The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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Rudy Steiner Character Analysis

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 student and athlete, but Rudy hates the Hitler Youth and ultimately Hitler himself. He becomes Liesel's partner in their adventures of both crime and charity.

Rudy Steiner Quotes in The Book Thief

The The Book Thief quotes below are all either spoken by Rudy Steiner or refer to Rudy Steiner. 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 5: The Whistler and the Shoes Quotes

He laughed. "Good night, book thief."
It was the first time Liesel had been branded with her title, and she couldn't hide the fact that she liked it very much. As we're both aware, she'd stolen books previously, but in late October 1941, it became official. That night, Liesel Meminger truly became the book thief.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Rudy Steiner (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

Rudy is by now well aware that Liesel steals books form Ilsa's library. He seems to understand that Liesel steals these books because of her love for literature, and because she wants to prove to herself that she's adult enough to take matters into her own hands, whether or not Ilsa Hermann allows her in the library.

The passage is interesting because it suggests that words become most "real" when two people share them. Ilsa had already stolen several books, but strangely, it's not until Rudy gives her the title "Book Thief" that she begins to think of herself as one.

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Part 5: The Floating Book (Part II) Quotes

In truth, I think he was afraid. Rudy Steiner was scared of the book thief's kiss. He must have longed for it so much. He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Rudy Steiner
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Rudy Steiner does something recklessly brave: after Viktor Chemmel throws Liesel's book into the cold water of the river, Rudy jumps in and saves it from destruction. After achieving his goal, Rudy asks Liesel for a kiss. As he's done so many times before, it's here that Death notes the truth: Rudy loves Liesel desperately, to the point that he is frightened that she might kiss him back.

Death doesn't give many details about the seemingly contradictory nature of this sentiment--instead, he encourages us to respect Rudy's feelings, even if we can't understand them entirely. Rudy is an almost noble character because of the sacrifices he's willing to make for Liesel (he risks his life and ends up in cold water here, after all). Rudy is brave but also nervous--the juxtaposition of Rudy's brave decision to jump into the river and his fear of Liesel's kiss makes us understand how deeply he must love her.

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Rudy Steiner Character Timeline in The Book Thief

The timeline below shows where the character Rudy Steiner appears in The Book Thief. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: The Kiss (A Childhood Decision Maker)
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...Everyone on the street is generally poor. Next door is the Steiner family whose son Rudy is obsessed with the American athlete Jesse Owens. He is to become Liesel's best friend. (full context)
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...soccer. Liesel has to play goalie (the goal is two trashcans) because she is new. Rudy (who is the best player) gets a penalty kick against Liesel, but she blocks it.... (full context)
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Death gives some facts about Rudy: he is blond, blue-eyed, and always hungry. People think he is crazy because of "The... (full context)
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Rudy starts to spend time with Liesel at school too, and Death implies that he is... (full context)
Part 1: The Jesse Owens Incident
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...Hitler's Germany. Everyone in Germany was amazed at the great African-American athlete Jesse Owens, but Rudy had a special fascination with him. One night Rudy snuck out and covered himself completely... (full context)
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...is most concerned with doing what's best for his family. Alex tries to explain to Rudy that he shouldn't want to be like black or Jewish people; he should be pleased... (full context)
Part 1: The Heavyweight Champion of the School-Yard
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...and takes her into the hall for a watschen, while all the other children except Rudy laugh. (full context)
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On the way home with Rudy, Liesel is suddenly struck by despair and she crouches in a gutter, crying for her... (full context)
Part 2: The Joy of Cigarettes
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...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 achieving happiness, and part... (full context)
Part 3: The Mayor's Library
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Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
...that no one is home at the mayor's house, but Rosa makes her go back. Rudy accompanies Liesel, confused at her hesitation. Finally she knocks, dreading what is to come, but... (full context)
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The next time Liesel goes without Rudy, though, and Frau Hermann makes her wait. Then she returns with a stack of books,... (full context)
Part 3: The Attributes of Summer
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...a Jew as a protagonist. Liesel also returns to the mayor's library. She won't let Rudy walk with her, and they curse at each other (which Death says is a sign... (full context)
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
...soccer on Himmel Street and Tommy Müller finally stops being afraid of her. Liesel and Rudy start stealing together as well – the war rations are low (all they have is... (full context)
Part 3: The Aryan Shopkeeper
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One day in August Rudy and Liesel find a coin on the ground, and they take it to Frau Diller's... (full context)
Part 3: Tricksters
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Rosa loses another customer, and Liesel and Rudy go on a few more stealing exploits with their gang. One day the two decide... (full context)
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Liesel and Rudy go stealing again with Arthur Berg's gang, but this time Rudy gets stuck on the... (full context)
Part 4: The Swapping of Nightmares
Death Theme Icon
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...at dealing with such a crisis. Another customer cancels, but Liesel keeps hanging out with Rudy and reading in mayor's library. She is especially drawn to one book called The Whistler,... (full context)
Part 5: The Floating Book (Part 1)
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Death describes a future scene with Rudy, where he is diving into the cold Amper River to fetch a book, and then... (full context)
Part 5: Rudy's Youth
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Meanwhile Rudy has been going to Hitler Youth meetings, which haven't worked out well. His problems are... (full context)
Part 5: The Losers
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Liesel and Rudy return to apple-thieving, but the old gang has a rich, charismatic new leader named Viktor... (full context)
Part 5: The Whistler and the Shoes
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Max, Liesel, and Rudy continue their respective activities into the fall, but change comes when Franz Deutscher makes Rudy... (full context)
Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
On their fifth visit the window is open, and Liesel decides to go in. Rudy thinks they are trying to steal food, but Liesel secretly just wants The Whistler. Stealing... (full context)
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Liesel goes through the window and looks for The Whistler. Rudy sees a light go on in the house and warns her, and Liesel grabs The... (full context)
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On their way home Liesel describes The Whistler and defends Rosa when Rudy implies she might get angry at Liesel. They reminisce about their times with Arthur Berg,... (full context)
Part 5: Three Acts of Stupidity by Rudy Steiner
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Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
...lists the three stupid acts and then goes on to describe them. The first involves Rudy stealing a potato from a grocer's, but he steals the largest potato so several people... (full context)
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Rudy's second mistake begins with him taunting Franz Deutscher at a Hitler Youth meeting, as Rudy... (full context)
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Rudy's last mistake is skipping the Hitler Youth meetings altogether. After a few more weeks of... (full context)
Part 5: The Floating Book (Part II)
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One day in December Rudy and Liesel (who is carrying The Whistler) take a back way to avoid Franz Deutscher,... (full context)
Part 6: Fresh Air, an Old Nightmare, and what to do with a Jewish Corpse
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One day Rudy and Liesel are by the Amper River when Liesel decides she wants to steal another... (full context)
Part 6: The Visitor
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...is terrified, and she crashes into another boy to have an excuse to go home. Rudy insists on helping her, so Liesel makes him fetch Hans. Liesel tells her Papa what... (full context)
Part 6: The Schmunzeler
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There is another knock at the door, but this time it's only Rudy checking on Liesel. He lingers at the door asking questions and makes Liesel nervous, but... (full context)
Part 7: The Trilogy
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While Liesel is working, Rudy trains for an upcoming Hitler Youth carnival. He wants to win gold medals in four... (full context)
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The carnival begins and Rudy wins the first race by a huge margin. Death points out that Rudy is now... (full context)
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That night Liesel tells Max about Rudy and then they both go back to their projects: Max to his sketchbook and Liesel... (full context)
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A week later, Rudy brings Liesel back up to Grande Strasse (the mayor's street) and they see that there... (full context)
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Liesel and Rudy stop at the bridge and open the book, and inside is a note for Liesel... (full context)
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Liesel makes Rudy wait and she returns to the mayor's house. She tries to knock on the door,... (full context)
Part 7: The Long Walk to Dachau
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Liesel and Rudy help up Hans. Most of the crowd calls him a "Jew lover" and they upturn... (full context)
Part 7: The Idiot and the Coat Men
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...for him. Instead the Gestapo walk past, to the Steiner house, and they ask for Rudy. (full context)
Part 8: Dominos and Darkness
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Rudy sets up lines of dominoes with his siblings while his parents talk to the Gestapo... (full context)
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...Gestapo leave, the Steiner children come into the kitchen and ask what will happen to Rudy. Alex Steiner looks desperate and Death implies that he has refused to let them take... (full context)
Part 8: The Thought of Rudy Naked
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Death describes Rudy's experience of a week before, when he was taken out of class and medically examined.... (full context)
Part 8: Punishment
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...also grieving next door, as Alex Steiner has been drafted as punishment for not letting Rudy go away to Nazi school. (full context)
Part 8: The Promise Keeper's Wife
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Alex Steiner leaves four days later, and both Rudy and Liesel are depressed. After a few days Rudy asks Liesel to follow him somewhere,... (full context)
Part 8: The Bread Eaters
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At the next parade of Jews, Rudy and Liesel ride their bikes ahead of it, scattering some bread in the road and... (full context)
Part 8: The Anarchist's Suit Collection
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On Christmas Eve Liesel decides to give Rudy a present, so she goes with him and they break into Alex Steiner's shop. She... (full context)
Part 9: The Next Temptation
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Liesel and Rudy return to the mayor's house to steal a book, but this time Frau Hermann has... (full context)
Part 9: The Bitter Taste of Questions
...Liesel tells the Steiners the news and they are also pleased, but Liesel can tell Rudy wonders why Hans Hubermann got so lucky and Alex Steiner didn't. (full context)
Part 9: One Toolbox, One Bleeder, One Bear
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Rudy's anger at the world keeps growing and he gathers a toolbox of things to help... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
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...everyone emerges from the shelter, someone points out a crashed plane near the Amper River. Rudy runs towards it even as Death himself comes for the pilot. Liesel catches up with... (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part I)
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...the character's 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... (full context)
Part 10: Way of the Words
Death Theme Icon
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...whipped again until he falls to the ground, and the soldier whips Liesel several times. Rudy finds her and helps her away, while the rest of the crowd watches in shock. (full context)
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...on with the rest of the prisoners and Liesel tries to follow him again, but Rudy tackles her and pins her to the ground. She cries and punches him, but then... (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 that night he plays the... (full context)
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When she finally gets up, Liesel finds Rudy and tells him about Max after making him promise many times to keep it a... (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part II)
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...Müller, Frau Holtzapfel, Frau Diller, the Fiedlers, Pfiffikus, and the Steiners. He especially grieves for Rudy, who seems especially tragic to Death. Then he comes for the Hubermanns, and Hans looks... (full context)
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...and Max. Then she sees the broken accordion and starts to accept reality. She sees Rudy's body, and she drops her book and runs to him. She tells him she loves... (full context)
Epilogue: Death and Liesel
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...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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...bombings still connects her to the victims. Later she walks into the Amper River where Rudy rescued her book, saying another goodbye to her best friend. (full context)
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...nothing but rubble. Alex Steiner returns home from the war and wishes he had sent Rudy away to the Nazi school. Liesel tells him about how she kissed Rudy's body. (full context)