The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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Hans Hubermann Character Analysis

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 in harm's way, and is no fan of the Nazi's. Liesel grows closer to Hans than to anyone else, and it is he who teaches her to read.

Hans Hubermann Quotes in The Book Thief

The The Book Thief quotes below are all either spoken by Hans Hubermann or refer to Hans Hubermann. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Alfred A. Knopf edition of The Book Thief published in 2007.
Part 1: The Smell of Friendship Quotes

Papa would say a word and the girl would have to spell it aloud and then paint it on the wall, as long as she got it right. After a month, the wall was recoated. A fresh cement page.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger, Hans Hubermann
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

In this idyllic scene, Liesel learns how to read in whatever ways her circumstances allow. In the basement, her adopted father, Hans, shows her how to paint words onto a wall. The beauty of Liesel's lessons is that whenever she runs out of space on the wall Hans can re-coat the wall with paint, allowing Liesel to begin again.

The wall is an interesting symbol, suggesting that Liesel embraces reading because it allows for a "fresh start." Liesel is a young girl, but she's already had a tough life, full of death and tragedy. By mastering the art of reading, she learns how to reinvent herself with the help of writing.

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Part 1: The Heavyweight Champion of the School-Yard Quotes

The day of the announcement, Papa was lucky enough to have some work. On his way home, he picked up a discarded newspaper… and slipped it beneath his shirt. By the time he made it home and removed it, his sweat had drawn the ink onto his skin. The paper landed on the table, but the news was stapled to his chest. A tattoo…
"What does it say?" Liesel asked him…
"'Hitler takes Poland,'" he answered, and Hans Hubermann slumped into a chair.

Related Characters: Liesel Meminger (speaker), Death (speaker), Hans Hubermann (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the characters first get word that Hitler has invaded Poland. Hans is terrified by this news--but what's equally important is the manner in which he receives it. Hans reads a newspaper story about Hitler's invasion, and he carries it with him for so long that the words print themselves on his body. The image of words tattooed onto a man's body prophesies the Holocaust, during which Jews were forcibly tattooed with their registration numbers. The message is clear enough: Hitler's victory in Poland foreshadowed his even more terrifying "victories" over the Jews in Europe. Furthermore, the passage underscores the power of language--not for the last time, words have a physical presence as well as a metaphorical one.

Part 7: The Long Walk to Dachau Quotes

Just give him five more minutes and he would surely fall into the German gutter and die. They would all let him, and they would all watch.

Then, one human.
Hans Hubermann…
The Jew stood before him, expecting another handful of derision, but he watched with everyone else as Hans Hubermann held his hand out and presented a piece of bread, like magic.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Hans Hubermann
Page Number: 393
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hans sees a huge group of Jews being led off to their deaths in concentration camps. Hans is amazed that the other Germans watching the horrific spectacle don't do anything to comfort or console the Jews. Almost without realizing it, Hans offers an elderly Jewish man some bread.

What does Han's action accomplish? It doesn't save the Jewish man--he's whipped brutally and then, presumably, sent back to the camp (and Hans himself is whipped as well). And yet Hans's generosity reminds the Jewish man that he's not an animal, but a human being. In this way, Hans's actions are enormously valuable: they undermine the program of the Holocaust by treating Jews like ordinary people, not the hideous scapegoats Hitler wanted them to be.

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Hans Hubermann Character Timeline in The Book Thief

The timeline below shows where the character Hans Hubermann appears in The Book Thief. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Arrival on Himmel Street
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They arrive at Himmel Street and the Hubermanns appear. Hans Hubermann is tall and Rosa Hubermann is short and round with an angry face. Liesel... (full context)
Part 1: Growing Up a Saumensch
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...the biggest initial impact on Liesel because of her cursing. Rosa yells at Liesel (and Hans) for everything, and calls them saumensch or saukerl (filthy pig). At first Liesel refuses to... (full context)
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Hans intervenes quietly and spends a long time teaching Liesel how to roll a cigarette, which... (full context)
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...Mama and Papa, but still curses whenever she speaks. Liesel already feels comfortable enough around Hans to think of him as "Papa." (full context)
Part 1: The Woman with the Iron Fist
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Liesel start having nightmares every night about her dead brother. She wakes up screaming and Hans comes in and sits with her. After a few weeks he holds her, and Liesel... (full context)
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...keeps it hidden under her bed. She feels very alone. The Hubermanns have two children, Hans Junior and Trudy, but they are both older and live elsewhere. (full context)
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...read or write. There are no books in the Hubermann home, and neither Rosa nor Hans are very good at reading. (full context)
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Hans often leaves in the evenings to go play his accordion at a pub. His disappearance... (full context)
Part 1: The Other Side of Sandpaper
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...street and watches. Death explains that most people support the Nazis at this time, but Hans Hubermann does not. (full context)
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...up screaming as usual, but this time she realizes she has wet the bed too. Hans kindly takes off the sheets and then sees The Grave Digger's Handbook under the mattress.... (full context)
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They start learning that same night. First Hans admits that he is not a very good reader, and he asks where Liesel got... (full context)
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They start over and Hans writes out the alphabet on the back of some sandpaper. Liesel practices, and gets stuck... (full context)
Part 1: The Smell of Friendship
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Hans and Liesel continue their lessons every night after Liesel wakes up from her nightmares. One... (full context)
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Liesel and Hans practice by the Amper River when the weather is good, and otherwise in the basement.... (full context)
Part 1: The Heavyweight Champion of the School-Yard
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In the fall of 1939, World War II begins with the German invasion of Poland. Hans picks up a newspaper with the announcement and slips it under his shirt. By the... (full context)
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...gets farther along in The Grave Digger's Handbook and thinks she is learning well with Hans. (full context)
Part 2: The Joy of Cigarettes
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...of 1939 Liesel is starting to feel at home on Himmel Street, and she loves Hans (her Papa now), Rudy (sometimes), and even Rosa. She starts to build a concept of... (full context)
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One night Liesel and Hans stay up until dawn and finish the book at last. When they are done Hans... (full context)
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...a Christmas break, and the Hubermann's children come home. Liesel doesn't expect any presents, but Hans gives her two books: Faust the Dog and The Lighthouse. She will read them many... (full context)
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A few days after Christmas Liesel asks Hans and Rosa how they afforded two books, and they tell her that Hans traded his... (full context)
Part 2: The Town Walker
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...write letters to each other, which gives Liesel the idea to write to her mother. Hans is visibly uncomfortable when she asks him about it, but Liesel chooses to ignore her... (full context)
Part 2: Dead Letters
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Liesel keeps searching the mailbox for a letter that will never come, and it makes Hans sad to watch her. She keeps writing letters, though only the first one was sent.... (full context)
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...the floor for a long time, despairing, and Rosa apologizes to her. After a while Hans comes home and plays the accordion for her. Liesel's only memory of that night is... (full context)
Part 2: Hitler's Birthday, 1940
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...the event, and Death introduces them. Trudy is built like Rosa, and is mostly quiet. Hans Junior is a passionate Nazi who thinks his father represents an older, weaker Germany. Hans... (full context)
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Hans Junior and Hans start to argue, and Hans Junior calls Liesel's books "trash" – she... (full context)
Part 2: The Gates of Thievery
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...waits on the steps of a church watching the book-burning die down to ash, until Hans arrives and asks what's wrong. Liesel has been deducing that the Führer is the source... (full context)
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Hans wants to hug her for this, but instead he slaps Liesel in the face and... (full context)
Part 2: Book of Fire
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Hans and Liesel start to walk home, but they are stopped by a man who asks... (full context)
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...chest. Then she realizes that the mayor's wife saw everything, and she curses to herself. Hans and Liesel finally leave, and the book, which is called The Shoulder Shrug, burns against... (full context)
Part 3: The Way Home
Books Theme Icon
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...book becomes too painful and Liesel has to take it out from under her uniform. Hans is shocked to see it, but he promises not to tell Rosa if Liesel will... (full context)
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A few days later Hans trades some cigarettes for a copy of Mein Kampf, the book written by Hitler. He... (full context)
Part 3: The Attributes of Summer
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Liesel and Hans start to make their way through The Shoulder Shrug, which has a Jew as a... (full context)
Part 4: The Accordionist (The Secret Life of Hans Hubermann)
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Max stands in the kitchen and asks Hans if he still plays the accordion. Then Death brings the story back to World War... (full context)
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Hans kept Erik's accordion, as it was too heavy to be sent home. After the war... (full context)
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Time progressed and the Nazi party grew popular, but Hans refused to join because of his debt to Erik Vandenburg. He began to lose customers... (full context)
Part 4: A Good Girl
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The story returns to the present, and Hans accepts Max Vandenburg, closing the curtains and checking for witnesses. Max crouches down, overcome with... (full context)
Part 4: A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter
Death Theme Icon
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...away, and he despaired but still clung to life. One day Walter offered to find Hans Hubermann and ask him for help, and he returned with Hans's acceptance and some money.... (full context)
Part 4: Liesel's Lecture
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...once intended for Werner. The next day the Hubermanns keep Liesel home from school, and Hans leads her to the basement, where he tells her the story of Erik Vandenburg, and... (full context)
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Hans lists what will happen if Liesel mentions Max to anyone, and he tries to be... (full context)
Part 4: The Swapping of Nightmares
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One night Hans wants to start up their reading practice of The Shoulder Shrug again, but Liesel is... (full context)
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One night Max overhears Liesel telling Hans that Max's hair is "like feathers." Later she asks about Mein Kampf, and Max tells... (full context)
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Hans tells Liesel that Max has nightmares like she does, and one night Liesel gets out... (full context)
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...The Mud Men. Max apologizes that he doesn't have a present for her. Liesel hugs Hans and Rosa, and then embraces Max for the first time. (full context)
Part 5: The Gambler (A Seven-Sided Die)
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The scene returns to the present, and Max is getting a haircut. Rosa and Hans argue about who will do it, but Max asks Liesel. She cuts his "feathery" hair... (full context)
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...Max rips out the rest of Mein Kampf and starts painting it white with Liesel, Hans, and Rosa, so he can start a new book. It will be called The Word... (full context)
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...and asks Max to teach her to do push-ups. That night when Liesel reads with Hans she tells him that she thinks she is going to hell, but Hans assures her... (full context)
Part 6: The Snowman
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...warm. By mid-February he collapses and hits his head on the accordion case. Rosa and Hans carry him to Liesel's room and put him to bed. Liesel is worried and depressed,... (full context)
Part 6: The Visitor
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...an excuse to go home. Rudy insists on helping her, so Liesel makes him fetch Hans. Liesel tells her Papa what happened and they return home. (full context)
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The Hubermanns are frantic trying to decide what to do with Max, and Hans decides to pretend nothing is unusual just as there is a knock on the door.... (full context)
Part 7: Champagne and Accordions
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It is summer in 1942 and Molching prepares itself for an inevitable bombing. Hans Hubermann suddenly has lots of work, as people need their blinds painted black to block... (full context)
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One day Hans asks a wealthy customer to pay for his painting services with champagne, as he wants... (full context)
Part 7: The Sound of Sirens
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Hans buys a radio to hear when the raids are coming, but one night in September... (full context)
Part 7: The Long Walk to Dachau
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...sound of shuffling feet approaching. An old lady yells "The Jews" from an upper window. Hans appears and tries to take Liesel away, but she is determined to stay and watch. (full context)
Death Theme Icon
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...Jewish man who keeps collapsing from exhaustion, but the soldiers make him continue. Almost unconsciously Hans takes a piece of bread from his paint cart, pushes through the crowd, and hands... (full context)
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Liesel and Rudy help up Hans. Most of the crowd calls him a "Jew lover" and they upturn his paint cart,... (full context)
Part 7: Peace
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...He leaves Liesel a present hidden somewhere, and the family silently watches him walk away. Hans had arranged to meet Max by the Amper River in four days, but when Hans... (full context)
Part 7: The Idiot and the Coat Men
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Death labels Hans as "the idiot," and describes him sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for the Gestapo.... (full context)
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The neighbors start to scorn Hans. Frau Diller spits at his feet and Frau Holtzapfel calls him "dirty Jew lover." Hans... (full context)
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Three weeks later two men in long coats come down Himmel Street, and Hans calls out to them, sure that they are coming for him. Instead the Gestapo walk... (full context)
Part 8: Punishment
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Death describes Germany's inevitable punishment of Hans Hubermann for helping a Jew. First it is only his conscience that suffers. After that,... (full context)
Part 8: The Promise Keeper's Wife
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The day before Hans leaves for the army he and Alex Steiner get drunk at a bar. Hans gets... (full context)
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...night Liesel wakes up and sees Rosa sitting at the foot of the bed with Hans's accordion strapped to her chest. She just sits silently in the moonlight without touching any... (full context)
Part 8: The Collector
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Hans is not sent to fight but is instead assigned to the undesirable LSE (Luftwaffe Sondereinheit... (full context)
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Hans experiences his first air raid in November, and a burning building almost collapses on him.... (full context)
Part 8: The Bread Eaters
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1942 comes to an end, and Liesel spends most of her time thinking of Hans, Max, and Alex Steiner. She keeps reading The Whistler to Frau Holtzapfel, who starts acting... (full context)
Part 9: The Cardplayer
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Meanwhile, Hans and the men of the LSE are playing cards outside Essen. Hans keeps winning, and... (full context)
Part 9: The Ageless Brother
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...of her action. That night Liesel lies awake and imagines her mother, Werner, Max, and Hans all in the room. The next morning she watches Rosa hold the accordion and pray... (full context)
Part 9: The Accident
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The scene returns to the LSE. One day Reinhold Zucker takes Hans's seat in the truck just to start a conflict, but Hans lets him keep it.... (full context)
Part 9: The Bitter Taste of Questions
In February Liesel gets a letter from Hans describing his situation, and she and Rosa are ecstatic. Liesel tells the Steiners the news... (full context)
Part 9: Homecoming
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In April Hans is discharged from the hospital. He comes home at night and everyone is overjoyed, and... (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part I)
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...ultimate fates – Himmel Street will be bombed, and Death will come for Rudy, Rosa, Hans, Frau Holtzapfel, Frau Diller, and Tommy Müller, but not for Liesel. Liesel will survive because... (full context)
Part 10: The Ninety-Eighth Day
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...past leading up to the bombing – the Hubermanns enjoy ninety-seven days of contentment after Hans comes home. There are a few more parades of Jews, but Liesel does not see... (full context)
Part 10: Confessions
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Liesel silently goes to the train station to wait for Hans to return from work. Rudy fetches Rosa and they all wait together. Hans returns and... (full context)
Part 10: The Rib-Cage Planes
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...after that Liesel keeps writing. Sometimes she interjects the story with present actions, like describing Hans play the accordion, and how in some ways he is an accordion, breathing and moving... (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part II)
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...for Rudy, who seems especially tragic to Death. Then he comes for the Hubermanns, and Hans looks at him with his silvery eyes, unafraid. Rosa is still snoring, and Death reminds... (full context)
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...because none of the buildings are there. She carries her book with her, looking for Hans and Rosa and Max. Then she sees the broken accordion and starts to accept reality.... (full context)
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Next Liesel finds Rosa and Hans, and she repeats out loud her best memories, and she truly breaks down at the... (full context)
Epilogue: Death and Liesel
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...blue. As she died she saw her husband, three children, and three grandchildren, but also Hans, Rosa, Werner, and Rudy. (full context)
Epilogue: Wood in the Afternoon
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...the only survivor of Himmel Street, and she is taken to the police clinging to Hans's accordion. Three hours later the mayor gets her in a car, and Liesel sits in... (full context)