was a ticket. Walter opened Mein Kampf and slid it inside, next to the map he’d brought with the book itself. “Page thirteen.” He smiled. “For luck, yes?”

“For luck,” and the two of them embraced.

I think I have a better sense of what’s going on. Walter has been hiding Max from the Nazis and now I’m guessing that, somehow, Hans Hubermann got his copy of Mein Kampf to Max with a key taped to the inside cover. But what does the key open?

I really adored the scene where Max finds that the final gift from Walter was a razor, a spoon (“the closest thing to a mirror”), shaving cream, and a pair of scissors. Besides being necessary to act as a disguise, I feel that there has to be a sense of catharsis for Max when he shaves his face and cuts his hair. Maybe it’s a sense of cleanliness, a sense of being new as he steps into the world and tries to make his way to Pasing. However, the irony of the entire situation is not lost on poor Max:

Strangely, as he turned the pages and progressed through the chapters, it was only two words he ever tasted.

Mein Kampf. My struggle—

The title, over and over again, as the train prattled on, from one German town to the next.

Mein Kampf.

Of all the things to save him.

It’s like being punched in the face, isn’t it? It is overwhelming in its sadness and pain, especially given that this book has destroyed so many lives, yet for this one man, it might actually save it.


As I said before, Liesel and Rudy are getting a bit too comfortable for me in regards to their stealing. I mean…yes, they are children who are poor and hungry. I am not criticizing them in that manner, because this isn’t really a moral issue for me. I just don’t want anything horrible to happen to them and I’m worried about the idea of them getting caught on one of their raids.

What chapter twenty-six does well is build a great character history for Liesel and Rudy that parallels the growth of any one of us who started approaching our teenage years and coming to terms with our own morality. I don’t want to write off their actions as the result of mere peer pressure to fit in, though, as I think it’s a much more complicated situation than that. There is certainly the desperation of poverty motivating them. It’s weird, thinking back on my past of poverty, that I never really got into theft, even when I really could have needed it. But I have always been terrified of being caught by authority figures, which I will now squarely place on the shoulders of my mom. THANKS, MOM, I WILL NEVER COMMIT CRIMES BECAUSE OF YOU.

For Liesel and Rudy, I’m not really sure if boredom or desperation or a combination of the two motivate them, and I’m not really sure it matters. After spending so much time running about town with Arthur Burg and his gang of thieves, the two of them begin to observe patterns in other people around town. The first person they decide to focus on is Otto Sturm, who, every Friday afternoon, rides his bike to deliver goods to the priests there.

Rudy is quick to rationalize his plan to Liesel:

“All those priests,” Rudy explained as they walked through town. “They’re all too fat anyway. They could do with a feed for a week or so.” Liesel could only agree. First of all, she wasn’t Catholic. Second, she was pretty hungry herself. As always, she was carrying the washing. Rudy was carrying two buckets of cold water, or as he put it, two buckets of future ice.

Well, that’s some shady justification if I’ve ever seen one. I know that there is an element of humor to what happens to Otto, but it’s hard for me to see this as anything other but mean:

He wasted no time in losing control of the bike, sliding across the ice, and lying facedown on the road.

When he didn’t move, Rudy looked at Liesel with alarm. “Crucified Christ,” he said, “I think we might have killed him!”

Well, they don’t kill him, but I still feel bad for Otto. I don’t think it entirely negates this, but I do like that the first thing Liesel and Rudy do is take their stolen food to Arthur Berg. Arthur is appreciative of what they’ve done, rousing the entire gang to eat the spoils of their work.

A few more doors were knocked on. Names were called out to apartments from streets below, and soon, the whole conglomerate of Arthur Berg’s fruit-stealing troop was on its way to the Amper. In the clearing on the other side, a fire was lit and what was left of the eggs was salvaged and fried. The bread and Speck were cut. With hands and knives, every last piece of Otto Sturm’s delivery was eaten. No priest in sight.

Well, at least something positive came out of this. It started off from a bad place, but Liesel and Rudy fed some of the poorest people in the town with what they’ve done. Well…we don’t know if Otto was also poor himself, to be fair. This whole situation is one gigantic grey area of sorts. But the guilt doesn’t seem to go away for Liesel, who feels pangs of regret for harming Otto. Rudy isn’t so reluctant to state that he has no qualms about what he did, which makes me wonder if Liesel is later going to feel more awful about this, perhaps if there are unseen ramifications of this act.

But the two of them do get too close to danger when Arthur invites them back on another trip back to the farm where they stole potatoes before. This time, the farmer comes out and chases after the thieves with an ax and Rudy gets caught in the barbed wire fence. Everyone continues running except for Liesel, who returns to try and free Rudy. But it’s Arthur who actually saves him, and I’d like to think it’s his way of thanking Rudy for the food five days earlier.

“I’ll have you arrested! I’ll find you! I’ll find out who you are!”

That was when Arthur Berg replied.

“The name is Owens!” He loped away, catching up to Liesel and Rudy. “Jesse Owens!”

Love you, Arthur Berg.

It’s a bit jarring to read, but Death takes us out of the immediacy of this to tell us more about Arthur, who moves away to Cologne just three weeks after this. They only see him once more before he moves, but Death tells us about the next time he saw Arthur:


The Cologne sky was yellow and rotting, flaking at the edges.

He sat propped against a wall with a child in his arms. His sister.

When she stopped breathing, he stayed with her, and I could sense he would hold her for hours. There were two stolen apples in his pockets.

It’s just a brief story, one told beautifully, and I feel that a lot of this book is just brief flashes of tragedy and brilliance mixed in with the story of the Book Thief. CAN THIS BOOK NEVER END. I AM LOVING IT SO MUCH.

That same afternoon, they returned to Frau Diller’s, “heil Hitlered,” and waited.

“Mixed candy again?” She schmunzeled, to which they nodded. The money splashed the counter and Frau Diller’s smile fell slightly ajar.

“Yes, Frau Diller,” they said in unison. “Mixed candy, please.”

The framed Führer looked proud of them.

Triumph before the storm.

And that storm is about to arrive very, very soon.


This is a short chapter, but like I just said, I almost wish it could last forever. Zusak’s stilted, poetic style has grown on me completely and the staccato narration of this chapter, as Max reaches his destination, is one of my favorite parts of the whole book. As soon as Death mentioned that Max has walked from Pasing to Molching using the map Walter had given him, it all started to make sense. There is no other reason why Max would come to Molching unless it was for Hans Hubermann.

Glowing pockets of streetlights.

Dark, passive buildings.

The town hall stood like a gaint ham-fisted youth, too big for his age. The church disappeared in darkness the farther his eyes traveled upward.

It all watched him.

He shivered.

The terror here is so overwhelming. At any given moment, someone might capture Max. Even just blocks away from his final destination, it could all be swept away. As Death says:

(German children were on the lookout for stray coins. German Jews kept watch for possible capture.)

But the real joy (and slight fear, I have to admit) of this situation is the utter sense of ecstatic happiness that Max feels at this moment, knowing how close he is to the Hubermann household:

Now he turned on to the side street, making his way to number thirty-three, resisting the urge to smile, resisting the urge to sob or even imagine the safety that might be awaiting him. He reminded himself that this was no time for hope. Certainly, he could almost touch it. He could feel it, somewhere just out of reach.

Hans Hubermann has organized this. THIS is the idea he had after the confrontation with his son, the reason he visited the Nazis, and the reason he told Liesel to keep a secret. OH MY GOD, HE’S GOING TO HARBOR MAX. ;lkasdjasd;klf


This book. This fucking book.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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60 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapters 25-28

  1. "If they killed him tonight, at least he would die alive."

    On one hand, a beautiful line that makes me a feel a surge of both triumph and sadness. On the other hand, it makes me think of Cordelia telling Giles, "One of these days you're gonna wake up in a coma."

    • monkeybutter says:

      If I had this on Kindle, I would check to see how many people highlighted that line. I had to look it up in Google Books because I haven't reread these chapters yet, but it's perfect for Max. He's finally moving, he has a destination, and he has to push down all of the emotions and hope he feels as he gets closer to the Hubermann's. You're right, it's triumphant and sad.

      And since I just saw it, I also liked the bit before that line about Death clapping Liesel and Max together.

      • cait0716 says:

        It doesn't look like anyone highlighted this line on the kindle – at least not enough people for it to show up in the text. A lot of people did highlight the line "So much good. So much evil. Just add water."

    • ldwy says:

      I love that line. It's perfect. Utterly heartwrenching, and yet still so hopeful!

      I got so so excited when I started to put together the pieces in this section that Hans was going to harbor Max. I love you even more than I already did, Hans, you are a good man!

      I'd like to think that if I was a German in WWII, I'd be as brave as the Hubermann's, but my god, what a huge risk it is. I don't know if I could do it. So I admire them all the more.

    • mugglemomof2 says:

      I love that we got to your first (I think it is for this book) keymash!

    • bradycardia says:

      Great line from Zusak. Hope even when hope seems lost, it all depends on your perspective.

      I'm also loving the Buffy reference!

  2. Ellalalala says:

    Marrrrrrk, where's chapter 23???

    • widerspruch says:

      I was wondering where the first 'Struggler' chapter went.

      I just checked my book and it seems like there's actually two chapters missing 😮

    • jessicaduh says:

      Exactly what I was coming to ask!

      • Ellalalala says:

        It's a testament to just how dull my day is (/how awesome these reviews are) that I feel utterly bereft from not being able to read the review RIGHT NOW!

        It's only a couple of hours until I get home and can read the other chapters, but HOW WILL I SURVIVE UNTIL THEN?!

        I won't, probably.

        </utter patheticness>

  3. @Zippy8604 says:

    are there two missing chapters?

    Enter the Struggler
    The Attributes of Summer

    I can't seem to find the reviews for these two

  4. QuoteMyFoot says:





    EDIT2: Also, your American version says 'candy' and this disappoints be, because 'mixed lollies' just has more character somehow. 🙁 /britbias

    • Anseflans says:

      I bet 'lolly' is so much fun to say if your first language is English. Lollylollylollylolly.

      Okay, I'll stop now.

    • ffyona says:

      I don't get why they would change that? Especially in a novel that contains so many references to German culture and language… Americanising some slang just seems patronising to American readers. 'Lollies' isn't exactly incomprehensible?

      • monkeybutter says:

        I don't like it when they change things for American editions because they figure we're too dumb to get it (Sorcerer's Stone, anyone?), but is "lolly" German? Just curious. I thought Zusak used it because he's Australian.

        • ffyona says:

          Lolly is definitely used in Britain and I assume Australia too because we share a lot of slang. What I meant to say was that there are already different words/influences at play in the book so to choose to Americanise that one (which is surely easier to understand than some of the German words) seemed odd.

          But, now you mention it, maybe it was originally an Australian word for 'lolly' and I'm reading a sanitised British version! The shame!

          • monkeybutter says:

            Now that wouldn't make any sense at all, haha. You're right, though, when Zusak is playing around with language, it doesn't feel right to change his words. I don't mind your extra u's and -ise endings, but those are about the only things I could justify changing for American audiences. Weird editing.

        • A German Guy says:

          Yup, it's German. It's spelled "Lolli" here, though.

  5. monkeybutter says:

    Their time as thieves was great, but I was worried for them the entire time. I was just waiting for their comeuppance, and of course it was Rudy who got caught on the fence. Who else? It sort of reminded me of Jem getting caught on the Radley's fence in To Kill a Mockingbird. Liesel's a bit like Scout (Louise), too, now that I think about it. No wonder I love this book!

    Anyway, it was a nice glimpse into the life of Arthur Berg. I like that Death can tell us what happens to everyone even when they've left the narrative.

    I'm sure I'm not the first to mention this, but you skipped chapters 23 & 24, and this review actually goes from 25-28. It seems like you read 23 & 24; did the wrong review go up? Ah well, glad to see you're making progress!

  6. Inseriousity. says:

    ahaha yeah this review made no sense for a minute, i was like 'eh but we havent even met arthur berg yet' 😛

    Oh well! either way you're not prepared.

  7. widerspruch says:

    I think the only thing I can say is that I'm not prepared for your unpreparedness.

  8. potlid007 says:


    has arrived.
    <img src="; border="0" alt="Nathan, Misfits GIF Pictures, Images and Photos"/>
    side note: I now think that Robert Sheehan would be a quality Max.

  9. It’s just a brief story, one told beautifully, and I feel that a lot of this book is just brief flashes of tragedy and brilliance mixed in with the story of the Book Thief.
    Yes, this is exactly what I mean about the book being a series of vignettes!

    Zusak’s stilted, poetic style has grown on me completely and the staccato narration of this chapter, as Max reaches his destination, is one of my favorite parts of the whole book.
    When I first started re-reading, the style grated on me a bit, but after a while, it did re-grow on me, especially once we got to characters I loved like Liesel and Hans and now Max.

    I do want to read your reaction to Max's introduction, though!! I hope that gets posted soon.

  10. Phoebe says:

    AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xD

  11. cait0716 says:

    This was a great little group of chapters. I liked the flipping back and forth as the two narrative threads are brought together – though I do wonder how Death knew Max's story. I guess we'll probably find out.

    Mark, you said that cutting off his hair must have been cathartic for Max, but I imagine it was exactly the opposite. I may be showing ignorance here, but I am under the impression that hair is very important in the Orthodox Jew tradition, that it is very much tied to identity. Cutting it off to hide himself, denying his heritage in order to live, must have been incredibly difficult and painful.

    • Hey, just saw this comment. I'm Orthodox, so I can give you some info about hair. There's no particular tradition about men growing the hair on their head. In fact, one of the things that can not be done during the prescribed amount of time of mourning after a parent, child, or spouse has died is a haircut. When the mourning period is over, the hair may be cut. As for hair on the face, the bible prohibits a razor from shaving a man's face. In more modern judaism–including much of the Orthodox Jewish population–men shave using an electric razor, which lifts the hair and cuts it slightly away from the face (that's why electric shavers aren't as close a shave). Even this kind of shaving, however, is also prohibited during the mourning period.

      So just as being able to shave and take a haircut is a way a person symbolically emerges from a period of mourning, I can see how it would be a symbol of Max emerging from his dark imprisonment in that little room.

      As for any religious significance, though, even if it WERE tradition for Jewish men to grow their hair, Max is clearly not a very observant Jew.

      Hope I didn't bore you with the little lecture!

      • cait0716 says:

        No worries, I'm always happy to learn! Thanks for explaining all of this. I'm sorry if I came across as completely ignorant, unfortunately it's true of me and pretty much every religion. I may have put a bit too much stock in "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof as a result of not knowing truth from stereotypes.

  12. FlameRaven says:

    This is actually something I'm surprised no one predicted? Like, only a couple chapters in, when we learn that Hans is in the 10% that doesn't support Hitler, I was pretty sure he was going to end up harboring a Jew in his home and that made me deeply worried because I like Hans and I wanted him to do the right thing, but I was also very upset that he might end up discovered and then no one would have a happy ending. D: (Not saying anything about what actually happens, here, this was just my thought process when I started the novel.)

    Using Mein Kampf to smuggle him the door key and information was pretty brilliant though, I have to say.

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      That, and the fact that it's something Death actually spoiled earlier: name, profession, use of Mein Kampf, and all. ^_^

    • HieronymusGrbrd says:

      A prediction that becomes true may spoil the surprise for everybody who didn't see it come. So I didn't dare to "predict" this because I was so sure it would happen (but I didn't foresee the use of Mein Kampf).

      Concerning happy endings, I give you a prediction in the style of Ms. Trelawney, the master of vagueness:

      Liesel's books will be burned, but not by Nazis, and she will loose more than books when this happens.

  13. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Maybe I've just overlooked it, but…

    "Part Three: Mein Kampf, featuring: the way home–a broken woman–a struggler–a juggler–the attributes of summer–an Aryan shopkeeper–a snorer–two tricksters–and revenge in the shape of mixed candy."

    In the first part, all but one of the items on the title page were roughly paraphrased titles of chapters, all in correct order. In the second part, all of them were.

    But here (because of the repeated "Struggler" titles, I'm sure), a lot of them aren't matched up in the same way. "A broken woman" obviously corresponds to "The Mayor's Library," "a snorer" to the woman in the middle "Struggler" chapter, and the last two descriptions to the "Tricksters" chapter, but who's the juggler? The fact that the last two descriptions go together would leave one description per chapter, but "the juggler" doesn't seem to correspond to a chapter on its own, and I can't remember a juggler being described in the place Death suggests it should be.

    Perhaps the juggler is Death himself, juggling between these two story lines until Max and Liesel finally meet?

    I'm guessing that this isn't actually a profitable line of inquiry, but it is kind of interesting to see the differences between how Death sets up a new "act" versus how it gets presented in the actual writing.

  14. Brieana says:

    Max! I love him. And I didn't notice until I read the comments that this was out of order.

    • Brieana says:

      I forgot to add that I think Max cut his hair so that he wouldn't look so blantantly Jewish.

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