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The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief Chapter 6 Summary
Growing Up A Saumensch It takes a long time before Liesel steals another book—this one from fire, instead of snow. Liesel also got books as gifts and ends up with a total of fourteen of them. Ten books frame the story of Liesel's life. She steals six books. She finds the seventh on "the kitchen table" (6.2). The eighth and ninth are "made for her by a hidden Jew" (6.2). The tenth book is "delivered by a soft, yellow dressed afternoon" (6.2). (Death seems to adore foreshadowing—so, all this will make sense soon, just keep it in mind as you read.) At some point, Liesel comes to write the story of her life, and she wonders just when words became so incredibly important to her. Before talking about that, Death wants to show us Liesel's early days on Himmel Street. When she first arrives, she's suffering from extreme malnutrition. She's blond, but has brown eyes, not the color eyes you want to have if you live in Germany during these times. (Anyone with eyes other than blue, and hair other than blond could be a target for the Nazis.) Her brown eyes might be the color of her father's, but she's never seen her father. She's only heard of him, heard that he is a "Communist" (6.3), though she doesn't know what this means. She'd asked her mother, but didn't get an answer. (See "Setting" for a word on Communism during World War II.) Liesel feels abandoned by her mother. She knows her mother is always ill, and there isn't enough money to help her. But, she still can't believe her mother loves her, since she gave her away. The house on Himmel Street is small, with several rooms, a kitchen, and a basement. For bathroom needs, the Hubermanns share an outhouse with some of their neighbors. The basement, they will later learn, isn't deep enough to function as a bomb shelter. Right now in 1939 this isn't a big issue. In 1941 and 1942, there will be "air raids" and the Hubermanns have to go to deeper shelters to be safe from the fire from the sky.
The first thing that strikes Liesel about the Hubermann household is "the profanity" (6.14). There's lots of it. The most common words being used are "Saumensch or Saukerl or Arschloch" (6.14). Death explains to us that sau means a pig. Saumensch is an insult for women, Saukerl is an insult for men. Arschloch is "asshole" (6.14). Rosa Hubermann tries to make Liesel take a bath by screaming abuses at her. Hans stops Rosa and says he'll give it a shot.
In the washroom, he teaches Liesel how to roll cigarettes, but she doesn't take a bath. Hans works as a painter. He also plays the piano accordion and sometimes earns a little money making music in bars. Most people barely notice Hans, even though he's an excellent painter and a great accordion player. Most people didn't see him as very "valuable" (6.22). Liesel on the other hand, sees him as highly valuable. Rosa Hubermann does laundry for five prosperous Molching families. She's a terrible cook and irritates everybody she comes in contact with. Rosa loves Liesel, but, "Her way of showing it just happened to be strange. It involved bashing her with wooden spoons and words at various intervals" (6.26). After Liesel has been with the Hubermanns for several months, Rosa tells her to start calling her "Mama" (6.28) and to call Hans "Papa" (6.30).
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