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The Book Thief

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, as 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 "a 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 more such acts. Many more.

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