THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak PART FOUR
The Accordionist (The Secret Life of Hans Hubermann)
Max is standing in the Hubermanns' kitchen. He asks Hans if he still plays the accordion, and Hans says yes.
The rest of this section is a flashback to Hans' past.
Hans was a mediocre 22-year-old soldier fighting in France in World War I. He was not particularly eager to
fight. Hans befriends a Jew named Erik Vandenburg who teaches Hans how to play the accordion. The day the
platoon is to go into battle, the Sergeant asks which one of them has good handwriting. The Sergeant says that
whichever man does will not be going into battle, yet no man wants to seem like a coward. Erik saves Hans's
life by nominating Hans as the soldier with the best handwriting, which allows Hans to help write letters while
the rest of the men fight. Every man in his company is killed. Hans keeps Vandenburg's accordion and, when
the war is over, tracks down his family and takes it to Vandenburg's wife, who tells Hans he can keep it and to
tell them what happened. Hans credits Erik with saving his life. Hans is surprised to find that Erik has a young
son named Max. Hans leaves Erik's widow with his name and address and offers to help if they should need
Hans returns to Munich and works as a painter. He and Rosa have two children, Hans Junior and Trudy. In
1933, Hitler comes to power, and Hans thinks that he does not hate the Jews, because a Jew saved his life
and many of his customers are Jewish. Hans is hesitant to join the Nazi Party, but as the persecution of the
Jews picks up, Hans steadily loses business because he is not a member, so in 1937 he fills out an application.
Afterwards he sees a Jew-owned store vandalized and marked with graffiti. Over the objection of the owner
(Joel Kleinmann), Hans offers to repaint the door. Angry over what he has seen, Hans punches through the
door and window of the Nazi Party office and tells a member that he cannot join. As a result, he is denied entry
into the Nazi Party, but is placed on a waiting list. After Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass — two days of
violent attacks against Jews in November 1939 — he Jews are cleared out of town and Hans's house is
searched by the Gestapo. Upon finding nothing suspicious, the Nazis allow him and his family to stay in
Molching. What saves him is his pending application to the party and the fact that the people of Molching love
his accordion playing.
In 1939, six months before Liesel arrives, Hans is approached by a man named Walter Kugler, who asks if
Hans is willing to keep the promise he made to Erik Vandenburg's wife.
This chapter serves to develop and explore the character of Hans Hubermann, revealing from where many of
his motivations throughout this story come. Erik Vandenburg saves Hans twice, first during the war and later
with his accordion, since Hans is allowed to stay in Molching because of his playing. This chapter also tells the
back story of how Hans came to know Max Vandenburg and why Hans chooses to help him. He is keeping the
promise he made to Max's mother. Words also played a role in saving Hans's life; by writing letters, he was
able to avoid battle. Hans's sense of loyalty and fairness is apparent in how he learns early on that he must
keep up the facade of wanting to join the Nazi Party while doing what he can to act according to his true beliefs.
A Good Girl
The scene from earlier resumes. It is November 1940. Max Vandenburg, 24 years old, stands in the
Hubermann kitchen asking if Hans still plays the accordion, if he will still offer him help. Max is very weak, but
when Liesel enters the kitchen, he tenses. Hans tells him that she is a good girl and tells Liesel to go back to
In this chapter, Liesel discovers that she is going to have to keep the biggest secret yet in her young life. And,
again, the power of words becomes apparent in how Hans says that Liesel is "a good girl." He really means
that she can be trusted, that she will keep Max a secret, and that she will not be the cause of Max's discovery
and death. "Good girl" expands to encompass all of these meanings, which reflects upon the many powers that
A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter
This section is a flashback to Max's past. Max was born in 1916 and grew up in Stuttgart. Growing up, Max
loved to fight. After his father died (he was two) and his mother lost all of her money (he was aged nine), they
went to live with Max's uncle and his six cousins, where he learned to fight. Max loved to fight and remembers,
at the age of 13, watching his uncle die, how the man didn't put up a fight. Max resolved that he would never
die without a fight, and says "When death captures me, he will feel my fist on his face." Death comments that it
likes that "stupid gallantry."
As a teenager Max continues fighting. He and a group of young friends and enemies would gather in the
evenings to fight. During these evenings, Max fights a kid named Walter Kugler and wins; the two go on to
fight thirteen more times, and they develop a close bond; Walter Kugler is the man who hides him later. In
1935, Max loses his job for being a Jew. With the Nuremberg Laws (laws barring Jews from having German
citizenship and marrying Germans), come extra hardships for the Jews, and Max struggles to find any
replacement work. On November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht or "Night of Broken Glass," Jewish stores and homes
across Germany are attacked. Max and his family hide in their apartment when they hear a knock on the
door. Outside stands Walter in his Nazi uniform and providing an opportunity for Max to hide. Max initially
refuses to leave his family; he ultimately does and feels guilty for deserting his family as well as relief as he
does so. Before he leaves, Max's mother gives him the name and address of Hans Hubermann.
Max hides in a storeroom for the next two years, and Walter periodically visits him with food; one day Walter
tells Max that Max's family is gone. In 1939, Walter visits Hans, who agrees to keep his promise and help Max.
Hans gives Walter some money, maps, directions, and a copy of Mein Kampf with a key, and in 1940 Max
makes the dangerous journey to Molching.
This chapter serves to develop Max's character, describing his back story and how he came into contact with
Walter Kugler. It also illustrates how Max, too, is experiencing a conflicted conscience like many of the other
characters. He feels relief at having been rescued, but he also feels great guilt for leaving his family behind.
The parallels between Liesel and Max become more apparent in this chapter: Both of them have lost their
families because of Hitler, and they both are fist fighters, a detail that foreshadows their friendship to come.
Max's devotion to fight Death indicates, too, that Max is a strong person who won't give up during such a
challenging and bleak time in his life.
The Wrath of Rosa
Rosa finds Max and Hans in the kitchen and gives Max some of her pea soup and stands beside him with a
look of triumph. Liesel silently watches them. She believes that Rosa’s look has less to do with saving another
human being's life and more to do with pride in her soup, which Liesel and Hans often scoff about. Max then
vomits in the sink, saying that his stomach must not have been ready for food, but Max vomits because his
prolonged hunger has made him less able to hold down food. This chapter provides a lighthearted moment
during a very serious situation. It also gives another glimpse into Rosa's character and at the caring nature that
she often tries to hide behind her gruff exterior.
Max sleeps in a spare bed in Liesel's room. The next morning, Hans tells Liesel that she won't be going to
school, that she is sick. The house is different, quiet. In the basement, Hans tells Liesel about what happened
to him in the war. Hans tells Liesel in no uncertain terms that she must never tell anyone about Max. Hans
explains in detail what would happen if she did: Hans will take all of her books away and burn them, Liesel
would be taken away, and Hans, Rosa, and Max would all be taken away and never return. Liesel cries
uncontrollably while saying she understands; she won't tell anyone.
Again, in this chapter, words and books are very important to Liesel. She does not want to think about these
things being taken away from her. Even more, though, she does not want to think about losing another family.
Liesel can sense that things are all right in the Hubermann house, but that the situation is very awful, too, which
further contributes to the theme of murkiness in the novel, the blend of lightness and darkness, good and bad.
Max sleeps for three days. Liesel him with fascination and notices he has nightmares like she does. When he
wakes, Liesel is staring at him. He grabs her arm. This chapter stages the official meeting between Max and
Liesel. Liesel already sees some of herself in him, the way they both have nightmares. The chapter's title, too,
suggests some type of an awakening or call to action that is yet to come, a sort of calmness before the rest of
the world intrudes.
The Swapping of Nightmares
In the weeks that follow, Rosa's acts very subdued. She loses another laundry customer, but does not yell
about it. Liesel's outside life progresses as it has been - Rudy and Liesel walk to school as usual, and Rudy first
mentions a sadistic Hitler Youth leader named Franz Deutscher. Liesel still visits Ilsa Hermann and becomes
fascinated by a book called The Whistler. Meanwhile Max resolves to sleep in the cold basement from now on,
hidden by a drop sheet and some paint cans. Max continues to feel guilty for leaving his family and for putting
Hans, Rosa, and Liesel in danger. His guilt also comes from wanting to live. Max's health deteriorates in the
Rosa and Hans make Liesel deliver food to Max in the basement. She sees that he is reading Mein Kampf, and
she wants to ask about it but can't find the words.
One night, Hans takes her downstairs so they can resume their reading lessons. He tells her to bring The
Shoulder Shrug, and while downstairs Hans realizes just how cold it is for Max. Max begins coming upstairs at
night and sitting in Rosa and Hans's room by the fire, where he reads and sleeps, and then returns to the
basement in the morning. By the fire, Max tells them stories about his life, his family, and his escape. At
Christmas, Hans Junior does not come home, but Trudy does. Trudy is not told about Max. Max apologizes for
Hans' son not coming home, and Hans says that his son has the right to be stubborn. Max overhears Liesel
remark that his hair looks like feathers. By the fire, Liesel finally asks Max whether Mein Kampf is a good book,
and Max says that it is saved his life. Max begins telling the story of his life over the next few weeks. Hans
remarks that Liesel, too, enjoys fighting, and Liesel is surprised that he knows about the time she beat up
Max and Liesel both have nightmares. One night Liesel hears Max waking from his nightmares and tells him
about her nightmares, too. Max tells her he sees himself waving goodbye to his family, and Liesel tells him
about her brother. She decides that she can now handle her nightmares on her own. Liesel notices more and
more that the world inside their house is very different than the world outside. She also brings Max a
newspaper she finds in a garbage can, and Max gratefully does the crossword. For Liesel's 12th birthday, Rosa
and Hans give her a book, The Mud Men, a book about a "strange father and son". Max apologizes; he wants
to give Liesel something, too, but he has nothing to give. Liesel graciously hugs Max for the first time, and Max
wonders what he could do for her. He vows to give her a gift
Max and Liesel's relationship develops and deepens in this chapter. Liesel is motivated to communicate with
Max because of their mutual love for books and words. Later, their nightmares bring them together. The
crossword puzzles illustrate how words serve as one of Max's distractions and how Max is a master of words.
Max demonstrates that he is a captivating storyteller, a role that he will continue to fill for Liesel as the novel
progresses. He becomes her source of courage to take on her nightmares without the help of Hans. Max helps
her now, and in many ways later, to mature.
Pages from the Basement
For a week, Hans and Rosa keep Liesel out of the basement because they know that Max is making a surprise
for her — a book. Downstairs, Max paints white over the pages of Mein Kampf and hangs them up to dry. Then,
in black, he paints a 13-page story with words and drawings. 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
Inside the book, Liesel finds the story and illustrations of Max's journey to Himmel Street, his anxiety during this
trip, his bad dreams, and how he and his friend, Liesel, have many things in common, like their bad dreams.
They help one another by talking about their nightmares, and Max writes about the gift that Liesel gives to him
on her birthday — a hug. He finishes by writing that Liesel, a young girl, has been the best standover man he's
known. Liesel reads it three times. When she's finished reading, Liesel goes downstairs to thank Max. He is
asleep so she sits with him and watches over him.
Through The Standover Man, Max illustrates how he feels about Liesel, and their affection for and
understanding of one another grows. The fact that Max chooses to paint this story over the pages of Mein
Kampf symbolizes how the story of Max and Liesel's relationship and are more powerful than Hitler's story. In
many ways, Liesel saves Max by offering him her love and friendship during a time when the Nazi Party is
hunting him, forcing him into hiding.
ANALYSIS OF PART FOUR of THE BOOK THIEF by MARKUS ZUSAK
The question of whether or not Hans is a coward is solved in this part. Hans' life is miraculously saved by a Jew
in World War I, and for the rest of his life Hans is gracious to Jews despite the threat of imprisonment in a
concentration camp for helping them in the wake of Kristallnacht -- indeed, Hans is lucky that he is not taken
away for vandalizing a Nazi Party office. Risking his life to hide Max is Hans' courageous payback for Max's
father Erik's good deed. Hans feels guilty over the fact that Erik, who had a son, died while childless Hans
survived. By caring for Max, who still suffers from the loss of his father at a young age, Hans performs an
important fatherly duty.
Max's fighting streak and defiant attitude contrast with the sickly, hiding person he has become in the
Hubermann's basement. Max, who has resolved not to die without a fight, feels deep shame for the fact that he
survives while his family has likely died. Yet Max's very existence and will to survive represents defiance
against Hitler's racial extermination policies. Hans cleverly subverts Nazism by using a copy of Hitler's book
Mein Kampf -- the very wellspring of Nazi ideology -- to assist in hiding a Jew. Max briefly considers giving the
book, his only possession, to Liesel for her birthday, but likens that to a lamb handing a knife to a butcher.
Instead Max also subverts Nazism by physically whitewashing the pages of Mein Kampf and painting an
entirely different story over them. The text of Mein Kampf, riveted with attacks on the Jewish race, peeks
through under a story about the friendship between a hidden Jew and a German girl.
The Standover Man is one of two complete illustrated stories that appear within The Book Thief. The story is of
a bird who is scared of men standing over him: the plot is identical to Max's own life. The first "standover man"
is his father, who vanishes at a young age. As a boy, he enjoys fighting, and whenever he loses another boy
would be standing over him. When he comes to a safe house, it is a girl, not a man, standing over him. They
share interests ("TRAIN," "DREAMS," "FISTS"), and the girl says he looks like something else. The picture on
this page is of a man looking into a mirror and seeing a bird -- this is a reference to Liesel's comment that Max's
hair looks like feathers. The girl asks the bird about his dreams, and both his and Liesel's recurring nightmares
are pictured: Max saying goodbye to his family, and Liesel sleeping with her younger brother at the side of her
bed. The bird now thinks they are friends, and that on her birthday the girl gave a gift to him, a hug. The "best
standover man" he has ever known is not a man, but a girl. The final page is Liesel reading in the basement,
with words like "VALUABLE" and "DAYLIGHT" written on the wall: this is a reference to Liesel's basement
The idea of Max being represented by a bird suggests that while he is physically "caged" in the basement, his
spirit is free and proves indomitable by the Nazis. The "standover men" in Max's life suggest his inner
vulnerability: losing his father at a young age, for example, is compared with losing a fight. Yet a girl, not a man,
standing over him brings him comfort as they become friends. Max has reached perhaps the most vulnerable
point of his life thus far: he can continue to survive only at the mercy of the Hubermanns. His friendship with
Liesel brings him such comfort that his best standover man is a young figure of compassion, not antagonism,
and loyalty, not abandonment.
Abandonment is a key element of the lives of both Max and Liesel. They each have nightmares: one where
Liesel is "abandoned" by her mother and brother, another where Max "abandons" his family. Neither of these
episodes should be called true, deliberate abandonment, but both characters obviously feel guilty and deeply
saddened by them. Significantly, Germany and her passion for war and violence is the central cause to the
novel's abandonment episodes. Max's father dies in the first German war, and Hans' son has abandoned his
father to fight in the second. Likewise, Hitler's persecution of Jews and Communists has divorced Max and
Liesel from their old families.