Five nights later, while Liesel is in the basement rereading her book, the bombs finally fall on Molching without warning, as the city sleeps. Everyone on her street is killed—Hans and Rosa Hubermann, Frau Holtzapfel, Rudy Steiner and his siblings—except Liesel, who happened to be in the safest place possible. She is buried beneath the rubble, but when workers find her, she is unhurt.
Dazed and unable to comprehend the devastation, she drops her book and cries out for her papa, Hans. Death does not encounter Liesel Meminger for many years after that. After her street was destroyed, Liesel was taken in by Ilsa Hermann and her husband, the mayor. Erik Steiner returned from the war to find that his family had been killed; eventually he reopened his clothing shop, and Liesel often worked there with him.
In October of , after the end of the war, Liesel was reunited with Max Vandenburg, who was fortunate enough to survive the concentration camps. Conversing with Death, Liesel is surprised that he has kept and read her book so many times.
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She wants to know if it is possible for Death to understand a story so centered on life and living. Arthur Berg is the leader of a group of youngsters who steal various things in and around Molching. Rudy and Liesel briefly join his gang of thieves, stealing various items such as potatoes and onions.
He is a generous leader, sharing his various takes with Liesel and Rudy. Arthur later moves to Cologne, where his younger sister is killed—presumably by Allied bombing. Herbert Bollinger is an old acquaintance of Hans Hubermann. When Hans notices in the mids that the number of customers for his painting business are dwindling, Bollinger points out that he should be a member of the Nazi Party if he wants to keep working.
Viktor Chemmel is the young man who takes over as leader of the gang of young thieves previously led by Arthur Berg. After Viktor offers Liesel and Rudy almost nothing for their efforts on a thievery run, Rudy insults him and Viktor beats him up. Later, Viktor throws one of Liesel's books into the river.
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Death is the narrator of The Book Thief , and participates in the story by taking the lives of many of the characters at various times. He first notices Liesel when he takes the life of her young brother Werner. Later, after he collects the many victims of the bombing on Himmel Street, he finds Liesel's memoir on a pile of trash, and takes it. From it he learns Liesel's story, which he shares with the reader. When Tommy fails to hear his commands during marching, both Tommy and Rudy—who stands up for his friend—become his favorite targets of punishment.
After Rudy moves to a different Hitler Youth group, he takes pleasure in winning several events at an athletic competition as Deutscher looks on. Frau is the owner of the corner shop on Himmel Street. The Fiedlers are the family with the deepest basement on Himmel Street, which is chosen as the meeting location for Himmel Street residents in the event of an air raid. It is in their basement that Liesel calms both the children and adults by reading excerpts from her book, The Whistler. Like the others on Himmel Street, they die during a surprise bombing by Allied planes.
Rolf Fischer is a leading member of the Nazi Party in Molching. Frau Heinrich is the foster-care agent who transports Liesel on her final journey to her new home with the Hubermanns. When Liesel arrives, she is at first unwilling to get out of Frau Heinrich's car. Later, when Hans Hubermann contacts her regarding the whereabouts of Liesel's biological mother, she states that she does not know where the woman is.
Heinz Hermann is the mayor of Molching and husband of Ilsa Hermann. In June of , he mentions in an interview for the local paper that the citizens of Molching should prepare for harder times to come. A week later, he and his wife fire Rosa Hubermann as their launderer. Ilsa Hermann is the wife of the mayor of Molching, Heinz Hermann. Liesel's foster mother Rosa washes their laundry, and the Hermanns are her last remaining customers until they too must stop using her services as the war rages on. On the day of the bonfire, she sees Liesel steal a book from the burned remains;she later invites Liesel to use her library, which she does on a regular basis, forging a bond between the two.
Frau Holtzapfel is the next-door neighbor of the Hubermanns. She and Rosa Hubermann are longtime enemies for an unknown reason, and Frau Holtzapfel faithfully spits on the Hubermann's front door every time she passes. After being huddled together in a basement during an air raid, Frau Holtzapfel makes a deal with Rosa: she will stop spitting on her door if Liesel will visit her regularly and read to her from one of her books.
Michael Holtzapfel is one of Frau Holtzapfel's two sons. He loses his hand fighting in Stalingrad, while his brother dies there. After he returns home to live with Frau Holtzapfel, he cannot overcome the guilt of surviving when his brother did not. He eventually commits suicide by hanging himself.
Hans Hubermann is Liesel's foster father, reading teacher, and eventually the most significant person in her life. He is a tall, quiet man with a gentle nature whose sympathy for Jews results in him being eyed with suspicion by local members of the Nazi Party, as well as his son Hans Junior.
He agrees to secretly harbor a Jew named Max Vandenburg in his basement, an event which places him and his family in great danger. Although he escapes death twice as a soldier, he is killed during the Allied bombing of Himmel Street. A faithful member of the Nazi Party, he has arguments with his father over the older man's apparent lack of support for Nazism. After one argument, on the day of Hitler's birthday celebration, Hans Junior leaves his parents' house and never returns.
He later dies in combat in Russia. Rosa Hubermann is Liesel's foster mother, who lives on Himmel Street in the small town of Molching with her husband Hans. She is a brash, strict woman who frequently refers to those around her as filthy pigs. Later, Liesel realizes that Rosa's harsh exterior masks a deep love for the people in her life.
Like most of the residents of Himmel Street, she is killed by Allied bombs during an air strike. Trudy is the adult daughter of Hans and Rosa Hubermann. She works as a housemaid for a family in Munich, and occasionally returns to Molching on holidays to visit her parents. She is quiet but kind, like her father.
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Joel Kleinmann is the Jewish owner of a shoe store in Molching. When his shop is vandalized in , Hans Hubermann paints over a slur that has been written on his door.
The Book Thief
Walter Kugler is the childhood friend of Max Vandenburg. The two often fist-fought each other as part of a friendly rivalry. When Max faces persecution and possible imprisonment as a Jew, Kugler—who is not a Jew, and therefore safe from the reach of Nazis—hides Max for nearly two years. When Kugler finds out he is being relocated to Poland, he meets with Hans Hubermann to see if Hans will help Max hide.
Liesel Meminger, the main character in The Book Thief , is a girl who is left in the care of a foster family at a young age. Her brother dies on the way to the foster home, and at the cemetery where he is buried, Liesel sees a book resting in the snow.
She takes it, and thus begins her career as a book thief. Ilsa Hermann catches her stealing a book, and invites her to borrow more books from her massive library. Liesel becomes an avid reader, and Ilsa Hermann eventually encourages her to write her own book. She does, working in the basement of her foster family's home, where she once spent time with Max Vanderburg, a Jew in hiding.
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One night, while Liesel is reading over her finished book in the basement, Allied forces bomb Himmel Street, killing everyone except for Liesel. She is then taken in and raised by Ilsa Hermann and her husband, the mayor. The book she has written, lost in the rubble of Himmel Street, is found by Death and kept as an example of how humans are as capable of wonderful things as they are of horrible things. Liesel's biological mother, PaulaMeminger, leaves Liesel with a foster family in Munich and, though Liesel later tries to contact her, disappears.
Liesel later figures out that it is likely she was taken away by Hitler for being a communist. Werner Meminger, Liesel's younger brother, dies after having a coughing fit on the train journey to Munich with his mother and sister. Liesel and her mother bury the boy at a local cemetery before continuing their journey; this cemetery is where Liesel steals her first book, The Grave Digger's Handbook. Plagued by chronic ear infections and scarred by several related operations, Tommy is partially deaf and prone to facial twitches.
Rudy Steiner stands up for Tommy during Nazi Youth activities after he fails to hear commands, and both boys are frequently punished together. Like the others on Himmel Street, he is killed during the Allied bombing.
Pfiffikus is a foul-mouthed old man who lives on Himmel Street. No one seems to know his real name, but he is called Pfiffikus because he constantly whistles a tune as he walks. He is one of the Himmel Street residents who later shares the Fiedlers' basement during air raids.
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