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The Book Thief
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The Book Thief Chapter 71 Summary
The Snows of Stalingrad
It's mid-January, 1943.
When Liesel goes to Frau Holtzapfel's house to read to her, a man answers the door.
She doesn't think he's one of her sons, because he looks too old and not like the picture Liesel's seen.
One of his hands is covered in bandages, and Liesel can see blood seeping through.
He tells Liesel to come later, or, better yet, he'll come to her house.
When he comes, she asks him about his hand.
Explosives took three of his fingers in Stalingrad, Russia, where he was fighting for Germany.
He tells Liesel how much colder and snowier it is there than her in Molching, and it's cold here in Molching.
He has trouble lighting a cigarette.
Liesel lights it for him, after he gives her some tips.
He introduces himself to her. He's Michael Holtzapfel, Frau Holtzapfel's son.
He's come to see if Liesel will read to his mother now.
Rosa appears and is shocked to see him. She's known him all his life.
He blurts out that his brother has died.
Rosa is visibly stunned.
She says she's sorry, and then Michael asks to take Liesel to read to his mother.
Michael tells her that he's seen her son, alive, in Stalingrad.
Before she can get into a long conversation with him about it, he tries to hurry out.
Liesel isn't sure she should leave Rosa, but Rosa tells her to go.
Michael tells Liesel that his hand just keeps bleeding, no matter what he does.
Frau Holtzapfel has a tear-stained face, and Liesel reads to her.
Death knows about this scene, because he reads about it in Liesel's book (
The Book Thief
He knows how Robert Holtzapfel died, because he was there at the hospital in Stalingrad, where Michael watched Robert take his last breath.
Roberts legs "were blown off at the shins" (72.43) on January 5, 1943.
Dead Germans and Russians were everywhere.
Death was there too.
Death saw Robert, but didn't take him until three days later in the hospital.
The sky was like one of Hans drop sheets, but full of red.
Now Liesel reads to Frau Holtzapfel while she cries, and her living son "shivers" (72.67).
Liesel is glad she's "good for something in the aftermath of the snows of Stalingrad" (72.69).
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