The Book Thief Important Characters

Liesel Meminger

Liesel is a little girl of 9 when Death first meets her. He has taken her brother's soul and is struck by the little girl and her mother. She becomes a book thief the day of her brother's funeral, when she spies a book called The Grave Digger's Handbook. Even though she could not read there was something about the thought of owning a book, a book which was at her brother's grave site which appealed to her.

Liesel is a girl of great stamina and tenacity, she doesn't give up, even when the odds are decidedly against her. An example of this, is the way she stood up to the boys on the playground at school, who were taunting her for not being able to read, instead of crying or running away, she stood up to them.

Liesel is also a loyal friend, as her friendship with Rudy and Max proves. She stands with Rudy as they rob the farmer and Rudy is almost caught. She keeps Max's secret and holds his hand as he is paraded through the streets of Molching.

Most of all Liesel needs and gives love to the Hubermanns, her foster parents. After being given up by her ailing mother, Liesel learns to love the irascible Rosa and the kind soft-hearted Hans. These are the people who help shape who she would become in years to come.

She shows her greatest stamina by getting up and facing the loss of not only her foster parents, but of everyone she knows and loves on Himmel Street. Himmel which we are told means Heaven, becomes a kind of hell for her, after the bombs wipe out everything and everyone she knows. But it becomes Heaven again, through her work with Rudy's father and her reunion with Max.

She might be a book thief, but she steals books to read not only to herself, but also to calm the nerves of the people in the bomb shelter with her. The books become her salvation, because they transport her to locations and time periods which she could not reach any other way.


Death is the narrator of the book; it is through his eyes that we witness the unfolding of the lives of the people on Himmel Street. Death doesn't like his work, but he knows it is his duty, so he keeps on taking souls with him. He tries to appreciate the colors of the world, they are his focus as he takes the souls, because he cannot stand to see the grief of the those left behind.

Death notices Liesel as she holds her brother while he dies. He sees her at various stages throughout her life and has enough interest in her to take her book. Liesel has written her life story called The Book Thief and on the night of the bombing, the book is swept up in the trash with the other debris. Death steps in and takes the book with him, reading it many times over the years. He tries to understand humans, especially one girl, who has gone through so much in her younger years.

Death is compassionate, as he kisses the young when he takes them or wraps others in blankets to keep them warm on their journey with him. Death in the end shows compassion towards Liesel, as he takes her old soul and gives her back the book he took so many years before.

Hans Hubermann

Hans is a kind silver-eyed man who shows great patience and compassion for a lonely little girl. He talks to her quietly and plays his accordion for her. He takes the time to teach her to read and enjoys her successes in learning with her.

Hans is also a man of his word, after he promises to help Erik Vandenburg's family in any way he can, he places his own family in danger by taking in Erik's son. He doesn't bat an eye at hiding a Jew in his home during the terror of the Nazi Party. He feels it is a debt of honor he owes Erik for saving his life. Erik's actions that day caused him to lose his life, while Hans is able to go on living.

Hans loves Rosa and is as patient with her as much as she is impatient with him. They love each other, but Rosa just has a unique way of showing love. In the end they die together in the home they built together to raise their two biological children and their foster daughter.

Rosa Hubermann

Rosa Hubermann is a woman who is angry with the world. She feels she has never been given her rightful due, which is intensified when her clothes washing business begins to fail due to the war.

Rosa makes everyone march to her tune. Her way of showing endearments is to call those she loves pigs and others assholes. She has a very colorful vocabulary and uses it to its fullest effect. No one crosses Rosa, except her neighbor Frau Holtzapfel and they mend their feud after Frau Holtzapfel asks to have Liesel read to her. Rosa also shows sympathy toward her when she loses her son to the war.

Liesel comes to love the demanding woman, because she knows beneath that gruff exterior lies a woman who just wants to be loved. Rosa doesn't know any other way to show her feelings for others than to call them names.

Rudy Steiner

Rudy is Liesel's best friend and her first love. Rudy is a very smart boy, who doesn't always know when to keep his opinions to himself. He is willing to go to bat for the underdog, such as he did for Tommy Müller at the Hitler Youth meetings. He tries to explain that Tommy has a hearing loss and therefore cannot hear the commands when the boys are marching, but instead of being listened to both he and Tommy are punished. He gladly runs extra laps with Tommy, to show his solidarity with his friend. In the end he manages, through his brother, to have both him and Tommy moved to a different division of the Hitler Youth group.

Rudy is true blue where it concerns Liesel, he helps her steal books from the mayor's house and he is there to retrieve her book from the river, after it is thrown in by a bully. All he ever wanted from Liesel is a kiss, which he got as he laid dead on Himmel Street after the bombing.

Rudy loves his family and he loves Liesel. Liesel realizes she too loves Rudy, but doesn't know how to tell him her feelings. Rudy dies too young, for a teenager with so much to contribute to the world.

Max Vandenburg

Max is the son of Erik Vandenburg, the man who saved Hans Hubermann's life. He is a German Jew who is only trying to survive, but he feels terrible guilt in leaving his mother and other family members behind in his quest for freedom. He knows there is a good chance they will end up in a concentration camp, but his friend Walter Kugler can only help Max escape.

Max is also dealing with more guilt, caused by putting the Hubermann family's lives at risk. He knows if he is caught in their home, then all of them would be sent to the concentration camp or killed immediately. He is truly thankful to them for risking so much for him and he feels sorry he is putting them in peril.

Max and Liesel form a friendship based on their love of the written word. Max writes and illustrates books for himself and Liesel, while Liesel derives joy from reading. Later after Max has left the home, she then begins to write her own story.

In the end Max and Liesel are reunited after the war is over, but eventually they go their own way. We do not know what in the end happens to Max, we can only hope he had the life he deserved.

Ilsa Hermann

Ilsa Hermann is the mayor of Molching's wife. She is the person who gave Liesel access to her library and at first the two of them had a good time being together. This ended the day Ilsa had to fire Rosa from her job as Ilsa's clothes washer. Liesel becomes very angry with her and tells her off, giving her back the book she has given Liesel.

She knew Liesel was stealing books from her, she wrote her a note telling her she knew. Liesel was not deterred, but she was surprised after Ilsa left her a dictionary and thesaurus, then later a plate of cookies. Liesel and Ilsa bond after Liesel destroys a book in the library in anger.

Ilsa visits Liesel to give her a journal and tells her not to punish herself for actions and circumstances she cannot control. Ilsa knows of what she speaks, because she has been punishing herself for the death of her son during World War I.

It is Ilsa and her husband who take Liesel in after she loses her foster parents. They treat her with kindness and try to help her through that terrible time.

Ilsa is a woman, who through Liesel begins to finally cope with the loss of her son.

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