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The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief Chapter 5 Summary
The Arrival on Himmel Street Death is taking us back to several years before the red sky described in Chapter 4. It's snowing, and a six-year-old boy loses his life on a crowded train. The boy is the book thief's brother. Their mother is taking them to a town near Munich to foster parents. But, the boy begins coughing very hard and then dies. His mother is asleep when Death comes onto the train. Then, the book thief, whose name is Liesel Meminger, sees that her brother, Werner, has died. Just before Werner dies, Liesel is dreaming about "the Führer, Adolph Hitler" (5.23). (Hitler called himself the Führer, which simply means "the leader.") She is listening to Hitler speak at a rally and is enjoying the fast flood of words
from his mouth. Hitler notices her and kneels near her, smiling. Liesel doesn't speak or read much, because her mother couldn't afford to educate her. Liesel asks Hitler how he's doing, but wakes up before the answer. It's a day in January, 1939, and Liesel is almost ten years old. She sees that her brother is dead. One of her eyes is open, the other is closed, still dreaming. Death is sure Liesel sees it when it takes Werner's cold soul and warms it. Then the mother wakes up and takes her son's body off the train and into the snow. Liesel goes with her. Two days after, Werner is buried. Against its better judgment, Death attends the funeral. A book falls out of the coat of a young apprentice grave digger, and he doesn't notice. Liesel can't really believe her brother is dead. She sees her own heart, broken in half in the snow. Her mother is pulling her away, and Liesel screams. She sees the book that dropped from the grave digger's coat, and she picks it up. Liesel and her mother hold hands. Death waves good-bye, but gets no waves in return. Death exits the scene. Liesel and her mother board the next train for Munich. Liesel sees their reflections in the mirror of the train—they are both very thin and have "sores on their lips" (5.72). They arrive in Munich. The mother won't be handing Liesel over to rich people; just people that can give her a little more food than she herself can. Liesel knows her mother is remembering Werner, and that he's very heavy,
so heavy Liesel doesn't know how her mother is able to keep walking. Death doesn't understand it either; Death is always mystified by how much humans can endure. Liesel and her mother exchange tearful goodbyes. Then the authorities take Liesel just outside of Munich, to a town called Molching, pronounced "Molking." In Molching, they take her to Himmel Street. Death says that the German word Himmel means "heaven" (5.87). The Hubermanns, Liesel's soon-to-be foster parents live on this street. They'll get a little bit of money for taking care of Liesel. Nobody wants to tell them Liesel's brother Werner didn't make the journey. Liesel waits in the car while one of the foster care people go get the Hubermanns. Hans and Rosa Hubermann come out to the car. Rosa would be "cute," if her face wasn't so irritated. Hans "walk[s] straight" (5.105) and is smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. It's raining. Liesel is refusing to get out of the car. She isn't responding to Rosa, who's trying to get her to come out. She does respond to Hans, though it takes fifteen minutes. Liesel cries, and resists going into the house. The neighbors watch and Rosa gives them a look that means, "What are you assholes looking at?" (5.115). Finally, Liesel is in the Hubermann kitchen, one hand in Hans Hubermann's, the other on her suitcase. Hidden in the suitcase is a book. Maybe the young grave digger is looking for it. Surely he doesn't think it's Liesel who took the "black book with silver words" (5.116). The book is called: "***THE GRAVEDIGGER'S HANDBOOK***" which is "A Twelve-Step Guide to Grave-Digging Success" (5.117). It's the book thief's first act of book-thievery. There will be many more such acts.
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