THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak PART SIX
Death’s Diary: 1942
Death dryly comments on some of the devastation of World War II, such as the Jews incinerated in Nazi
extermination camps and the poorly-armed Russian soldiers being slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands on the
Eastern Front. He says that humans have a lot of misconceptions about death. For instance, Death doesn't carry a
scythe or a sickle; he only wears a hooded black robe when it's cold; and he doesn't appear skull-like. In fact, he
tells us, he looks more human than anything. He discusses his business in 1942, how the bodies multiplied and how
war became his boss, asking for more and more.
Death admits that there are moments of beauty in what he does, and the book thief's life is one of those stories.
This chapter serves to humanize, and characterize, Death. Death provides more commentary on his feelings toward
humans and how these catastrophic events do, in fact, affect him. He also brings up the theme of lightness and
darkness through his example of Liesel, how there are sometimes beautiful stories like hers hidden amongst all of
the destruction and sadness he has witnessed.
In late 1941, Liesel is 13. On Christmas Eve, Liesel brings pots and pans filled with snow downstairs to Max. They
have a snowball fight and Hans and Rosa join. Then, they build a snowman (lifting Max's spirits greatly) and it melts,
but they all remember the snowman and carry it with them. From this night and through January, Max's health
deteriorates. In mid-February 1942, shortly before Liesel's 13th birthday, he collapses, unconscious, and is placed in
Liesel's bedroom. Liesel blames herself for his illness.
This chapter illustrates Liesel's continued desire to bring the outside world to Max. This time she does so in the form
of snow, and everyone in the Hubermann household is able to join in a lighthearted moment of fun. This contrasts
starkly with the serious illness that befalls Max later in the chapter. Liesel feels that, in her moment of helping Max,
she has hurt him. Hans tells her that she had to do it, which foreshadows something that Hans will do later in the
story to help a marching Jewish man and will, ultimately, hurt himself and Max. But it, too, was something he had to
Five days later, Max awakes very briefly. Death remarks that it actually visited the room when Liesel was absent and
prepared to take Max's soul, but felt a struggle and withdrew. Liesel starts gathering gifts, beginning with a deflated
soccer ball, and leaves them at the end of his bed to show that she cares and so that they have something to talk
about when he wakes. Hans suggests that Liesel read to Max, so Liesel starts reading him The Whistler and still he
doesn't wake. Liesel cries over him and drops a tear on his face.
While playing soccer, the ball is run over by a car, and Liesel takes it to Max as a gift. She brings Max further
presents: a pinecone, a toy soldier, newspapers, etc. At one point Liesel sees a giant cloud and Hans suggests that
she give it to Max by writing down a description of it. Liesel finishes The Whistler, but Max remains comatose.
In many ways, this chapter recalls Max's arrival to Himmel Street. In his illness, his feathery hair returns to twigs. He
sleeps, only this time for much longer. Liesel continues to bring gifts from the outside world to Max, and she reads to
him, hoping that words will be powerful enough to heal him. The image of the tear on Max's face is important in that
it evokes the yellow tear that Liesel cried earlier for her mother, and it also alludes to a tear that will be important
later in the story.
Fresh Air, An Old Nightmare and What to do with a Jewish Corpse
Liesel and Rudy decide to steal from the mayor's house again. Liesel, refusing to leave without a book, climbs
through the window and exits with The Dream Carrier. Death hints that perhaps Frau Hermann leaves the window
open on purpose so that Liesel can steal books; at least that's what he wants to believe. At home, Liesel reads this
book to Max, hoping that words will give him strength. Nearly a month passes without Max waking. In mid-March,
Liesel overhears Rosa and Hans discussing what should be done with a dead Jewish body. Liesel insists that Max is
not dead yet. Liesel has a dream that night that she's on the train with her brother again, only her brother's face
turns into Max's face.
Eight more days pass. Then, while Liesel is at school, Rosa comes to her classroom and pulls her out into the
hallway. She yells at her, pretending to be angry with Liesel for misplacing her hairbrush, and then whispers that
Max is awake. Rosa gives her the toy soldier, which Max said was his favorite. That afternoon, Liesel sees Max
awake with the soccer ball on his lap. Max is happy about the gifts, and Liesel continues reading to him in his
convalescence. He's afraid of falling asleep, and she says she won't let him. Death tells us that the bombs are
Liesel attempts to use words to nurse Max back to health, continuing the theme of how words can wield physical
power. Liesel's selection of The Dream Carrier reflects both her and Max's tendency to have nightmares, carrying
those they've lost with them in these dreams. Liesel's fear of losing Max is indicated by her dream, how she
imagines him succumbing to the same fate as her brother. The theme of secrecy continues as well; Rosa and Hans
are concerned about keeping Max a secret, in life and in death, and Rosa must maintain secrecy when she goes to
tell Liesel at school that Max has woken up. And Liesel fulfills her role as The Standover Man by watching over Max
and helping him to remain awake. Death foreshadows the destruction to come.
Death’s Diary: Cologne
On May 30, 500 people die in the first major bombing raid against a Germany city (Köln). Death says the sky was
yellow, "like burning newspaper." He carries five hundred souls with him. Black objects drop from the sky — fuel
tanks from the bombers. The children in the streets want to keep them.
Colors return as an important theme in this chapter — the yellow of the burning sky, the black fuel tanks. The colors
create a stark landscape and mood for this chapter. Death's collection of bodies mirrors the children's collection of
these fuel tanks, both of which are discarded by their enemies with little thought or remorse.
It is May 1942. The NSDAP members go door to door inspecting the basements of Molching homes to see if they
are suitable to serve as air-raid shelters. They move up and down Himmel Street while Liesel is outside playing
soccer. She sees them and wonders how to go home and tell Hans without seeming suspicious; she knows she
must warn Rosa and Hans about the inspections. She comes up with a plan. She collides hard into another soccer
player and injures her knee. Rudy runs to get Hans, who carries Liesel home. Before the men reach their house,
Hans tells Max what is happening and tells everyone else to do nothing, to pretend that all is well. Before Hans and
Rosa have a chance to figure out how to hide Max, who has since been hidden again in the basement, the party
members arrive. The man who does the inspection recognizes Liesel as the maniacal soccer player and teases her,
then goes to the basement. Max hides beneath the stairs, behind the drop cloths. Three minutes pass. When the
Nazi returns, he says that the basement isn't suitable for a shelter and happily goes on his way. Hans, Rosa, and
Liesel go downstairs and find Max hiding behind the drop sheets holding a pair of rusty scissors. Max apologizes for
putting their family in such great danger.
In this chapter, Liesel acts as a protector of both her family and Max. She is quick-thinking and resourceful, taking on
a much more active role in maintaining their secret and keeping suspicion at bay. Max feels increasingly guilty for his
desire to live; in order to stay alive, he must continue to jeopardize the lives of those around him.
Rudy comes to check on Liesel to make sure she's okay. He wants her to steal cigarettes from Hans, and when she
refuses, he smiles at her and teases her for being a thief and smelling like cigarettes so she shuts the door on him.
Liesel feels fine now, though, because for now she and her family and Max are safe.
This chapter illustrates that Liesel is moral in her thievery, refusing to steal from Hans. Because Rudy knows that
Liesel is a thief, he tells her that she stinks like a criminal, which recalls a moment during the previous chapter when
Liesel worries that the Nazi inspecting their basement will be able to smell that they are hiding a Jew. While Rudy is
only teasing Liesel, he uncovers one of Liesel's worries — that the outside world will be able to sense the secrets
living within the Hubermann home. Finally, this chapter provides Liesel with a false sense of security; Death alludes
to the disaster that is yet to come
Death’s Diary: The Parisians
It is June 1942. Death describes the desperation of those trapped inside gas chambers by saying that the sky is the
color of Jews. He describes the desperate souls he has to carry, those from Auschwitz and Mauthausen, a group of
French Jews in a German prison that he remembers. Death says that he invokes the name of God for answers, but
not even God will answer Death, and Death remembers his job. He cannot get behind. Death describes its
desolation on June 23, 1942, the first day of operation at the gas chambers in Auschwitz. He tries to warm the souls
as best he can; he kisses a few on their cheeks.
This chapter shows the human side of Death, how he feels sadness for the work he has to do but understands that it
is his job and he must do it. This chapter also illustrates the magnitude of the Holocaust, how the killings are picking
up pace. Death sees so many dead Jewish bodies that they turn into a color for him, something so large and
expansive that it overwhelms the sky.
ANALYSIS OF PART SIX of THE BOOK THIEF by MARKUS ZUSAK
Death frames Part Six with three sections of dark commentary about the growing devastation of World War II. The
bombing of Cologne, a major German city, and the blood-soaked Eastern Front against the USSR indicate Nazi
Germany's steadily weakening position. Along with the introduction of gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration
camp, these historical events foreshadow the devastation soon to reach the fictional town of Molching. When the
Nazis inspect the Hubermanns' basement for a possible bomb shelter location, the fear that they will discover a
hidden Jew overshadows the important indication that Allied bombing raids have become a real threat all across the
Liesel's small acts of kindness and devotion towards Max illustrate the loving bond that has developed between the
two. Max has in a way morphed into a surrogate for Liesel's dead brother, and Liesel's desperate fight to keep Max
alive is one indication of the development of her character: Liesel is four years older now, and while she has not yet
hit puberty, she has noticeably matured both intellectually and emotionally.
The Hubermanns' noble desperation to keep Max alive and hidden from the Nazis is a remarkable contrast to the
horrors taking place in Germany's death camps. Death's description of the gas chamber is particularly wrenching,
and the consummately cynical narrator seems to break down emotionally. Notably, Death says the name of God
while thinking about the Holocaust. The metaphysics and theology of Death (the character) and dying are not
explained in the novel. Death's relationship to God -- or to any other spiritual being, for that matter -- is also
ambiguous. To Death, "God never says anything," and to where Death delivers human souls is not explained. As
Death carries away the souls from Auschwitz, it again tries to distract itself with colors: the sky turns from "silver to
gray to the color of rain," and Death imagines the sky past that, "knowing without question that the sun was blond,
and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye." The notion that God was "absent" during the death of six million
Jews -- God's "chosen people" -- is an enduring theological controversy. Death's frustration in receiving no response
or comfort from God echoes this idea, and the "giant blue eye" hidden by the dark clouds over Auschwitz is symbolic