The Book Thief
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 very 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).
- (Judaism is a religious tradition. 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.