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The Book Thief

The Book Thief


by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief Chapter 9 Summary

The Jesse Owens Incident

  • The Jesse Owens Incident happens before Liesel comes to Himmel Street, but she hears about it so much from Rudy that she feels like she was there.
  • It happened during the 1936 Olympics, which were held in Berlin.
  • (Read about the 1936 Olympics here—it's really interesting.)
  • Jesse Owens, a black American athlete wins his fourth gold medal, but Hitler wouldn't shake his hand.
  • (With the 1939 Olympics, Hitler hoped to prove that the blond, blue-eyed Germans truly were the "master race." Owens' victory challenged Hitler's belief.)
  • Rudy was really impressed with Owens and decides to rub charcoal all over his body and ride his brother's bike to the track.
  • A crowd forms.
  • Rudy begins to run, and the crowd cheers him on, "chanting […] Jessie Owens" (9.12). Rudy begins to race his imaginary opponents.
  • Things are great until he gets to the finish lines and finds his father waiting—dad is not very pleased.
  • Rudy tells his father he "was being Jesse Owens" (9.21).
  • On the way home, Mr. Steiner tells Rudy that he can't pretend to be black any more, or the Nazis will "take him away" (9.36).
  • In these time, Mr. Steiner tries to explain, wanting to be black or Jewish was dangerous.
  • Rudy wants to know what it means to be Jewish.
  • His father says, "It's like being German or Catholic" (9.44).
  • (A person is Jewish if he/she comes from a Jewish family, or if a person converts to Judaism. In this way, Judaism is like Catholicism. But, being Jewish isn't like being German. Being German simply means a person is a German citizen. Many Jews were German citizens, but under the Nazi regime, these Jews were no longer considered Germans.)
  • Rudy says he does want to be like Jessie Owens.
  • His father says he's lucky to have blue eyes and blond hair.
  • Rudy doesn't understand.

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