Study Guide

The Book Thief War

By Markus Zusak

War

Chapter 4
Death

The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places it was burned. There were black crumbs and pepper, streaked across the redness. (4.1)

This early passage describes the sky over Himmel Street when it's bombed in 1942. Have you ever seen a bomb-filled sky? How do you feel about Death's soup analogy?

Chapter 12
Death

That was one war started. Liesel would soon be in another. (12.15, 16)

This passage refers to Hitler's invasion of Poland and Liesel's bad day in school, where she's beaten multiple times by her teacher and then beats up two other kids herself. Do you ever feel like you're in war, in battle when you are at school?

Chapter 13
Death

In fact, on April 20 – the Führer's birthday – when she snatched a book from beneath a steaming pile of ashes, Liesel was a girl made of darkness. (13.8)

Here we see Liesel moments after she's declared war on Hitler himself. Her way of fighting him has to do with rescuing at least one of the many books he's burned.

Chapter 18
Death

There was […] the matter of the forty million people I picked up by the time the whole thing was finished […]. (18.35)

This is Death, giving us the death toll of World War II and the Holocaust. First, how do you check his figure for accuracy? Second, how do we process death on this scale? How can we deal with it? Think about it? Talk about it?

Chapter 35
Death

Sometimes there was humor in Max Vandenburg's voice, though its physicality was like friction – like a stone being gently rubbed across a large rock. (35.125)

Max is fighting a war for his own survival. It's taken much of his humor from him. Yet, he manages to laugh and make others laugh, in spite of his plight.

Chapter 50
Death

Max Vandenburg sat beneath the steps, holding his rusty scissors like a knife. (50.146)

This is the fear-filled scene where Max hides from a Nazi who's come to measure the Hubermanns' basement to see if it's deep enough for a bomb shelter. We aren't sure how he plans to use the scissors, but the options are pretty apparent. What do you think?

Chapter 63
Death

On Friday, a statement arrived to say that Hans Hubermann was being drafted into the German army. (63.13)

Hans' punishment for giving a Jewish man bread is being forced to join the army. But, he isn't put on the battlefield. Rather, he's given the job of cleaning up wreckage and dead bodies after air raids.

Chapter 71
Death

A bandaged hand fell out of his coat sleeve and cherries of blood were seeping through the wrapping. (71.2)

We come to understand that there is terrible fighting going on in Stalingrad, Russia, in large part through the character of Michael Holtzapfel, who comes home to break the news of his brother's death. He's lost three fingers in Stalingrad, but can't bear to be alive when his brother is dead.

Chapter 77
Death

In short, Himmel Street was flattened. (77.8)

Even though we hear about this moment from the beginning of the book, the bombing of Himmel Street is still a huge shock when it happens. It's hard to take the fact that these characters we've grown so fond of have all died.

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