A brief introduction to the characters of The Book Thief
Liesel Meminger- Liesel is the main character of The Book Thief. Both of Liesel’s parents were communist and living in Nazi Germany. To try to save Liesel and her brother from Hitler’s wrath they give her ans her brother to the Hubermann family, who lived on Himmel Street. Sadly, on the train ride to the Hubermann’s Liesel’s brother dies. Liesel is the main character in the book because she is constantly stealing books to satisfy her hunger to read, giving the novel its title. When Liesel finally arrives, she meets the kind Hans Hubermann, and his wife, Rosa Hubermann who is quite strict. Throughout the book, Liesel’s personality slowly changes from rough and tough to kind and caring Liesel lives with the Hubermann’s until their untimely death during a bombing.
Hans Hubermann- Hans Hubermann is the foster father of Liesel Meminger. Hans makes a humble living as a painter and he is an avid smoker. He is a very gentle person who cares deeply for others. The first night at the Hubermann’s house Liesel refuses to take a bath; this incurs the wrath of Rosa who does her best to get Liesel to shower with constant verbal and physical abuse. Hans hearing this tells Rosa to leave her alone. When Rosa leaves, Hans enters and teaches Liesel how to roll a cigarette. This is the start of a long and beautiful relationship between Liesel and Hans. Throughout the story, Hans becomes the person Liesel trusts and loves the most. Hans will also be the one who later teaches Liesel to read and write, two skills that will save her life.
Rosa Hubermann-Rosa Hubermann is the wife of Hans Hubermann and the foster mother of Liesel Meminger. Rosa is the complete opposite of Hans. Hans is easy going and kind, where as Rosa is strict, harsh and cruel. Rosa wants everyone in her house to do things the way she wants them to be done. She accomplishes this through fear, harsh words, and the occasional beating. However, under Rosa’s harsh exterior there is a caring parent who just wants the best for Liesel. This kindness is very rare but it is there, and it shows itself a few times throughout the course of The Book Thief.
Rudy Steiner- Rudy is Liesel’s neighbor; he is also one of six children in his household. A few weeks after Liesel arrives, she plays a soccer game with the some of the neighborhood kids, including Rudy. Being the new kid she is forced to play goalie for her team. When Rudy gets a penalty kick on her and she blocks it, breaking an eighteen penalty kick streak he throws a snowball in her face. That snowball kick starts there long and strong friendship. Soon after this, the reader discovers that Rudy is the opposite of most boys his age, instead of hating girls he, “fancies”, them. Immediately after meeting Liesel Rudy sets his sights on her and for the rest of the book he tries to get her to kiss him. Throughout the entire story, Rudy is Liesel’s best friend and vice versa, they do everything together from stealing books to stealing food.
Death- The novel The Book Thief is narrated in a unique, never before seen way. The reason the narration is so unique is because the narrator is "Death". Death is portrayed as a being with the undesirable job of taking away people's souls when the pass away. Death talks about how he does not like taking people away, rather it is a job he is forced to do. Death says that he looks at the colors in the sky when is taking someone’s soul for a distraction from his task. Death also talks about seeing Liesel, the book thief, three times, The first is when her brother dies, the second, when a pilot dies, and finally, when Himmel Street is bombed. The first time, her brother’s death, he becomes interested in her, something he describes as an elementary mistake. From then on out he narrates the novel The Book Thief, and throughout it he puts in small bolded notes that contain facts to help the reader better understand that particular section of the story.
Max- Max is second only to Liesel in importance to the book. Max is introduced to the story when he shows up at the Hubermann’s household late at night. Max goes to the Hubermann household because he is Jewish and seeking refuge from the Nazi’s reign of terror. Hans had a long history with Max’s dad starting with his dad’s death and ending at Max’s old house. For this reason, Hans agrees to help Max, and hides him in the basement with paint cans and tarps. Later in the story when Liesel meets Max, the bond between them is instant, because both of them have lost someone dear, and both of them came to Himmel Street as strangers. Throughout the book Max’s safety and the Hubermanns’ safety is jeopardized multiple times, but in the end they always pull through. Finally, Max and Liesel’s relationship grows stronger everyday they are together.
Frau Holtzapelf-Frau Holtzapelf has an ongoing conflict with Rosa which has been going on for many years. Everyday Frau Holtzapelf walks by Rosa’s door she spits on it.
Pffifkus- Pffifkus is a very angry man with a large, “vocabulary”, and he constantly whistles a song to himself.
Tommy Muller- Tommy Muller is one of Rudy’s friends who has a twitch. When he was five years old he got lost in the market place on a very cold day and the cold gave him a permanent twitch.
Frau Diller – Frau Diller is a neighborhood shop owner and has a very nasty attitude. She is also said to have mixed candy in her shop for, “the right price”.
Micheal Holtzapelf- Micheal Holtzapelf is Frau Holtzapelf’s son who was in the German army when he has one of his hands almost fully blown off. He also witnesses the death of his brother Robert Holtzapelf, caused by a bomb chopping off his legs, ultimately leading to his death.
Frau Hermann- Frau Hermann is the mayor’s wife; in addition she has a very large personal library. When Liesel picks up the dry cleaning for Rosa she reads with Frau Hermann in her library. When the mayor fires Liesel, Liesel resorts to stealing books from Frau Hermann’s library to satisfy her hunger to read.
Alex Steiner – Alex Steiner is Rudy’s father. When the Gestapo comes to take Rudy to a Nazi training school, he refuses to allow it. As a result, he is sent to serve in the German army as a punishment. However, this ends up saving him from death when Himmel Street is bombed.