Monthly Archives: February 2014

Week 3

Role one: Discussion Leader, brought to you by Husam J

(Due to how long the reading is, I included one question for every chapter we read this week, I apologize in advance for not choosing only three).

1) Why do you think Ilsa allows Liesel to read in her library? Is there a connection between Johann and somebody Liesel has lost?

2) Why did the writer include this brief chapter? Consider the writer’s purpose in your response. HINT: think about character development and the importance of setting.

3) As Max leaves his hiding place, he thinks to himself, “he was German. Or more to the point, he had been.” What does he mean here?

4) How does Liesel and Rudy acquire the money to buy candy from Frau Diller?

5) How would Max define “sin”?

6) Summarize Hans Hubermann’s political conflict. Name his major mistakes.

7) How does Liesel respond to!Max’s arrival?

8) Why does the fact that the Hubermanns have a child concern!Max?

9) Of what promise does Hans remind Liesel?

10) How does Max spend the first three days with the Hubermanns?

Week 3

Role 2: Connector

A connection I see right away is Rudy’s “permanent hunger” situation, which is why he steals food. As described in page 149, the Steiners were barely getting through when it came to money, and we have to remember that Rudy is not an only child, but one of six children in the Steiner household.

I see this as a connection with real life civilian families in Germany during this time period, where some people were under economic distress, due to a higher demand of taxes to pay for war equipment. This economic downfall was especially stressful for the ones who worked to support their family. Back then, the average families were bigger, which meant more mouths to feed. When it all adds up it leads to starvation, and possibly (as in Rudy’s case) stealing food.

One has to be really desperate in order to have the necessity to straight up steal something as essential as food, which is what we see with Rudy.

What do you guys think? Did anyone find another connection?

Week 3

Role four: The summarizer

We start this section of the book with the beloved book thief, Liesel, and her summer of 1940. As stated in the beginning of our reading, she advances through The Shoulder Shrug, she continues to visit the mayor’s library, she plays soccer on Himmel Street, and she takes on a different kind of thievery. Rudy was a starving child, and he and Liesel eventually find a group that steals food.They join them and almost get caught at one point.

We also get a couple of chapter on “The Struggler”, Max Vandenburg. He is trying to survive and resist against Hitler. He messes up Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, which contained the key to the Hubermann’s household, and writes about himself over the words.

Later, we learn of Hans Hubermann and his participation in the Great War. That was where he learned to play the accordion, from a German Jew named Erik Vadenburg, who was later murdered and found by Hans. He was also demanded to write for others, such as the letters to the captain he had to write for his sergeant. If it weren’t for staying behind under those orders, he would have died in battle. Hans kept Erik Vadenburg’s accordion and met with the now widowed wife. He meets Erik’s son, Max Vadenburg, who we know as “The Struggler”. After the rise of Hitler and the pressure from everyone around him, Hans joined the NSDAP, although he never had anything against Jewish people.

We get a short explanation of Max Vadenburg’s life and how he met the Hubermanns. Max was always a fighter, both mentally and physically. He was violent and stubborn for a long part of his life. As a German Jew, he is in danger and is separated from his family in order to hide. His mother informed him of Hans Hubermann and he eventually came into contact with him. He was a stranger in the house and not taken in well at first. Liesel begins to see the similarities between them and their pasts, and they officially meet in a frightening way.

-Kimberly M

Role Five: The Word Master

1. schmunzel (p. 43): smile
I chose this word because it was used twice in the section, and I felt it added to the German setting.

2. burlap (p. 151): coarse canvas woven from jute, hemp, or a similar fiber, used esp. for sacking.
I chose this because it is the material from which Arthur Berg’s bag is made, and it seemed relevant to the setting.

3. schimpherei (pg. 161): scolding
I chose this because it was yet another German word used that I did not know the meaning of.

4. rheumatism (pg. 178): any disease marked by inflammation and pain in the joints, muscles, or fibrous tissue, esp. rheumatoid arthritis.
I chose this because it was important in that it was the disease the commander had that led to Hans Hubermann being saved, indirectly, from dying in the war.

innocuously (pg. 182: not harmful or offensive.
I chose this because it was the way in which the man on the street greeted Hans while he was painting over the graffiti left on the Jewish man’s door. It was being used ironically, given the context versus the definition.

-Devon D.

Week 3

Role three: The Passage Person

“That was the first time Hans Hubermann escaped me. The Great War. A second escape was still to come in 1943, in Essen.” (Pg. 178)

Mein Kampf. Of all the things to save him.” (Pg.160)

This passage expresses the idea that Hitler’s political views, can save someone’s life, even if the political view is just an idea, that’s not even physical. Max during this passage was reading “Mein Kampf” during his ride in the train that would eventually lead him to Hans’ house. He was carrying the book and reading it, since he wanted to lower the chance of being questioned of suspicion, if he wasn’t reading the book. I find this passage even more interesting, since its just crazy how a book, could possibly save someone’s life from being questioned on what they think of Germany, and consequently go into more dangerous situations, like being exiled to a labor or concentration camp for not believing in Hitler’s ideologies.

” ‘Jesus,’ Walter said one evening, when they met on the small corner where they used to fight. ‘That was a time, wasn’t it? There was none of this craziness around. We could never fight like that now.’ Max disagreed. ‘Yes we could. You can’t marry a Jew, but there’s no law against fighting one.’ Walter Smiled. There’s probably a law rewarding it–as long as you win.’ ” (Pg. 192)

Walter and Max, would always fight during their teen years, but since they’re older they started to become more mature, and had jobs. Later on, Max lived with the Hubermanns and would make himself secluded from the world, since he was a Jew, and since he was in hiding from the German police. Max, during that time, couldn’t do anything, as he was just living in a basement, trying to survive. This passage is important, since Max might later on the story, fight back against the Nazis, and fulfill what he said in the passage, but who knows if he will win, and be rewarded, since in history, the Jewish people had no chance to fight back Germany, as many were separated by their families, taken away to concentration camps, or fled the country.

What do you guys think about the Mein Kampf passage?

Week 2

Role 1- Discussion Leader

1) Why did the mayor’s wife decide to show Liesel her personal library? What was the  purpose behind it?

2) Would Liesel’s reaction to finishing “The Shoulder Shrug” be any different to what it was when she finished “The Grave Digger’s Handbook”? Do you think she will be excited, shocked, depressed, or will she just be ready to steal her next book?

3) Is it just me or does the book actually not make it clear about Hans’ relationship to Max?

Week 2

Role 5: The Word Master

bloodsong_Pig-RoundCartoon The word “Saumensch”:

This a German word translated as “female pig” in which it’s an insult used by Rosa Hubermann to her daughter. It’s used very often and sometimes used in a joking manner (?).

HammerSickleCross The word “Kommunisten “

Another German word that translates to “Communist” in English. As of this word, it was never understood by the girl and her mom refused to give her an explanation. Not until in section two where she finds out that the “Kommunisten” are the enemy against Germany. She also establishes the connection of her dad being a Communist because of her mom’s refusal to define the word, and disliking German beliefs.

The word “Watschen “

This words translates as a sort of a punishment that Liesel faced by Sister Maria and her mom (which suggests she gets in trouble often”.

The phrase “Yes, mama.”

Simple, but significant phrase; because her mother clearly made a point in which Liesel would have to pick up and deliver clothes and her response was “Yes, mama”. After all, Rosa Hubermann is a strict women and the book referenced it as “Saying those two words was often the best way to survive…”.

images The phrase “Heil Hitler”:

A German phrase of saluting a person (Hitler in this case). At first Liesel displayed her hatred to Hitler, but was punished by her father because that might get them in trouble, and there is a fine line between internal thoughts, and what is said publicly, and she had to practice saying “heil Hitler” instead.

(I apologize for not sourcing page numbers due to my E-book, which for some reason did not give me page numbers. I will update the post with the page numbers once I borrow a book from our group)

Role Four: The Summarizer

In this section of the book, we learn more about all of the characters, especially through their relations to Liesel. The atmosphere is also growing tenser, what with the impending dread (felt by Liesel; for most everyone else, it is joy and patriotism) of WWII.

The section starts with Liesel’s failed reading exam, which leads to her not being moved to her proper grade. It does, however, lead to an incredibly violent fight with a boy who was bullying her, which earns her the reputation of “the heavyweight of the schoolyard.”

Liesel and Hans soon finished the Gravedigger’s Handbook, and Liesel’s knowledge of reading and writing improved. A class assignment required that she write a letter to someone she knows, and she decides to write to her birth mother. This leads to the first terrible discovery of the book – her mother does not write back, and will never write back, she soon learns. As the growing nationalism takes an even stronger hold on Germany, Liesel learns that her mother, and father too, were in opposition to Hitler, branded as Communists, and now their whereabouts are a mystery.

Later, Hans Hubermann has a fight with his Nazi son, a short while before a book burning in honor of Hitler’s birthday. Liesel steals one of the books that miraculously escaped the flames, and after doing so, realizes that she had been seen in the act by the mayor’s wife. She becomes increasingly wary of the mayor’s wife during her delivery runs, until one day the mayor’s wife invites her into her home, and shows Liesel her immense library. Liesel is awestruck, and barely remembers to say thank you.

The section closes with a change in scenery – now, the story takes place on a train, with a Jewish boy named Max. We learn that Hans Hubermann himself is in charge of the boy’s safe arrival to wherever his destination may be.

-Devon D.

Week 2

Role three: The Passage Person

“‘You know what he did? He rolled up all of his filthy cigarettes, went to the market when it was in town and traded them with some gypsy.’

‘Eight cigarettes per book.’ Papa shoved one into his mouth, in triumph” (g 89-90)

“When her birthday came around, there was no gift. There was no gift because there was no money, and at the time, Papa was out of tobacco.” (pg 98)

These are two different passages within the story that connect and show the affects of the war on the country in general and on the individual families of Germany. The Hubbermann family struggles for years after the war, and things change for them. The passages above show the worsening of their hardships. In the first, they could barely afford the gift for Liesel, while in the second, which is much later, they couldn’t afford anything at all.

“Up until now, at the BDM, they had been told that Germany was the superior race, but no one else in particular had been mentioned. Of course, everyone knew about the Jews, as they were the main offender in regard to violating the German ideal. Not once, however, had the communists been mentioned until today, regardless of the fact that people of such political creed were also to be punished.” (pg 111)

This passage shows the ways they have been brainwashing the youth of Germany without giving  them full details. These people have been attending these meetings and been told countless of things and raising them for the country’s future. The fact that communism was not mentioned before tells a lot about the educational system of the era. It’s kind of like today’s times when so many facts, events, and people are taken out of curriculum so the youth only knows what the older generations that make the system want them to know.

To the group members, what do you think about the BDM passage?


-Kimberly M

Week 2

Role 2: The Connector

One connection I saw, was when Liesel went to the event of youth groups where they were burning books that didn’t have and ideologies similar to the German’s “ideal”. Later on Liesel and Hans were talking, and Liesel was slapped for saying she hated the Fuhrer, and was told to Heil Hitler, but not express her thoughts on the Fuhrer, outside their house. The connection is that usually single-state party/nationalistic countries prohibit freedom of speech, and most human rights, and Germany and other countries that went through a regime, explicitly prohibit anyone speaking against their government. One example is North Korea, since they too are a single-state party, and have political prison camps for people that speak out against their politics/government. North Korea would also suppress any literature or anything that have foreign ideals from the people.

Another connection is the part where the Jewish man, with the suitcase was hiding. He most likely was hiding from the German Police, that were looking for any Jewish people hiding, etc. And one thing I noticed was that he was given papers and a key from a random guy(Hans?). This connects towards the real world, since in many times, Jewish people would hide, and eventually get fake papers/identification papers, in order to have a new identity, and not get caught by the police, then move to another house that was vacant by Jewish people, that were caught.

-Ivan J.