The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Markus Zusak
Markus Zusak was born and raised in Australia, but his mother had emigrated there from Germany and his father from Austria, so he grew up hearing their stories about World War II. Zusak's father was a house-painter (like Hans Hubermann) and neither parent spoke English very well, but they made sure their children did plenty of reading. When he was a teenager Zusak decided he wanted to be a writer. He is the author of five books: The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry, The Messenger, and The Book Thief. The Book Thief is his best known work by far, and has been translated into more than thirty languages. Zusak lives in Sydney with his wife and daughter.
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Historical Context of The Book Thief
The Book Thief is set in Germany during World War II and the Holocaust, where six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party, rose to national power in 1934 and began enforcing his policies of anti-Semitism and German aggression, which led to World War II. Events that directly affect the novel are the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and the Allied fire-bombings of Munich, Stuttgart, and the fictional Molching in 1942 and 1943.
Other Books Related to The Book Thief
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safran Foer and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss are both similar contemporary Holocaust novels written in a postmodern style. Peter Hedges' What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Ernest Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea inspired the teenage Zusak to become a writer.
Key Facts about The Book Thief
  • Full Title: The Book Thief
  • When Written: 2002-2005
  • Where Written: Sydney, Australia and Munich, Germany
  • When Published: 2005
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Fiction
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Fictional town of Molching, Germany, 1939-1943
  • Climax: The fire-bombing of Molching
  • Antagonist: Adolf Hitler, World War II and the Holocaust
  • Point of View: First person omniscient, with Death as the narrator
Extra Credit for The Book Thief

Bread. Zusak was inspired to write The Book Thief by a story his mother told him, which involved a boy giving bread to a starving Jew who was being marched to a concentration camp. A Nazi soldier noticed and whipped both the boy and the Jew. This scene is recreated in The Book Thief with Hans Hubermann in the place of the boy.

Rudy. Zusak's favorite character from any of his books is Rudy Steiner, Liesel's best friend.