Book Thief Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Book Thief : Character

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  1. Arthur Berg

    Arthur Berg is the teenage gang leader during the summer food thieving expeditions of Liesel, Rudy, and the neighborhood children of Molching who are hungry. They raid orchards and farms. He is fair, dividing the spoils equally and treating his gang with respect. He moves away and is seen by Death holding his dead sister in his arms during an attack.

  2. Viktor Chemmel

    Viktor Chemmel is the teen gang leader who replaces Arthur. Viktor is a power-hungry bully and does not need the food, but has charisma to gain followers to carry out his plans. Liesel and Rudy gain his enmity by refusing to thieve for him. He gets revenge by throwing Liesel's book The Whistler in the river.

  3. Franz Deutscher

    Franz Deutscher is a Nazi Youth leader, a bully and tyrant who persecutes Rudy and other boys, pretending he is turning them into patriotic youth. Rudy rebels against him and gets beaten up, then gets transferred to another group.

  4. Frau Diller

    Frau Diller is the obsessive Nazi supporter who has the local corner store with a giant picture of Hitler in the window. She makes the children do the Nazi salute before she will sell them candy. They do not like her.

  5. Death

    Death is the narrator who gives Liesel's story as an example of why he is fascinated by humans, although puzzled at their dual nature of kindness and cruelty. Death is a kind being, with a sense of humor and irony. He does not like taking so many souls during the war but does his duty, noting with compassion, how people live and die. He most admires human souls who are generous during life and sit up to greet him without fear when they die.

  6. Ilsa Hermann

    Ilsa Hermann is the wife of the Mayor of Molching, living in a mansion, but she lives in a state of depression, only seen in her bathrobe, even during the day. Her only son, Johannes, was killed in World War I. She is convinced he froze to death and keeps her window open so she is cold, punishing herself with a life of grief. Rosa does her laundry, and when Liesel delivers it, Ilsa lets her read books in the library. When the Hermanns have to fire Rosa, Liesel angrily denounces Ilsa for her self-indulgent grief and stinginess. After that, she steals books from her, eventually finding out that Ilsa lets her. After Liesel is the only survivor of the Himmel Street bombing, she comes to stay with Ilsa for a time. Ilsa is the one who gives her the blank book to write her story.

  7. Frau Holtzapfel

    Frau Holtzapfel is the neighbor of the Hubermanns. She has a feud going with Rosa Hubermann and spits on her door every day when she passes. This feud dies when she is paralyzed with grief over her sons' deaths, and the Hubermanns try to help her. All the neighbors rally to each other's aid when they have to spend time together in the bomb shelter. She dies in the bombing.

  8. Michael Holtzapfel

    Michael Holtzapfel and his brother Robert are the sons of Frau Holtzapfel. They are Nazi soldiers who fight the terrible battle of Stalingrad where Michael watches Robert die. He returns home wounded but eventually hangs himself from depression.

  9. Hans Hubermann

    Hans Hubermann is a major character, the foster father of Liesel Meminger. He lives a modest life on Himmel Street, the poor district of Molching outside Munich. Hans is a house painter with diminishing work during the war since he refused to join the Nazi Party. He gets a little from playing his accordion in the public houses. He is a good man and a good neighbor and shown to be a good human being, despite the politics of Hitler's Germany. He even trades his most precious luxury, his hand-rolled cigarettes for presents for others. Liesel tells him he saved her life by giving her love and teaching her to read. Hans had been a German soldier in World War I and survived when Erik Vandenburg, a Jew, saved his life. Erik bequeathed his accordion to Hans, and Hans vowed to help the Vandenburg family if they were ever in need. He makes good on the promise when he agrees to hide his son, Max, in his basement. Hans blows the safety of the hiding place when he tries to help an old Jewish man in the parade of Jews going to Dachau. He is whipped for giving the man bread. Worried that because of his “stupid kindness” the Nazis will come for him, he has to turn Max out before he is discovered. He feels terrible guilt for this. The Nazis punish him by making him join the army and pick up dead bodies from the bombed streets. When injured, Hans returns home for a few glorious months with his family before dying in the bombing of his street.

  10. Rosa Hubermann

    Rosa Hubermann is Liesel's foster mother. She gets money from the state for taking in orphans. Her own two children are grown: Hans, Jr. who becomes a Nazi soldier spurning his family, and Trudy, who is a maid in Munich. Rosa is difficult and angry. She constantly complains and swears, cursing everyone. She has an ongoing feud with Frau Holtzapfel. She is initially mean to Liesel, beating her with a spoon if she does anything wrong. Eventually, she softens up as the war becomes tougher. When Max arrives, she rises to the challenge and becomes heroic. Rosa does laundry for several families in Molching, but eventually they all cancel their accounts because the money is tighter, and because Hans is not a Nazi. Rosa and Liesel love one another but they only know the tough language of cursing to communicate. Rosa dies in the bombing with Hans.

  11. Walter Kugler

    Walter Kugler is Max Vandenburg's German friend in Stuttgart who was a boxing opponent as they grew up as fighters. Eventually they became loyal friends, and when Walter had to become a Nazi soldier, he hid Max for two years, and then found Hans Hubermann, transferring Max to Hans's care.

  12. Sister Maria

    Sister Maria is a teacher at school who is strict and gives Liesel a hard time. She is constantly getting beatings from Sister Maria.

  13. Liesel Meminger

    Liesel Meminger is the main character, a precocious and rebellious German girl who manages to survive and come of age in Hitler's Germany. An orphan, she is separated tragically from her mother and younger brother as they flee their home because the parents are members of the Communist Party. Liesel tries to write to her mother, but the implication is that she was sent to a concentration camp and probably did not live long since she and her children were thin and starving. Liesel, though skinny, has both inner and outer strength. She is a tomboy and a fighter, making the boys at school afraid of her because she is fierce in defending herself if attacked. When she arrives at her foster parents' home in Molching, she is illiterate and wants more than anything to read and write. Hans teaches her. Books mean so much to her that she is willing to steal them, even from the mayor's house. Stealing the books is symbolic for her, expressing her angry rebellion. When the mayor's wife offers her a book, she rejects it, then steals it later. She feels she is fighting Hitler by stealing a book from the book burning. Though she is willing to steal books and food, she will not steal Hans's cigarettes to sell, as Rudy suggests. She loves Hans more than anyone because he becomes a real Papa to her and looks out for her. Rudy is her best friend, and they share many adventures and play soccer together every day in the street. When Max comes, Liesel is torn at first between what she has been taught about Jews at school, but soon she and Max are fast friends. Both of them are orphans whose families were killed by Hitler. Max teaches her the power of words to express the anger and love she feels. She becomes attached to him, and when he is forced to leave, she watches every parade of Jews to see if he is there. When she finally sees him she risks everything to go to him in the crowd to give him love and hope, even though she is whipped by the soldiers. Liesel can be an angry fighter but also a loving friend and neighbor. She uses her reading ability to read to Max while he is unconscious, and she reads to the grieving Frau Holtzapfel. Just as she is old enough to fall in love with Rudy and want him to kiss her, her whole second family and friends die in the bombing, leaving her as sole survivor again. She is reunited with Max, but we find out that after the war she emigrated to Australia to have a family and long life there.

  14. Paula Meminger

    Paula Meminger is Liesel's mother who is seen briefly in the beginning as she flees on the train with her two children. She is a communist, living in poverty, and her husband apparently had already died or been taken away. Her six-year-old son dies on the train on the way to the Hubermanns, where she will drop off the children to foster care. Only Liesel, the nine-year-old illiterate daughter survives this ordeal. The mother is never heard of again, though Liesel tries to write to her. Liesel is angry that Hitler killed her mother and brother.

  15. Werner Meminger

    Werner Meminger is the little boy who dies on the train in the first scene. He is quickly buried in the snow, and the mother and sister reboard the train for Molching. Liesel is traumatized by this death and has constant nightmares in which she sees her brother. She wakes up screaming, and Hans has to comfort her. Eventually, Werner becomes a sort of ghostly good angel that Liesel sees at moments of decision. He tries to turn her to the good and what is right.

  16. Tommy Müller

    Tommy Müller is one of the neighborhood gang who plays with Liesel and Rudy. He has had bad ear infections leading to a partial loss of hearing that gets him in trouble when he has to march to orders in the Hitler Youth Group. He is persecuted by Franz Deutscher for not hearing the orders. Tommy is one of Liesel's group but had originally made fun of her in school. After she beat him up, he becomes a friend.

  17. Ludwig Schmeikl

    Ludwig Schmeikl is another one of the boys that Liesel beat up at school. He is afraid of her, but she helps him during the book burning when he is injured.

  18. Alex Steiner

    Alex Steiner is the next-door neighbor of the Hubermanns'. He and his wife Barbara have six children including Rudy. Alex is a good father. He has to try to control Rudy's exuberance when he paints himself black so he can be like Jesse Owens, the black athlete. Alex has had to join the Nazi Party, and Rudy's antics get the family in trouble. He is unable to explain to Rudy why being black is a crime. Alex tries to save his son from going to elite Nazi training and is punished by the party by being conscripted as a soldier. He is a tailor, and so he gets a job mending uniforms during the war. He is the only one of his family to survive. He comes home to open his clothing store again where Liesel briefly works for him.

  19. Rudy Steiner

    Rudy Steiner is often described as a lit candle. He has lemon yellow hair and imagination and love of life. He is generous and loyal, especially to Liesel  whom he loves in his boyish way, trying everything he can think of to earn a kiss from her, even jumping into the freezing cold river to save her book. Rudy stands up for Liesel and joins in her book thieving from the mayor's house. The two friends are competitive, especially in soccer. Rudy's dream is to become a great runner. He is always training, and even stages a pretend run as Jesse Owens, painting his body black. Rudy does not buy the Nazi propaganda, though he is forced to go to Nazi Youth Group. He thinks and feels for himself, putting a teddy bear next to the dying enemy pilot, and giving bread to the Jews that march to Dachau. Even Death weeps for Rudy's premature death in the bombing, and Liesel finally gives him a kiss as he lies dead.

  20. Max Vandenburg

    Max Vandenburg is the Jew from Stuttgart that the Hubermanns hide in their basement for two years. Max's father, Erik, saved Hans's life in World War I, bequeathing his accordion to him. Hans promised to help the Vandenburgs if they ever needed him. Max is a strong young man as the war breaks out. He  had grown up as a fist fighter, engaging in many street fights, especially with his opponent, then friend, Walter Kugler. When the Nazis come to power, Max loses his job and has to go into hiding in a store room that Walter provides for him. There he stays in a dark place, nearly starving. He is full of grief and guilt for his family whom he abandoned to their fate to save his own life. He comes to Himmel Street where the Hubermanns do their best for him, but he falls ill living in the cold basement. Liesel reads to him for weeks while he is unconscious, thus saving his life. Max is described as having a luminous countenance. He has a poetic disposition that comes out in his drawings and words. He engages in imaginative conversation with Liesel who keeps his spirit alive. She describes the weather to him as only an innocent child can do. Max is discouraged and cynical until he meets Liesel. Her passion for life and for reading are infectious. They read books together and share their stories. Max makes two books for Liesel: The Standover Man describing his feelings about authority, and The Word Shaker, expressing the power of words to defeat Hitler. Max is caught and taken to Dachau but lives to be reunited with Liesel after the war.

  21. Reinhold Zucker

    Reinhold Zucker is the proud young soldier in Hans's unit who is angry when Hans wins a card game. He insists on changing places with Hans in the truck, and thus, he is the one killed in the truck accident instead of Hans.


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