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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