The Book Thief

The Book Thief

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 ugly. As World War II continues and he must collect so many souls, he grows weary with his work.

Death Quotes in The Book Thief

The The Book Thief quotes below are all either spoken by Death or refer to Death. 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.
Prologue: The Flag Quotes

Yes, often, I am reminded of her, and in one of my vast array of pockets, I have kept her story to retell. It is one of the small legion I carry, each one extraordinary in its own right. Each one an attempt – an immense leap of an attempt – to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 14-15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1: Growing Up a Saumensch Quotes

All told, she owned fourteen books, but she saw her story as being made up predominantly of ten of them. Of those ten, six were stolen, one showed up at the kitchen table, two were made for her by a hidden Jew, and one was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon.
When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger, Max Vandenburg
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 1: The Other Side of Sandpaper Quotes

As for the girl, there was a sudden desire to read it that she didn't even attempt to understand. On some level, perhaps she wanted to make sure her brother was buried right. Whatever the reason, her hunger to read that book was as intense as any ten-year-old human could experience.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Part 2: A Girl Made of Darkness Quotes

You see, people may tell you that Nazi Germany was built on anti-Semitism, a somewhat overzealous leader, and a nation of hate-fed bigots, but it would all have come to nothing had the Germans not loved one particular activity:
To burn.
The Germans loved to burn things. Shops, synagogues, Reichstags, houses, personal items, slain people, and of course, books.

Related Characters: Death (speaker)
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2: 100 Percent Pure German Sweat Quotes

Although something inside told her that this was a crime – after all, her three books were the most precious items she owned – she was compelled to see the thing lit. She couldn't help it. I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3: The Mayor's Library Quotes

Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see the paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3: The Struggler, Continued Quotes

For most of the journey, he made his way through the book, trying never to look up.
The words lolled about in his mouth as he read them.
Strangely, as he turned the pages and progressed through the chapters, it was only two words he ever tasted.
Mein Kampf. My struggle –
The title, over and over again, as the train prattled on, from one German town to the next.
Mein Kampf.
Of all the things to save him.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Max Vandenburg
Related Symbols: Mein Kampf
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 4: A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter Quotes

With the rest of them, he stood around the bed and watched the man die – a safe merge, from life to death. The light in the window was gray and orange…

"When death captures me," the boy vowed, "he will feel my fist on his face."

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Max Vandenburg (speaker)
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 4: Pages from the Basement Quotes

During that week, Max had cut out a collection of pages from Mein Kampf and painted over them in white… When they were all dry, the hard part began… he formulated the words in his head till he could recount them without error. Only then, on the paper that had bubbled and humped under the stress of drying paint, did he begin to write the story.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Max Vandenburg
Related Symbols: Mein Kampf
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 5: The Gambler (A Seven-Sided Die) Quotes

Liesel, however, did not buckle. She sprayed her words directly into the woman's eyes.
"You and your husband. Sitting up here." Now she became spiteful. More spiteful and evil than she thought herself capable.
The injury of words.
Yes, the brutality of words.

Related Characters: Liesel Meminger (speaker), Death (speaker), Ilsa Hermann
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Part 6: Death's Diary: The Parisians Quotes

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words… I watched the sky as it turned from silver to gray to the color of rain. Even the clouds were trying to get away.

Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond, and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye.

They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.

Related Characters: Death (speaker)
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 7: The Sky Stealer Quotes

She didn't dare look up, but she could feel their frightened eyes hanging on to her as she hauled the words in and breathed them out. A voice played the notes inside her. This, it said, is your accordion.
The sound of the turning page carved them in half.
Liesel read on.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Related Symbols: The Accordion
Page Number: 381
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Part 8: The Hidden Sketchbook Quotes

Yes, the Führer decided that he would rule the world with words. "I will never fire a gun," he devised. "I will not have to."

Related Characters: Death (speaker)
Page Number: 445
Explanation and Analysis:

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The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words.
That's why she could climb higher than anyone else. She had desire. She was hungry for them.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 446
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 9: The Snows of Stalingrad Quotes

The brother shivers.
The woman weeps.
And the girl goes on reading, for that's why she's there, and it feels good to be good for something in the aftermath of the snows of Stalingrad.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Frau Holtzapfel, Michael Holtzapfel
Page Number: 471
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 9: One Toolbox, One Bleeder, One Bear Quotes

The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.

Related Characters: Death (speaker)
Page Number: 491
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 10: The Ninety-Eighth Day Quotes

It was explained to me that in the end, Michael Holtzapfel was worn down not by his damaged hand or any other injury, but by the guilt of living.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Michael Holtzapfel
Page Number: 503
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 10: Ilsa Hermann's Little Black Book Quotes

The sun stirs the earth. Around and around, it stirs us, like stew
On Munich Street, she remembered the events of the previous week there. She saw the Jews coming down the road, their streams and numbers and pain. She decided there was a word missing from her quote.
The world is an ugly stew, she thought.
It's so ugly I can't stand it.

Related Characters: Liesel Meminger (speaker), Death (speaker)
Page Number: 519
Explanation and Analysis:

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She tore a page from the book and ripped it in half.
Then a chapter.
Soon, there was nothing but scraps of words littered between her legs and all around her. The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Führer was nothing…
What good were the words?

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 521
Explanation and Analysis:

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Epilogue: The Handover Man Quotes

I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.

Related Characters: Death (speaker), Liesel Meminger
Page Number: 550
Explanation and Analysis:

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Death Character Timeline in The Book Thief

The timeline below shows where the character Death appears in The Book Thief. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: Death and Chocolate
Death Theme Icon
Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
The narrator, Death, explains that he has a fair and sympathetic nature, and he carries away souls as... (full context)
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Death explains that it is the humans that survive – that are left behind when others... (full context)
Prologue: Beside the Railway Line
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Color, Beauty, and Ugliness Theme Icon
Death associates his first encounter with the book thief with the color white. The scene occurs... (full context)
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Death explains that he made a mistake and allowed himself to become interested in the girl.... (full context)
Prologue: The Eclipse
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Death associates the next scene with the color black. It is night, and there is a... (full context)
Prologue: The Flag
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Death thinks of the color red for his last encounter with the book thief. Bombs have... (full context)
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Words and Language Theme Icon
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Death associates the book thief with a full spectrum of colors, but mostly with the colors... (full context)
Part 1: Arrival on Himmel Street
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Death returns to the first, "white" scene of the train in the snow. A woman is... (full context)
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...the light." Liesel greets him like a friend, but then she wakes up and sees Death as he takes her brother's soul. The train stops and Liesel and her mother carry... (full context)
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Death continues to narrate, though he is no longer an eyewitness. Liesel and her mother board... (full context)
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...to Himmel Street, where her new family, the Hubermanns, live. "Himmel" means "heaven" in German. Death muses over the irony of this, as Himmel Street is in a poor, shabby part... (full context)
Part 1: Growing Up a Saumensch
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Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Death mentions a few details about characters and events that will come up later in the... (full context)
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...long time teaching Liesel how to roll a cigarette, which puts her more at ease. Death gives a few facts about Hans: he is a house painter, plays the accordion, and... (full context)
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Death then describes Rosa: she does washing and ironing for a few wealthy families, is a... (full context)
Part 1: The Kiss (A Childhood Decision Maker)
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Death introduces some of the other characters that live on Himmel Street: the Nazi-supporting Frau Diller,... (full context)
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Death gives some facts about Rudy: he is blond, blue-eyed, and always hungry. People think he... (full context)
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Rudy starts to spend time with Liesel at school too, and Death implies that he is already in love with her. One day the two children taunt... (full context)
Part 1: The Jesse Owens Incident
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Death begins to tell the story of the "Jesse Owens Incident," which occurred before Liesel's arrival... (full context)
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Death explains the politics of Alex Steiner, who is a member of the Nazi Party but... (full context)
Part 1: The Other Side of Sandpaper
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Death then describes a similarly defining incident for Liesel. One day in May there is a... (full context)
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...but she says she wants to learn to read it. Hans decides to teach her. Death remarks on how lucky it was that Hans found the book first instead of Rosa,... (full context)
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...on "S" until she thinks of saumensch. Hans draws a stick figure of Liesel, which Death recreates. They say goodnight and Liesel lies awake, thinking of words. (full context)
Part 2: A Girl Made of Darkness
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Death explains that this will be the story of the book thief's second crime, more than... (full context)
Part 2: The Joy of Cigarettes
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...at last. When they are done Hans points out the colors of the sky, which Death admires him for. Liesel finally reveals her brother's name, Werner, to Hans. (full context)
Part 2: Hitler's Birthday, 1940
Death Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Part 3: The Mayor's Library
Death Theme Icon
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
...is relieved, and thinks that maybe Frau Hermann didn't see her stealing after all (though Death assures the reader this is not the case). (full context)
Part 3: Enter the Struggler
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Death changes the setting of the story to a storage room in Stuttgart, Germany. There is... (full context)
Part 3: The Attributes of Summer
Words and Language Theme Icon
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...library. She won't let Rudy walk with her, and they curse at each other (which Death says is a sign of their love). In the mayor's library Liesel gets to sit... (full context)
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...Hermann finally speaks and says he was her son, who died during World War I. Death reveals that since her son died, Ilsa Hermann has made herself suffer by enduring the... (full context)
Part 4: The Accordionist (The Secret Life of Hans Hubermann)
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Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
Max stands in the kitchen and asks Hans if he still plays the accordion. Then Death brings the story back to World War I, when Hans was fighting in France. He... (full context)
Part 4: A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter
Death Theme Icon
...was disappointed by how submissive he seemed. Max vowed to fight till the end, which Death can't help admiring. (full context)
Part 4: Liesel's Lecture
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Death emphasizes the danger of the situation in the Hubermann household now. Max sleeps in Liesel's... (full context)
Part 4: Pages from the Basement
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The Standover Man has both words and pictures, and Death recreates it exactly in the text. In his book Max is a bird, the story... (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... (full context)
Part 5: The Gambler (A Seven-Sided Die)
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Death apologizes for spoiling the ending, but he says he has little interest in mystery. Now... (full context)
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Death reveals that the die they have been rolling is actually seven-sided, and this last side... (full context)
Part 5: Sketches
Death Theme Icon
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...comes downstairs and finds Max asleep, and she looks at two pages of his book. Death recreates a picture of Hitler "conducting" a crowd in song with the heil salute, and... (full context)
Part 5: Three Acts of Stupidity by Rudy Steiner
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Death lists the three stupid acts and then goes on to describe them. The first involves... (full context)
Part 5: The Floating Book (Part II)
Death Theme Icon
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...victory, so he lingers in the freezing water. He asks Liesel for a kiss, but Death thinks he is also afraid of her kiss because he loves her so much. Death... (full context)
Part 6: Death's Diary: 1942
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Death describes himself a little; he doesn't carry a scythe, or wear a black robe unless... (full context)
Part 6: Thirteen Presents
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Liesel sits and talks to Max, but he keeps sleeping for days. Death visits Himmel Street, but he doesn't take Max's struggling soul, and he doesn't see Liesel.... (full context)
Part 6: Fresh Air, an Old Nightmare, and what to do with a Jewish Corpse
Words and Language Theme Icon
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...of her own nightmares and Max's. Liesel and Rudy ride away on their bikes, and Death implies that Ilsa left the window open on purpose, hoping that Liesel would return. (full context)
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...bed a few more days, and then returns to the basement. Liesel is happy, but Death knows that bombs are coming soon. (full context)
Part 6: Death's Diary: Cologne
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Death describes the Allies' bombing of Cologne, Germany, and the five hundred souls he gathered up.... (full context)
Part 6: Death's Diary: The Parisians
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Death describes the sky as "the color of Jews," and he sadly talks about the souls... (full context)
Part 7: Champagne and Accordions
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...could never play like her Papa. This is the best period of Liesel's life, but Death warns that the bombers are coming. (full context)
Part 7: The Trilogy
Stealing and Giving Theme Icon
The carnival begins and Rudy wins the first race by a huge margin. Death points out that Rudy is now both talented at school and athletics. Rudy wins the... (full context)
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Books Theme Icon
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...Max to his sketchbook and Liesel to The Dream Carrier. After she finishes the book Death jumps ahead to her next stealing endeavor, as she is alone in the mayor's library.... (full context)
Part 7: The Sound of Sirens
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Death muses on the lives of these people, and wonders whether they deserve pity or deserve... (full context)
Part 7: The Long Walk to Dachau
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The group of Jews passes down Munich Street, and Death sees them as a procession of death-colors. Each of them is starved and despairing. The... (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... (full context)
Part 8: Dominos and Darkness
Death Theme Icon
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...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 his son. Death wonders what would... (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... (full context)
Part 8: The Hidden Sketchbook
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The second part of the book is an illustrated fable called The Word Shaker, and Death recreates the pages. The story begins with Hitler discovering the power of words, and then... (full context)
Part 9: The Cardplayer
Death Theme Icon
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...the cigarettes he won with the other men. Reinhold despises him for his charity, and Death implies this will lead to Reinhold's end. (full context)
Part 9: The Snows of Stalingrad
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Liesel returns to Frau Holtzapfel's house to find her sitting in a state of shock. Death describes how her son, Robert, died by having is legs blown off and then suffering... (full context)
Part 9: One Toolbox, One Bleeder, One Bear
Death Theme Icon
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...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 Rudy and they survey the fire,... (full context)
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Death takes the pilot's soul and he sees the sky eclipse with the shape of a... (full context)
Part 9: Homecoming
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...he sits with Liesel while she sleeps. Liesel enjoys three months of happiness then, but Death forebodes that it will not last. (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part I)
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Death gives another glimpse of the character's ultimate fates – Himmel Street will be bombed, and... (full context)
Part 10: The War Maker
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...the funeral for Michael Holtzapfel, Liesel reads The Dream Carrier to Frau Holtzapfel as usual. Death describes how busy he is with the Allies' bombing of Hamburg. Hitler is starting to... (full context)
Part 10: Confessions
Death Theme Icon
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...kiss her then, and she realizes she has always loved him, but again nothing happens. Death says Rudy has a month to live. (full context)
Part 10: Ilsa Hermann's Little Black Book
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Death explains that Ilsa has given Liesel not just a book, but a reason to see... (full context)
Part 10: The Rib-Cage Planes
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Liesel is finished with her book by the time Death comes for Himmel Street, but she is still in the basement. Death wonders what she... (full context)
Part 10: The End of the World (Part II)
Death Theme Icon
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...time, and most of the residents of Himmel Street are sleeping when the bombs fall. Death describes how he takes the souls of Tommy Müller, Frau Holtzapfel, Frau Diller, the Fiedlers,... (full context)
Death Theme Icon
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...she'll never drink champagne again. The men from the LSE take her away then, and Death sees The Book Thief in the rubble. He rescues it as it is thrown into... (full context)
Epilogue: Death and Liesel
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Death describes the world as a factory run by humans, and his job is to carry... (full context)
Epilogue: Max
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After the war, after Death has come for Hitler, Alex Steiner reopens his shop and Liesel starts to spend a... (full context)
Epilogue: The Handover Man
Death resumes his musings. There are a few stories that he collects to distract himself from... (full context)