The Accordionist (The Secret Life of Hans Hubermann)
Max is now standing in the Hubermann kitchen.
He says "Hans Hubermann?" and "Do you still play the accordion?" (29.2, 29.3).
His voice very quiet, Hans says, "Of course I do" (29.6).
The story of the accordion goes back to World War I (1914-1918).
Death flashes back to those times.
Death is very busy during World War I, and Hans manages to avoid him.
But, when Death later reads about Hans in Liesel's story, Death will remember seeing Hans.
Hans is "twenty-two years old, fighting in France" (29.10).
Hans doesn't want to be fighting.
It's here that he meets Erik Vandenburg, a German Jew. Erik teaches Hans to play the accordion, and they are great friends.
Unfortunately, Erik dies in battle.
His accordion is given to Hans.
Hans is the only man in the battalion to escape Death today.
Before each battle the Sergeant would ask for a volunteers for some mysterious task, like cleaning the bathroom with a toothbrush.
On this day, the Sergeant asks if anyone has good handwriting.
Nobody wants to volunteer, because to volunteer is to admit you would prefer to stay behind while your fellows go into battle.
But, Erik volunteers Hans, and so Hans stays behind writing letters while the rest go out to die.
Hans will evade death again in 1943, fighting in World War II.
Hans keeps the accordion with him all through the war.
After the war he finds Erik's family, in Stuttgart.
He visit Erik's wife and finds the apartment full of accordions.
She tells Hans to keep the one he has.
Hans gives the widow his address and says to contact him if they ever need the place painted. He won't charge.
She introduces him to Max, who is her and Erik's son.
Max is a little boy.
Hans didn't know that Erik had a son.
He doesn't think he'll ever hear from the Vandenburgs again. But he does. Twenty years later they will need his help.
For ten years, Hans makes a decent living as a painter back in Molching.
Rosa gives birth to Hans Junior and Trudy.
When Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hans decides not to join the Nazi Party – "A Jew had once saved his life and he could not forget that" (29.66).
When he starts to lose all of his business, he asks an acquaintance what the deal is.
He learns that it's because he's being punished for not joining the party.
In 1937, he applies to the party, out of fear.
On the way back, he sees a Jewish store being vandalized and its owner terrorized.
Someone has painted "JEWISH FILTH" on the door of the shop.
Hans paints over the words for free,.
But, before that he goes to the NSDAP (Nazi Party) headquarters and breaks a window with his fist. He tells a party member that he won't be able to join after all.
The next day he paints over the slur, and is seen by one of Molching's biggest Nazis.
His application isn't approved, and he's looked upon with suspicion.
In 1939, when the Jews have been removed from Molching to detention camps (or killed), just after Kristallnacht, Hans's house is searched by the Gestapo (German Secret State Police, formed when Hitler took power).
Since they don't find anything incriminating or suspicious in his house, he isn't taken from Molching.
Thank goodness he at least applied to the party. That and his accordion playing are the things that save him from the Nazis.
About six months after Liesel joins the Hubermann family, on June 16, 1939 to be exact, something happens that will change Hans's life forever.
When he leaves for work that morning a man follows him.
The man stops him and asks if he's Hans, of the accordion fame, and if he's "a man who likes to keep a promise" (29.112).
He's Walter Kugler, Max's friend from Stuttgart. He and Hans plan to meet again that evening.