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


Germans, Death declares, love to burn things. He points as evidence to the upcoming celebration of Hitler’s birthday, April 20, during which the residents of Molching will burn books by non-Aryan authors. Meanwhile, Liesel is becoming more accomplished in her reading and writing and is rewarded at Christmas with two books that Hans traded cigarettes for. Liesel continues helping Rosa deliver the washing, but with war becoming more of a reality, many of Rosa’s customers discontinue their patronage. Rosa decides to send Liesel on her own to pick up and deliver laundry, assuming the customers will be less likely to tell a young girl they can no longer afford to send out their washing. As an assignment for school, Liesel writes a letter to her mother, and begins waiting for a reply. The social worker who delivered Liesel to the Hubermanns arrives and informs Liesel that she has lost contact with Liesel’s mother, but Liesel continues to hope for a response to her letter.

On the day of Hitler’s birthday, the town decorates the streets with German flags and Nazi swastikas. When the Hubermanns can’t find their flag, Rosa frets that the Nazis will come and take them away. But at last the flag is found in time for the parade. The Hubermanns’ children, Hans Jr. and Trudy, come home for the celebration, and Hans Jr. fights with his father about Hitler. The older Hans has been called “the Jew painter” for painting over slurs written on Jewish shop fronts. Hans Jr. thinks it is a dangerous mistake for Hans not to be more aggressive in his application to join the Nazi party, and accuses his father of not caring about Germany. Seeing Liesel reading quietly, he asserts that she should be reading MKPF instead. Calling his father a coward, he storms out of the house.

After a parade by the Hitler Youth, carts of books, newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, and posters considered unsympathetic to the Nazi Party are wheeled into the town square and arranged in a pile. As a Nazi official rails against Jews and Communists, Liesel connects what happened to her parents to Hitler and his policies. As she struggles to get out of the crowd, she sees her classmate, Ludwig Schmeikl, who is trapped with a hurt ankle. She helps him escape, and he apologies for teasing her. The bonfire is lit. Hans finds Liesel as the flames burn, and she informs him she hates Hitler. He slaps her across the face, and tells her she must never say such a thing in public. They practice saluting Hitler. As the fire burns itself out and darkness falls, Liesel notices a book that has not been burned. While the soldiers tending the fire are not paying attention, she sneaks forward and steals the book, hiding it in her shirt. Only after she has the book does she realize she has been observed by a figure with fluffy hair. The book is called The Shoulder Shrug and it burns her inside her shirt as she walks home with Papa.


External forces insert themselves more directly into the narrative in Part Two, as Liesel and her family feel the effects of Hitler’s encroaching presence. The link between the personal and the political is made explicit, as Liesel connects Hitler to the disappearance of her parents. She begins to express some of her anger and sadness at their disappearance, developing the passionate hatred of Hitler. She also expresses a desire for revenge, an impulse we see fueling her actions at times throughout the rest of the story. But Liesel is not the only one suffering from the political situation. Differing views about the importance of allegiance to the Nazi Party and Germany cause a rift between Hans and his son, and Hans’s sympathy for the Jews in Molching foreshadows events to come.

Read more about the historical context in which The Book Thief was written.

The challenges of being courageous in the politically complex and perilous context of Nazi Germany come to the fore in this section, and we see Liesel beginning to learn from Hans’s example. Hans has been helping Jews by painting over the slurs on their shops, but because the act runs counter to Nazi ideology, it puts Hans at risk from those, like Hans Jr., who won’t tolerate any deviation from the Nazi agenda. The contradiction involved is immediately apparent: By doing what he considers right, Hans could be punished. Though his son calls him a “coward” for essentially not believing in the German ideal, the reader recognizes Hans’s act as a brave and selfless one. Liesel seems to understand the distinction as well. Later, when she finds Ludwig Schmeikl, the same boy who made fun of her reading abilities, injured, she helps him, and though she doesn’t link her decision explicitly to Hans, it’s obvious that Hans would have done the same in that situation. Consciously or not, Liesel seems to be learning from his example.

Read an in-depth analysis of Hans Hubermann.

But Liesel also learns that there’s a line she can’t cross, at least not publicly, when she says she hates Hitler for what he did to her family. Hans slaps her and makes her practice saluting Hitler in front of people, obviously to make sure they’re protected if anyone overheard Liesel’s comment. Hans’s worry is that Liesel and he could be punished for her dissent, and he explains the very important distinction between what you feel inwardly and how you behave outwardly. It’s a perfect example of the motif of duality that runs through the book, and Liesel understands right away that, for the sake of her and her family’s safety, she will need to maintain two lives: a public one and a private one.

Read more about the dualities of Nazi-era Germany as a theme.

In addition to the dramatic scene of the book burning, the main development in this section is Liesel’s increasing sophistication as a narrator of her own story, which correlates with her growing proficiency as a reader and writer. Her mastery of language allows her to see her specific situation in a larger context. When she announces to Hans that she hates Hitler, his violent reaction reveals the danger of language, and she becomes aware of the difference between public and private speech, agreeing to censor herself when she can be overheard by the wrong person. This theme will be developed more explicitly as increasing paranoia and fear of being taken away by the Nazis cause many of the characters to begin leading double lives, playing the role of patriotic citizens in public while trying to follow their own ethics in private, often at great personal risk. Because she is still a child, Liesel is more naïve about the potential consequences of her actions, and does not have as much to fear as some of the older characters. However, in stealing the book from the fire, she establishes herself as willing to risk her personal safety for books, which are increasingly important to her. This risk is dramatized both literally, in Liesel’s theft in clear sight of the soldiers, and also symbolically, when she puts in the book inside her shirt, where it burns her skin. The section also foreshadows the import the figure with the fluffy hair will play in Liesel’s life, by witnessing the risks she takes for books and not moving to stop or aid her.

Read more about how Liesel matures over the course of the novel.


What is a summary of Part 2 of the book thief? ›

As a Nazi official rails against Jews and Communists, Liesel connects what happened to her parents to Hitler and his policies. As she struggles to get out of the crowd, she sees her classmate, Ludwig Schmeikl, who is trapped with a hurt ankle. She helps him escape, and he apologies for teasing her. The bonfire is lit.

What is Part 2 of the book thief called? ›

The Book Thief Part 2: Book of Fire Summary & Analysis | LitCharts.

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 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 book did Liesel steal in Part 2? ›

The second: April 20, 1940. He tells us that she takes this book, The Shoulder Shrug, during a book-burning event on the Führer's birthday. She steals it out of anger and hatred, feelings that Liesel associates with Himmel Street, her mother, and the Führer.

What is special about the 2nd book Liesel steals? ›

What is special about the 2nd book Liesel steals? What does it signify? She stole it from the Nazi book burning. Liesel Stole The Shoulder Shrug symbolized her hate for hitler.

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 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.

What do cigarettes symbolize in the book thief? ›

Answer and Explanation: Cigarettes often symbolize the relationship between Liesel and Hans. Early in the story, Hans teaches Liesel to roll cigarettes for him, which she finds calming. Later, Hans trades the last of his cigarettes for a book for Liesel, demonstrating his love for her.

Is Rudy in love with Liesel? ›

Rudy, one of six children, is Liesel's best friend. He is known for painting himself black like Jesse Owens after the 1936 Olympics and running the track at Hubert Oval. He is in love with Liesel and is constantly trying to get her to kiss him, but he only receives his kiss after it is too late.

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.

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.

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 the main lesson in The Book Thief? ›

Stand Up for the Oppressed

In Nazi Germany, those who sympathized or helped the Jews could've been punished or killed. Liesel's foster family takes in Max and risk their lives to help save his own. The Meminger's stood up for what's right just like those here at MU.

What are the main points of The Book Thief? ›

What is the main theme of The Book Thief? The Book Thief has many themes and they include love and kindness as expressed by Liesel and her foster family; literacy and power, as seen when Liesel learns to read and explore the world of words, cruelty and suffering as experienced by the Jews in the hands of the Nazis.

Does Liesel get married? ›

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. Death then tells how he comes for Leisel when she is old and living in Sydney, Australia.

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.

Why did Hans slap Liesel? ›

When Hans slaps Liesel for saying she hates Hitler, he demonstrates his love for her by showing the extremes to which he will go in order to keep her from using words that will get her into trouble with the dangerous Nazi Party.

What happens to Liesel at the end? ›

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.

What does the shoulder shrug symbolize? ›

A shrug is a gesture performed by raising both shoulders, and is a representation of an individual either being indifferent about something or not knowing an answer to a question.

How did Liesel get her second book? ›

Liesel steals The Shoulder Shrug, her second stolen book, from a book burning. Liesel is driven to steal the book by "anger and dark hatred" (13.8). The book burning happens on April 20, which is Hitler's birthday. When she rescues the burning book, "Liesel [is] a girl made of darkness" (13.8).

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.

What saves 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.

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.

How old is Liesel when she dies? ›

She is about fifteen toward the end of the novel when the bombs destroy her home and kill her loved ones.

Why is Death telling 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.

Is Liesel's mother a communist? ›

The Nazis wanted to control everyone in the country, and make them agree with them. Liesel's mother is described as a 'communist'.

What are 3 symbols in the book thief? ›

The most important symbols in the novel are the bread, the books, and the accordion. The act of giving bread is a symbol of caring and empathy.

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 food represent in the book thief? ›

One day, Liesel and Rudy see him eating an apple that they realize must be stolen. The apple symbolizes an opportunity for Rudy and Liesel: it is by asking Fritz about the apple that they first realize that stealing food is a potential avenue for them.

Why is Rudy afraid of Liesel's kiss? ›

He knows that his heroism might actually win him a kiss from Liesel, something he frequently, fruitlessly requests. Death as narrator believes that realizing he might finally succeed makes Rudy hesitate getting out of the water. The kiss now feels far too important to him and he no longer wants a kiss as casual thanks.

Do Rudy and Liesel ever kiss? ›

In the end they did kiss but after Rudy died.

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.

Who beat up Liesel? ›

She gets into trouble. Later that day, in the schoolyard, Liesel is taunted by Ludwig Schmeikl and pummels him in a fight. She beats up Tommy Müller, too, because she sees him standing there, smiling.

Does Liesel wet the bed? ›

Liesel continues to have nightmares about her brother, and she wets her bed. Hans changes her sheets and discovers The Grave Digger's Handbook.

Is Liesel a male or female? ›

Liesel is a girl's name is related to the Hebrew names Elisa and Elizabeth and the German name Liesl.

Is Rosa Hubermann abusive? ›

Rosa is Liesel's foster mother. When we first meet her, we don't necessarily trust her with Liesel. We're nervous. And let's face it—Rosa is down-right abusive with her wooden spoons and her constant scolding and criticism.

Who did Rosa end up with? ›

Rosa Diaz and Adrian Pimento are detectives at the 99th precinct. They have a very passionate relationship that often makes those around them feel uncomfortable. The two begin a romantic relationship in Cheddar and get engaged shortly after in Paranoia.

Who does Rosa end up with in the end? ›

She and Marcus break up in Into the Woods and reveals to Jake that her current boyfriend is called Tom in The Swedes. It is presumed that she and Tom broke up some time between The Swedes and Cheddar, where she gets together with Adrian Pimento.

What happens in Part 3 of book Thief? ›

Part 3 of The Book Thief takes place in 1940. It focuses on the characters' struggles as they all navigate a changing world under Hitler's regime. Liesel and Rudy turn to steal, and Max uses desperate measures to remain undetected by the Nazis.

Is there kissing in the book thief? ›

Spoilers. A 12 year old boy is dying after a bomb was dropped on his house, his friend, a girl about his age finds him after soldiers take him out of the rubble, he starts saying "I love you" but it is cut short as he dies. She leans over him and kisses him.

What is Part 4 of the book thief about? ›

In Part 4 of The Book Thief, Hans Hubermann is saved from dying on a WWI battlefield by a man he served with named Erik Vandenburg, who was not so lucky. Erik Vandenburg died on that battlefield.

How does Death end up with the book thief? ›

Who dies at the end of The Book Thief? Rudy, Hans, and Rosa die at the end of The Book Thief when Molching is bombed.


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