Death associates his first encounter with the book thief with the color white. The scene occurs next to a train track, and everything is covered in snow. There is a mother, a girl, and the corpse of a little boy outside in the snow, next to a stopped train. Two angry guards make them carry the body back onto the train and keep going.
Death outlines the story before he begins to tell it – there is a lot of foreshadowing in the novel, which resonates with looming Death himself. This also creates a different kind of suspense for the reader, as they wonder not about what happens but rather how the scene arrives to the foreshadowed conclusion.
Death explains that he made a mistake and allowed himself to become interested in the girl. When the family leaves the train Death takes away the boy's soul, but then he hesitates and watches the book thief (the little girl), whose tears are frozen to her face.
This scene establishes the "specialness" of the book thief, as Death takes an immediate interest in her. The introduction of the scene with "whiteness" begins the theme of associating moments with colors.