Student Name: Kasia balls
Text Title: The Book Thief
Author/Director: Markus Zusak/ Brian Percival
Text Type (circle): Visual Text
Date Finished: 17/10/18
“The Book Thief” is a film based on a young girl’s life in Germany in the era of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Liesel is a 9-year-old, who has been given up by her communist mother and has to live with a foster family (Rosa and Hans) in the small town of Molching in Germany. Hans can’t get work because he refuses to join the Nazi Party.
Because of a promise made to his family, Hans and Rosa take in a young Jewish man, Max and hide him from the Nazis.
The story is shown from the perspective of Death, whose voice we hear at certain points in the film and who follows Liesel through her life.
In the film, the themes that we are shown frequently are symbolism, love of a mother, secrets, and death.
Firstly symbolism is a major theme shown quite often, for example, the uniforms of the Hitler Youth that the children must wear, and the uniforms of the soldiers. Also, the swastika flags that everyone must display or carry in the parade to show respect for Hitler. Rosa is worried when they can’t find their flag, as they are already suspect because Hans hasn’t joined the Party.
Mothers and their love for their children is a reoccurring theme. Max and Liesls mothers protected them by sending them away from harm. The Burgermeisters wife doesn’t give hope that her son could still be alive because his body was never found “A mother never gives up”. Rosa comes to love Liesl and Max as if they were her own children to protect. Max and Liesl joke about Hitler and whether his mother can love him too, and imagine her telling him off as if he is a little boy.
Another reoccurring theme is secrets. Liesl doesn’t know why her mother can’t look after her. She doesn’t realise her mother is a communist and is in danger from the Nazis. Liesl secretly steals a book at her brother’s funeral, and again after the town’s bonfire and burning all books that are “against German morality”. Liesl stays behind alone to watch it all burn to ashes, however, one book was still unburned she decided to steal it without anyone knowing or she could be punished. She also ‘borrows’ books from the Burgermeister’s library.
Liesel must keep the secret about Max hiding down in their basement and not tell anyone even Rudy her best friend or the Nazis will take Max away and kill him. Rosa is especially worried about whether Liesl can be trusted to keep quiet, as the whole family would be in danger.
Everyone in Germany at the time had to be good at keeping secrets, they didn’t know which of their neighbours might report them if they showed any disloyalty to Hitler. People such as Franz Deutscher, who would have reported Liesl, Max or her friend Rudi without any hesitation.
Death appears every now and then to talk us through the most emotional parts of the film, at the brothers funeral, when the war starts, during bombing raids, “No-one was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me” and when Liesl’s street is hit he describes how many of her neighbours and friends die “I stole the meaness from Franz Deutschers heart”. He brings the film to a close telling us of Liesl life, her large family and finally her death at an old age.
In the real world it is incredibly difficult to stand up to and point out wrongs, especially when it involves confronting authority or putting yourself and your family in danger. In Germany in the era of Hitler, it wasn’t only Jewish people that he was oppressing, it was also political opponents and anyone that didn’t agree or fit with the Nazi beliefs or ideals. If you were suspect all your general rights such as work would be denied this would affect the whole family as no money would lay food on the table anymore.
Many people that lived during this time or had family that suffered from this must despair when they see similar discrimination still occurring in today’s society, for example, because of their race, religion or the country they came from.
People who lead countries have a huge amount of power. This power can sometimes be misused, abused and cause people to suffer and this is what happened during Hitler’s reign, other examples of this occurring in this day in age is in North Korea.
We all need to ensure that democracy is protected, that everyone is treated equally and fairly, where each adult in a society is able to have an equal say.
This film has been set in the days before social media and television etc. when all information was shown on the radio or in newspapers, but this was all controlled by the Nazis and the government. The people of Germany only saw what they were being allowed to see. In this century it seems as this could never happen with all our accessibility to technology however in countries like North Korea the access to social media etc. are still being controlled and they may have little or no true knowledge of the real world.
A quote by Death shows how confused he is by human nature “In my job I am always finding humans at their best and their worst. I see their ugliness and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both’. Everywhere in the world, you see the same mix of people, some are kind and compassionate, others are violent and prejudiced. But everyone has elements of each, none are perfect and nor are they entirely bad.
I can say that can connect with this film on a personal level, I have had family that has gone through very similar situations as Liesl in Germany. My grandma (Oma) grew up during the era of the Nazis and Hitler was a similar age to Leisl during the war and had a younger brother. Both of them were forced to join the Hitler youth, in those days very few children did not join as they would end up being targeted by anyone who followed Hitler. Children who grew up in those days in a Nazi-dominated society were taught that Hitler was godlike, the war was the answer, Jews and communist were to blame for many of Germanys problems.
When Oma was growing up in Germany she had an auntie who had mild down syndrome and was living a happy life with her family. Because of Hitler’s policies and rules, her family was forcefully persuaded to put Oma’s auntie in a home to be with people similar to her. Within 6 months Oma’s auntie died as did so many others like her. The authorities told the family she died because of a disease outbreak, but still today my grandma believes different.
Having had family that has gone through the time of Hitler’s rule I know that it is very hard to put aside everything you have been taught as a child. When Germany lost the war and the allies took power over different parts of the country, the Germans and the children that had grown up during this time were told that everything they were taught, everything they ever knew from Hitler and the Nazis was not only wrong but evil.
A clever technique used from the beginning is the use of German language and actors. It gives a real sense of place and time. All the singing and swearing is in German.
Another is the contrast between beauty and violence. When the Nazis are smashing windows and dragging Jews from their homes on Kristall Nacht, there is a chorus of children singing in the background, providing a sweet sound against the action we are watching. Again on Hitlers birthday, the crowd are singing as books are being thrown onto the fire. Hans plays the accordion in the air raid shelter as bombs are falling outside.
Using Death as a commentator is very effective. It’s very hard not to feel emotional when Death starts speaking. You can feel that something tragic is about to happen. You know what Death represents and his somber voice add to a feeling of dread. Especially as you have grown to know the characters and their stories.