The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief Part 2: Hitler's Birthday, 1940 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Everyone in Molching is preparing to celebrate Hitler's birthday, where there will be parades and a book burning. Nazi Party members come by and ask if anyone has any material to donate to the fire. Everything gets gathered up to burn for Hitler's glory.
The Nazis recognize the power of words as well – they understand that language that contradicts their propaganda is dangerous. Words take physical form again, as something that can burn.
Themes
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
On the birthday, April 20, the Hubermanns can't find their Nazi flag at first, and Rosa fears that they will be taken away. Finally they find it and pin it up. Both the Hubermann children are at home for 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 had been called "the Jew painter" because he was willing to paint over slurs on Jewish houses. Hans Junior asks if his father has joined the Party yet, but Hans says he hasn't been let in.
Again Hans's kindness and humanity is seen as a crime in Nazi society. He helps his neighbor against acts of hatred, and because of this is spurned by the ruling Party. Hans Junior is shown as the kind of German that buys into Hitler's beliefs and toes the party line. It is all the more ominous to see these beliefs in a real human, the child of such a kind man as Hans.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Hans Junior and Hans start to argue, and Hans Junior calls Liesel's books "trash" – she should be reading Mein Kampf instead. Hans Junior keeps arguing and finally calls his father a coward and storms out. Death explains that he will later die fighting the Soviets at Stalingrad. In the house everyone is shocked and quiet, and Hans wonders if he is actually a coward. Liesel puts on her Hitler Youth uniform to get ready for the bonfire.
Books begin to take on another importance here – Liesel is unwittingly being subversive just by reading things that aren't Nazi propaganda. Hans is accused of being a coward, but it is clear that he is actually the brave one for resisting the Nazi beliefs of the majority. Mein Kampf, Hitler's autobiography, is mentioned for the first time.
Themes
Death Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Books Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon