The Book Thief
The Book Thief Chapter 55 Summary
The Sound of Sirens
- Hans buys a radio with money saved from the summer.
- This way, they'll hear about any air raids in advance.
- Yet, there's no warning on this night in September.
- Hans wakes Liesel.
- The family goes down to the basement to Max.
- Hans tells Max it's awful he can't go with them to the Fielders' house. The Fielders' basement is deep enough to function as a bomb shelter.
- Max had made them promise to go there when they discussed it weeks ago.
- The people of Himmel Street carry the things they care most about and hurry toward shelter.
- Papa (who has even left behind his accordion) sees Frau Holtzapfel carrying a big suitcase, and he helps her.
- (You might remember Frau Holtzapfel from earlier in the novel. She and Rosa are in a long-time feud. She spits on the Hubermann door, every time she passes it.)
- A total of 22 people take shelter in the Fielders' basement.
- In addition to the Hubermanns and Frau Holtzapfel, we have the Steiners, Pfiffikus, a young man, and the Jenson family.
- Rosa and Frau Holtzapfel are kept apart.
- Frau Holtzapfel is very afraid.
- Rosa is one of the most frightened people in the shelter, only a little less frightened than Frau Holtzapfel. She holds Liesel, singing quietly to her.
- Rudy, his parents, his brother, and his four sisters are near them.
- Pfiffikus isn't whistling.
- We are given the third word from Liesel's dictionary: "Angst – Fear" (55.38).
- At one point, Alex Steiner reaches out to hold the hand of his oldest son, Kurt.
- This sets off a chain reaction. Everybody is holding somebody else's hands, and they are all in a rough circle.
- Death says:
The Germans in the basement were pitiable, but at least they had a chance. That basement was not a washroom. They had not been sent there for a shower. (55.44)
- (As we note in the summary of Chapter 53, "shower" was often a euphemism for "gas chamber" in concentration camps.)
- Liesel is holding hands with Rudy and Rosa, but thinking of Max.
- Not long after this, they hear three sirens, signaling the end of the air raid.
- The people of Himmel Street leave the Simpson's basement and head for their homes.
- When Rosa, Liesel, and Hans get home they immediately head for the basement.
- They can't find Max.
- He speaks, and Liesel sees that they have been looking at him, all along – "His jaded [worn, weary] face [is] camouflaged among the painting materials and fabric" (55.65).
- Max has a confession to make.
- He couldn't stop himself from creeping upstairs and peeking out the window – It's been almost two years since he's looked outside.
- Nobody is mad at him about it.
- Hans wants to know what Max saw.
- Max says, "There were stars. […] They burned my eyes" (55.73).
- Rosa lets Liesel read A Song in the Dark to Max, all night, while he works on his book.
- This chapter ends with a quote from Max's book: From a Himmel Street Window, […] the stars set fire to my eyes (55.78).