The story returns to the 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 Max among them. On the ninety-eighth day, however, Michael Holtzapfel hangs himself. Death explains that he killed himself because he felt guilty for living. Michael leaves a suicide note asking his mother's forgiveness, and saying he will be with his brother Robert soon. The neighbors elect Hans to tell Frau Holtzapfel the news, and when she hears she lies down in the street and screams, and Hans sits with her.
Many characters have dealt with survivor's guilt throughout the novel – Hans with his debt to Erik Vandenburg, Liesel with her nightmares of Werner, and Max with his guilt for leaving his family – but this guilt finally overcomes and destroys Michael Holtzapfel. He feels he doesn't deserve to survive, as his brother died only because of random chance, so why should Michael be rewarded when Robert was punished? And so Michael kills himself.