2.9 Reading Response(The book thief)

Kobi Maibach

The book thief(Extended Text) by Markus Zusak’s



The book thief is emotional, thrilling, heartbreaking and plain beautiful. Markus Zusak the author of this book takes us on an incredibly grim experience seen through the eyes of the grim reaper himself, Death. “It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially possible. Your soul will be in my arms.” Deaths narration throughout the book mesmerized me and I began to understand that even The Grim reaper has feelings. The book  thief is set in Germany WW2 where we are introduced to Liesel Meminger a young girl who is taken to live with her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. The book thief mainly revolves around Liesel and her love for books, though she is ironically unable to read. Through the course of reading this book I felt a strong connection grow between myself and Liesel, she is so grateful for the small and simple things such as learning the letters of the alphabet or a new word despite the horrific times that she was living in, that you can’t help but smile at her enjoyment, “As they progressed through the alphabet, Liesel’s eyes grew larger. She had done this at school, in the kindergarten class, but this time was better.” Being the kind hearted man Hans is he teaches Liesel how to read, opening her up to the world of literature, “It was not so much school that helped me to read. It was Papa”. Liesel falls in love with reading and the enjoyment of learning what every individual word means. I find it amazing how a young girl can have such happiness from learning letters of the alphabet or new words in times where your next door neighbor could be taken to a concentration camp for being a jew.  Liesel still finds joy in a world that is falling apart around her. Her family is poor, she must be forced to learn the beliefs of Nazi Germany and has no libraries to read what she desires. However she remains strong and confident with all of this going on around her.  Her passion kept her focused on the thing she loved instead of being absorbed by the chaos that was building up around her. The connection she has between books and the words mesmerized me because it taught me that even during hard times there can still be space for enjoyment and passions. Those are the things that humans should never let go of when times get rough, for if we are still passionate about things in such horrible times we still have a reason to grip on to life. 

To me this book is strongly emphasized on the power of words and what we are capable of purely with our tongues. This is why Hitler was such an important character to me in this book. The way Hitler used his words to rise to power amazes me, however I will get more in depth about this later. Liesel’s love for books turns into thievery, hence the title, ‘The book thief’. She commits acts of thievery but I never saw her as just a thief, merely a girl with the passion to learn and no materials to be taught with. You may ask why Liesel did not visit the local library to fulfill her desire to read.  This is because Germany was putting all of its money into the war efforts, including filling libraries with new texts that served as propaganda. The Nazis were the real thieves, cold, heartless, jew killing, book burning Nazis. The Jews were persecuted for being born the way they were, “The suffering faces of depleted men and women reached across to them, pleading not so much for help – they were beyond that – but for an explanation.” You cannot change what family you are born in or what history runs in your family, that is the one thing that is set in life. The Nazis put a scar in the earth that can never heal, an act of thievery that can never be forgiven. The genocide of 6 millions Jews.  I cant bare the thought of what the Jews had to go through during WW2.  During the holocaust being a jew would of been the worst time to of ever been alive in history. And all they ever did was get birthed to families that were perceived as being wealthier than the general German population.  What did the Jews do to deserve such a thing? You cant help the way you are born, I was lucky enough to be born in a safe loving family that treated me with respect. Many of the Jews who were killed during WW2 were from caring loving families also, so what made them different from me? Jews were perceived as fairly comfortable with their wealth in Germany during times where others needed something to blame for their own poorness. Does this mean they deserve to die for this?In reality Germans born to Jewish Families weren’t much richer then the German, it was mainly a perception that many Germans believed to be true. Interestingly this reminds me of situation in modern day society, however no one is killed because of it. Take India for example, in the slums people are incredibly poor and the overpopulation is mind staggering, yet there will be people near the slums who can afford the new iPhone and take pictures of the lovely city scenery. Though this may be a very extreme example that is rather questionable look at it as a metaphor for how the German people were feeling about their situation. Does this mean that the upper class should die for having money and not giving it to those who need it more? Of course it doesn’t but something should still be done for those who are less fortunate. There should of been a better resolution to the problems Germany was facing, the holocaust was not the correct response. So who was really suffering, the poor Germans or the Jews? The answer is both, the Jews were prosecuted for being born wealthy and the Germans were living through rough times but the Jews got the blame for Germany’s poverty and were killed for it. I find it rather Ironic that through all of Hitlers efforts to kill the Jews and bring war on the world he drove his own country into an extremely poor state. 


There is one particular Jewish man that has a heavy influence on the The book thief, and his name is Max Vandenburg. Max taught me the true power of words and why they can be so influential, especially in times such as World War 2. Max arrives on 33 himmel street the home of the Hubermanns, he is hoping the Hubermanns can shelter him and it’s no surprise Max would come to them due to Hans past relationships with Max’s father, Erik. Erik saved Han’s life in WW1 and because of this has been in debt to his family ever since. Whilst Max stays with the Hubermanns in their cold basement I learnt something important that will stick with me for a long time. Words are more powerful than weapons. ” ‘I will never fire a gun,’ he devised. ‘I will not have to'”  Picture this: A boxing ring, a jew, the fuhrer, and words. It doesn’t take a weapon to beat someone down, words can do the bidding. I believe this moment in the book serves as a metaphor to show a jew being persecuted for what they are. Shortly into the fight, Hitler takes of his gloves and address the audience with his weapons, his propaganda, his words. Through his words he tells the audience that the Jews will take over if nothing is done. The audience agree with his views and what he believes needs to be done, his words gain power over the people and with this power he manipulates people’s minds into his own. I wonder if it was really Hitler’s words that were truly powerful or if it was the people minds being deceived so easily that allowed for him to rise to such power: “He will soon own you, until it is he who stands not at the counter of your grocery shop, but sits in the back, smoking his pipe. Before you know it, you’ll be working for him at minimum wage while he can hardly walk from the weight in his pockets.” Words like these are what Hitler planted into the peoples minds. I can give you a good example of this in modern day society. Take a certain country for example where the government has complete control over the people, and at the top of this government sits a rich man. This rich man has power not through money or weapons but through words, he tells the people what he wants them to hear, he does the things that make him look how he intends to look, he does enough to plant a seed in the people’s minds just like Hitler did. But at the end of the day he is none of what he claims and yet has control of an entire nation. Next time someone makes a point will you simply agree with it or will you stand by your own opinions and let there’s serve as a guide to what others think? I believe if we are all open to each other’s ideas and respect what one another has to share with this world then peace would be among us.

The book thief will open your mind up to ideas, concepts and events that you may of only seen a certain way before hand. It will test your thinking and emotions on a long but grim experience and even though The book thief’s end may be sad it’s what it teaches us that matters. If you are a reader that enjoys a character driven book full of deep and meaningful character development, deep concepts that make you think, emotionally griping and then pick this up because I can assure you it won’t disappoint. 

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