The Book Thief Part Seven Summary & Analysis | SparkNotes (2023)

Summary

As the town of Molching comes to terms with the likelihood of being bombed, Hans finds his painting services in demand, as his neighbors need their blinds painted black for blackouts during bombings. Unfortunately, few of the town’s residents can afford to pay him, so they often barter for his services with food or cigarettes. Liesel accompanies Hans on his jobs, and when he is not painting he plays the accordion for them. One day they do work for some customers who pay them with Champagne, and Liesel vows never to drink Champagne again because it cannot possibly ever taste as good again. Rudy, meanwhile, trains for the upcoming Hitler Youth Carnival. He promises to win four gold medals, just like his idol Jesse Owens did during the 1936 Olympics. Rudy wins the first three races easily, but is disqualified from the fourth because of repeated false starts. After the carnival, Rudy confesses that he did it on purpose.

Liesel steals another book, A Song in the Dark, from the Hermann library. As the summer draws to a close, Rudy notices that a book has been propped in the window of the mayor’s house. Liesel steals it and discovers it is a dictionary. In it she finds a letter from Frau Hermann telling her that she is welcome to continue stealing books, but Frau Hermann hopes Liesel will someday come in through the front door instead of the window. At the end of the summer, Molching experiences its first air raid, and Liesel, Hans, and Rosa go to the neighbors’ house to take shelter in the basement. They have no choice but to leave Max behind.

In the shelter, many of Liesel’s neighbors are terrified. Liesel herself is terrified of what will happen to Max if their house is bombed. The raid warning ends, and Liesel, Rosa, and Hans return to their house, where Max confesses he took the opportunity to look out the windows, having not seen the outside world for nearly two years. During the next raid, Liesel calms herself by reading The Whistler out loud. Soon all the residents in the shelter are listening, and even after the all-clear siren sounds, the neighbors remain until Liesel finishes the chapter. A few days later one of their neighbors, Frau Holtzapfel, comes to the house and asks if Liesel will come over and read to her in the afternoons, in return for coffee. Although Rosa and Frau Holtzapfel are enemies, Rosa agrees, and Liesel begins reading several days a week.

A convoy of German trucks carrying Jews to the concentration camps at Dachau stops outside Molching, and the soldiers march the Jewish prisoners through the town. The residents come out of their houses to watch, and Liesel finds Hans in the crowd. An old man, struggling to keep up, falls repeatedly in the street. Hans takes a piece of bread from his paint can and offers it to the man. The man falls to his knees and embraces Hans’s feet in thanks, but before he can eat the bread a soldier arrives and begins whipping the man, then Hans. As the procession moves on, witnesses call Hans a Jew lover and knock over his paint cart. Hans realizes his actions have drawn suspicion and Max is no longer safe in the basement. The next night, Max leaves Himmel Street. He’s arranged to meet Hans in four days, but when Hans arrives at the appointed spot, he only finds a note, telling him he’s already done enough. Hans, filled with guilt for causing Max to leave, is also reviled by Frau Diller and other townspeople, who spit at him and call him a Jew lover. When the Gestapo do come, however, it is not to take Hans away, but Rudy.

Analysis

War arrives definitively in Molching in this section. Liesel, who has been relatively content over the summer, now realizes that her happiness may be fleeting and tries to savor each last happy moment. For example, as she drinks Champagne for the first time, she has an awareness of how happy she is, and how that happiness contributes to the flavor of the drink. Spending time with Hans, painting houses with him, and listening to him play the accordion are among her favorite activities. As the political situation grows more precarious, Liesel is growing older, and both circumstances make her acutely aware of the passage of time. It is with an adult’s consciousness that she realizes life will not always be like this.

Read more about Hans’s accordion as a symbol.

Rudy experiences perhaps his greatest triumph, though his response to this victory is surprising. During the Hitler Youth Carnival, Rudy deliberately disqualifies himself from the final race and then basically discards the medals he already won, suggesting they don’t matter to him. It’s not the reaction one would expect given Rudy’s goal of matching his idol Jesse Owens’s record of four gold medals. Liesel is confused by Rudy’s behavior, and indeed he never explains himself, but the text does suggest some possible reasons. Rudy is clearly happy with his performance. He doesn’t seem to have any regrets or feel that he didn’t accomplish what he wanted. He may know that he could have won the final race, and thus he didn’t need to actually do it to gain that satisfaction. In addition, one of his goals was to prove himself to Franz Deutscher, his former Hitler Youth leader, and even without winning all four races he’s already done that.

Read more about Rudy's behavior.

Frau Hermann’s motivations are also somewhat difficult for Liesel to understand when Liesel realizes that Frau Hermann has allowed her thieving all along, but in this instance the explanation isn’t difficult to discern. Frau Hermann is obviously lonely, and though she never chats much with Liesel, it seems to make her happy that Liesel comes over and enjoys her library. The dictionary and the note inside are clearly meant to entice Liesel to return. Frau Hermann seems to want Liesel there because she’s still grieving over the loss of her son, and Liesel in some small way fills the hole created by his absence. Liesel seems surprised that Frau Hermann isn’t upset with her for stealing, but from Frau Hermann’s perspective the comfort Liesel apparently offers is worth the loss of a book now and again. Having Liesel sneaking in and stealing isn’t exactly the arrangement she wants, however, so she lets Liesel know that she can come by anytime she likes.

Read more about Frau Hermann.

As Liesel uses literature to soothe the residents of Himmel Street during the air raids, we see both the power of words in the novel and how Liesel continues to mature. The power of words here is that they allow the people in the shelter to momentarily forget the bombs falling outside, and through Liesel’s reading they offer a great source of comfort. What’s also notable about the scene is that it shows just how much Liesel has grown over the course of the novel: Liesel, who once struggled to read in front of her class in school, now finds herself reading before a large gathering. It shows her evolving from a child who needs to be taken care of to a young woman who is taking care of those around her. The readings lead to Frau Holtzapfel asking Liesel to come read to her personally, and as a result Liesel finds herself now earning money for her family. The helplessness she has felt at times, notably when Frau Hermann informed her she was going to stop using Rosa for her washing, has been replaced with a sense of empowerment, the source of which is Liesel’s growing mastery over words and language.

As the Germans start bringing Jews through town on the way to Dachau, we see the characters of many of Molching’s residents revealed in the way they react, and the scene shows both the kindness and cruelty of people. The condition of the Jewish prisoners who are paraded through Molching shows the awful cruelty of the Nazi soldiers. The prisoners are exhausted, starving, and many are near death, yet the Nazis show no sympathy whatsoever. On the other side we have Hans. While the rest of the residents passively observe the suffering of the prisoners, Hans feels compelled to do something, and although it’s a small act, just handing the prisoner a piece of bread, it signifies an immeasurable act of kindness. That’s because Hans knows he can be punished for intervening in any way, and so the small gesture is still a great sacrifice, as is proved by the fact that Hans is brutally whipped. Hans later regrets offering the bread because it casts suspicion on him, meaning Max will have to flee in case the Nazis decide to search his house, but the fact that he did something indicates that Hans is a tremendously compassionate and courageous individual. The other people in the town, meanwhile, either stand by or shout abuse at Hans, and so compared to him they appear to be at best cowards and at worst bigots. The scene makes clear how cruel the Nazis were, as well as how kind and brave the people were who did what they could to help the Jews.

Read more about the kindness and cruelty of humans as a theme.

FAQs

What happened in Part 7 of the book thief? ›

A convoy of German trucks carrying Jews to the concentration camps at Dachau stops outside Molching, and the soldiers march the Jewish prisoners through the town. The residents come out of their houses to watch, and Liesel finds Hans in the crowd. An old man, struggling to keep up, falls repeatedly in the street.

Did Max marry Liesel in the book thief? ›

Samantha McLaughlin In an interview, Markus Zusak stated that Liesel did not marry Max, although many readers still 'believe' she did. :) And my guess is that she ended up in Australia because of the person she married or maybe her writing career... Hope this helps!

What is the overall message of the book thief? ›

The overall message of The Book Thief relates to showing kindness to others. During the time, most Jewish people were horribly mistreated by the Nazis with ultimately 6 million being massacred in the Holocaust.

What is a brief summary of the book thief? ›

The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, a little girl who is taken to a new home because her mother can't afford to take care of her. The story is told by Death, who becomes a character you come to respect and even feel sorry for by the end. The narration puts an odd perspective on the story.

What does Ilsa Hermann give Liesel in Part 7? ›

Ilsa Hermann's actions demonstrate her affections for Liesel. She wants to have Liesel as a guest in her house, and she even leaves the gift of a dictionary for her to find, essentially giving Liesel the gift of words so that Liesel can possess them.

What happened to Liesel at the end of The Book Thief? ›

At the end of The Book Thief, Molching is bombed and many people die. Liesel mourns for Rudy and her foster parents but she survives the war, reunites with Max, and moves to Australia where she dies of old age.

Who did Liesel love the most? ›

Liesel finally kisses Rudy, but only after he's dead. When she discovers the bodies of her Mama and Papa, she finds it hardest to look at her Papa. Death tells us that it was him that she loved most.

Who does Liesel end up with? ›

Answer and Explanation: In The Book Thief it is not said whom Liesel marries, only that she does and has a family. Shortly after the war has ended, she sees Max at the end of the story in an emotional, joyful reunion.

Is Max alive at the end of the book thief? ›

Although he comes close many times, Max does not actually die in The Book Thief. He survives the narrative and reunites with Liesel after the war has ended.

What does the teddy bear symbolize in The Book Thief? ›

Among the small acts of kindness we see are Ilsa Hermann inviting Liesel into her library and Rudy giving the teddy bear to the dying pilot represent the kind end of the spectrum.

What does stealing symbolize in The Book Thief? ›

Answer and Explanation: Stealing represents freedom in The Book Thief for both Liesel and Rudy. When Liesel steals books, she does so in order to remember her brother; because she objects to the idea of burning books; and because she wants revenge against Ilsa and Heinz Hermann.

What does The Book Thief symbolize? ›

The book is a symbol of the resistance against the Nazi regime. It also symbolizes comfort. Liesel is comforted by a book she reads as she mourns the death of her brother. The book also serves as the connection between Liesel and Hans, as Hans teaches Leisel how to read upon her arrival.

Why did Liesel's mother give her away? ›

Liesel Meminger

She is fostered by the Hubermanns after her biological father "abandons" their family due to being a Communist, her brother dies, and her mother is forced to send her to a foster home to avoid Nazi persecution.

What does The Book Thief teach us about Death? ›

You could argue that Death is in the unlucky position of having human-like emotions, but never being allowed to be a part of humanity. Of course, though Death may not be an actual human being, he's totally linked to all of humanity. It's important to note that he doesn't cause people to die, but is "a result" (2.3).

Is Death in The Book Thief male or female? ›

Finally, Death's gender is revealed as male, so we can start calling him "him," "he" and all that other good stuff.) In any case, that night Liesel begins her story The Book Thief.

What did death give to Liesel? ›

Death jumps ahead and reveals Liesel's ultimate fate – she has survived and thrived beyond the bombing, and brought new life into the world in the form of her children. She is given a clear, beautiful sky for her last day.

What is the last gift Liesel gives Max? ›

Liesel's last gift is her tears. She cries on Max's face.

What secret does Hans ask Liesel to keep? ›

He explains that he wasn't sure Max was really coming, and that's why he didn't talk to Liesel about it earlier. Hans asks Liesel if she remembers her promise to Hans on Hitler's birthday.

Does Ilsa adopt Liesel? ›

However, the Hubermanns die in the bombing of Himmel Street. Liesel is then adopted by Heinz and Ilsa Hermann, the mayor and his wife.

Does Liesel ever kiss Rudy? ›

It's a sincere moment they share, and though she doesn't actually kiss Rudy, it's clear Liesel wants to from her thoughts. The moment is the closest they've been thus far in the novel.

Does Liesel see her mother again? ›

At that moment, Liesel realizes she'll never see her mother again. Rosa apologizes, but not for hitting her, Liesel realizes.

Was Rudy in love with Liesel? ›

Rudy And Liesel

Rudy, "the boy who refuses to fear the opposite sex" (8.23), loves Liesel from the moment he meets her. His love grows and grows right up to the bitter end. We're talking both friendly love and romantic love, in Rudy's case.

Does Rosa love Liesel? ›

Death, however, tells us that Rosa, surprisingly, has a very big heart, and does, in fact, deeply love both Hans and Liesel.. She also cares for Max when he is ill, and she holds Hans's accordion at night praying for Hans's, and everybody else's, safe return.

Why did Liesel not kiss Rudy? ›

In this chapter, Liesel thinks about kissing Rudy instead of Rudy chasing after her. But his mind is on his father and how much he misses him. Liesel's feelings for Rudy are changing, growing stronger, in her thoughts of kissing him. But Death has already said that she won't, not while Rudy's alive.

How old is Liesel at the end? ›

Liesel is nine years old, almost ten, at the start of the novel. She is about fifteen toward the end of the novel when the bombs destroy her home and kill her loved ones.

Why does death tell Liesel's story? ›

In Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Death is narrating the novel because the author set the novel around World War II.

Who is the last human stranger in the book thief? ›

She finds Die Letzte Menschliche Fremde—The Last Human Stranger. She's about to make her exit through the window when she hears the sound of a door opening. She turns. It's Ilsa Hermann, wearing a swastika-embroidered bathrobe.

Why is Max a bird in the book thief? ›

He paints himself as a bird since he remembers Liesel saying his hair is like feathers. The book is the story of his friendship with Liesel and he titles it The Standover Man, the pages of which are included in the novel. Max leaves it in Liesel's room when he is finished.

What is Max's guilt in the book thief? ›

He feels deeply guilty for leaving his family to save himself, an act he sees as a choice rather than a necessity to survive. He also feels ashamed of the burden he places on the Hubermanns since he knows he's putting them in serious danger by being in their home.

Why does Rudy call Liesel Saumensch? ›

Another word that takes on great import is Saumensch, a name that Rosa calls Liesel when she does something wrong or is bothersome, but over time, Liesel comes to recognize this as a gruff term of endearment. She takes comfort in this in much the same way she takes comfort in Hans's cigarettes and accordion music.

How do words save Liesel's life? ›

The power of words save Liesel by giving her a voice, they then save Liesel and Max as they seek refuge from their nightmares, and again they save Liesel's frightened neighbors as they take cover from the bombs, comforted by her reading.

What does Max Vandenburg symbolize? ›

Answer and Explanation: Max symbolizes the debt that Hans Hubermann owes to Erik Vandenburg. He is a constant reminder that Erik saved Hans's life.

Why does Rudy steal food? ›

Rudy steals in The Book Thief largely because he does not have enough to eat. Food is clearly his primary motivator whenever he and Liesel decide to steal, whereas Liesel is at least as interested in stealing books.

Why do Rudy and Liesel enjoy stealing? ›

Liesel and Rudy at first steal food because they're literally almost starving, and eventually, stealing becomes an act of empowerment. The Hermanns decision to stop using Rosa to do their washing made Liesel feel helpless, and stealing from their library serves as a way for her to reclaim some small measure of power.

Why is Liesel obsessed with stealing books? ›

Liesel steals books for two reasons: She becomes a voracious reader, and she views it as an act of subversion. Liesel steals her first book The Gravedigger's Handbook, which leads to her uncovering the power contained in books.

What does Hans accordion symbolize? ›

Hans's accordion represents his debt to Erik Vandenburg, the friend who saved his life, and the responsibility he feels to live because Erik didn't. Hans inherited the accordion after Erik died in the battle that Erik got him out of, and he learned to play it as a way of honoring Erik's memory.

What did Hans accordion symbolize to Liesel? ›

The accordion starts off as a symbol of hope and comfort. When Liesel begins reading to the residents of Himmel Street during the air raids, she feels like she's giving them what Hans gives her when he plays the accordion – distraction, comfort, and hope.

What were Hans two mistakes? ›

What are Hans Hubermann's "two mistakes" with regards to his standing with the Nazi party, and what are the two things that ultimately save him from those mistakes? Offering to paint over a swastika on the door of a Jewish store and he tells a man at the NSDAP that he would never join the party.

Why did Hans adopt Liesel? ›

Liesel Meminger (the aforementioned girl) is adopted by Hans and Rosa Hubermann of 33 Himmel Street. The Hubermanns are not rich. They decide to raise Liesel because they are getting an allowance for it. Despite this, Liesel could not have a better father than Hans Hubermann.

Why does Liesel refuse to bathe? ›

By refusing to wash, she preserves that moment in a nearly literal sense and display her unwillingness to get over the deaths of the people she cared about. Eventually, in an act that symbolizes her letting go of the past and moving on, she bathes in the river.

What happened to Liesel's real mother? ›

Answer and Explanation: While Markus Zusack does not directly state what happened to Liesel's mother, it is implied that she was captured and killed in a concentration camp. Liesel's mother was a Communist, and during World War II, thousands of Communists were imprisoned or executed outright.

How many times did Death see Liesel? ›

He has feelings for the souls he collects, and the humans left behind. Liesel, in particular, has made such a strong impression on him that he can't forget the three times he saw her.

What does Liesel get if she wins the race? ›

He challenges Liesel to a race and says that if he wins, he gets to kiss her, but they tie. Rudy and Liesel's close friendship begins in this chapter, as well as Rudy's long series of attempts to get Liesel to kiss him.

How does Werner's Death affect Liesel? ›

She would wake up swimming in her bed, screaming and drowning in the flood of sheets.” The nightmares she had every night clearly represent her mourning after her brother. It's a very traumatic experience that shapes her life in many ways. She had loved him dearly.

Does Liesel marry Max? ›

Samantha McLaughlin In an interview, Markus Zusak stated that Liesel did not marry Max, although many readers still 'believe' she did. :) And my guess is that she ended up in Australia because of the person she married or maybe her writing career... Hope this helps!

What chapter does Liesel wet the bed? ›

In the tenth and eleventh chapters of The Book Thief, Liesel’s accidental bedwetting inspires Hans not only to spend more time with his foster daughter, but to begin to teach her to read. Intrigued?

Does Max go into a coma in The Book Thief? ›

On Christmas Eve, Liesel builds a snowman in the basement for Max. Shortly afterwards, Max gets very sick and falls into a coma. Death comes to Himmel Street and visits Max but doesn't take his soul.

What is Part 9 about in The Book Thief? ›

Hans suffers a broken leg, but Zucker breaks his neck and dies. Once the men get back to camp, the doctor examines Hans and tells him he'll be sent back to Munich to work in an office. The doctor tells Hans he is a lucky man. Hans writes Liesel and Rosa and tells them of his good fortune.

Is Death all knowing in The Book Thief? ›

Now, Death isn't omniscient—he doesn't know and see everything that's going on in the world. He's gets his information just like we do—from his personal experiences and from what he reads and hears about from others.

Who does Liesel love most? ›

Hans is Liesel's foster father, her Papa. He is a very tall man who walks upright, plays the accordion, and has silver eyes. His quiet, gentle nature is what wins Liesel over, and Death tells us that he is the one Liesel loves most.

What does Liesel vow to never drink again? ›

She says she will never drink champagne again because she knows it will never taste as good as it did that day in July 1942.

Is Max dead or is she in a coma? ›

Physically, yes. Lucas tells his friends that Max is in a coma, and we see her wearing casts on her arms and legs. The Duffer brothers have also confirmed that at the end of Season 4, Max is alive yet "brain dead, blind, and all of her bones are broken." The big mystery is where the redhead is mentally.

Why does Liesel bring 13 presents to Max? ›

Liesel brings quite a few gifts to max like a soccer ball, a feather, soccer ball, newspapers, a candy wrapper... All these gifts represent something good in the world that she wants Max to remember: something to bring him to life again.

What does Death say saved Hans life? ›

At various times in the novel we've seen seemingly inconsequential acts result in characters avoiding death. Hans, for instance, was saved by Erik Vandenburg, who spared him from the battle that killed Hans's platoon by volunteering him to write letters.

Why does Death like Liesel? ›

One of the main things he does is collect stories of courageous humans. Liesel is particularly interesting to him because of her courage and her personality. Stories like hers help keep him going. He retells these stories, he says, "to prove to myself that you, and your human existence, are worth it" (4.33).

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