The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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Liesel Meminger

The protagonist of the novel, a young girl who comes to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, her foster parents. Liesel's real parents, who were communists, were probably killed by the Nazis, and her brother… (read full character analysis)


The narrator of the novel, the mysterious figure who collects human souls when they die. Death enjoys noticing colors, particularly in the sky, and he is mystified by the contradictory nature of humans—both beautiful and… (read full character analysis)

Hans Hubermann

Liesel's foster father, a silvery-eyed house painter and accordion player. Hans is exceedingly kind and gentle, and has a quiet strength and courage. He follows his own moral compass even when it puts him… (read full character analysis)

Max Vandenburg

A Jewish fist fighter who comes to the hide in the Hubermanns' basement. Max arrives sick and emaciated, but he soon joins the family and keeps himself alive through a strong hatred of Hitler(read full character analysis)

Rudy Steiner

Liesel's neighbor and best friend, Rudy loves Liesel from the start and is always asking her for a kiss. Rudy seems like Hitler's "Aryan ideal" – he is blonde, blue-eyed, and an exceptional… (read full character analysis)
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Ilsa Hermann

The mayor's wife in the town where the Hubermanns live and one of Rosa's washing customers, Ilsa subjects herself to cold weather as a punishment for living when her son has died (even though… (read full character analysis)

Adolf Hitler

The Führer (leader) of Nazi Germany and antagonist of the novel. Hitler never physically appears in the story, but he stands as a symbol for all the evil caused by the Nazis and the War… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Rosa Hubermann
Liesel's foster mother, a loud, impatient woman fond of cursing and insulting everyone. Under her angry exterior Rosa has a brave, caring heart, and she takes in Liesel and Max without question.
Alex Steiner
Rudy's father, a tailor who is drafted because he refuses to send Rudy away to Nazi school. Alex survives the war and returns home after the final bombing. He and Liesel become friends at the end of the novel, as the only two survivors of Himmel Street.
Frau Holtzapfel
The Hubermanns' neighbor who has a long-standing feud with Rosa. After the first air raid she asks Liesel to read out loud to her and she slowly grows more friendly. Later she has to deal with the deaths of both of her sons.
Michael Holtzapfel
Frau Holtzapfel's son who survives the war at Stalingrad but watches his brother die. Michael suffers from survivor's guilt, and later hangs himself.
Hans Hubermann, Junior
The Hubermanns' grown son, a patriotic Nazi who insults his father and leaves the family because Hans doesn't support Hitler.
Tommy Müller
A neighbor and classmate of Rudy and Liesel's, he is physically weak, hard of hearing, and twitchy, and his weakness incurs the wrath of Liesel and later Franz Deutscher.
Franz Deutscher
The sadistic leader of Rudy's Hitler Youth squad. He enjoys punishing Rudy and Tommy for no reason.
Arthur Berg
The initial leader of the apple-stealing gang, he befriends Liesel and Rudy and treats the other kids in his group fairly.
Viktor Chemmel
The stealing gang's second leader, a cruel boy who exploits his own group and attacks Rudy and Liesel.
Walter Krugler
Max Vandenburg's friend and former boxing opponent, the man who saves Max from being arrested and helps him get to Hans.
Trudy Hubermann
The Hubermanns' daughter, quiet and not close to her parents.
Reinhold Zucker
A young man in Hans's division of the LSE in the army. He has a bad temper that gets him killed when he spitefully takes Hans's seat in the truck.
Erik Vandenburg
Max's father, a Jewish accordion player who befriends Hans in World War I and saves his life by volunteering him to write letters on the day of battle. Hans promises Erik's wife that he will help her, if she or her family ever needs help.
Frau Diller
A resident of Himmel Street who owns a store. A staunch patriot who makes everyone salute Hitler before she will speak to them.
Werner Meminger
Liesel's younger brother, who dies on a train at the beginning of the novel and then regularly appears in her dreams.
Robert Holtzapfel
Frau Holtzapfel's other son, who Death collects in a hospital after his legs were blown off at Stalingrad.
A crazy man of Himmel Street who likes to whistle and curse obscenely.
Jesse Owens
An African-American athlete who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany. He is not present in the story, but is Rudy's hero and a symbol of opposition to the "Aryan ideal."
Sister Maria
Liesel's teacher who gives her many a beating.
Ludwig Schmeikl
A boy who mocks Liesel for being illiterate, but then she beats him up. Later the two of them apologize to each other.
Johann Hermann
Ilsa Hermann's son, who died in World War I.
Otto Sturm
A wealthy boy who delivers food to the Catholic priests on his bike. Liesel and Rudy steal his basket one day.