In part 5 of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, how does death describe his working conditions during the war?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Towards the end of part five of Markus Zusak's young reader's novel The Book Thief, the narrator informs us through an article Liesel reads to Max, the Jew hidden in the household's basement, that the mayor of Molching, Heinz Hermann, was quoted as saying that "the people of Molching, like all responsible Germans, should take adequate measures and prepare for the possibility of harder times." The only occurrence in this part of the book that relates to work conditions concerns the mayor's wife's treatment of Liesel's mother, Rose.

As part of the efforts to prepare for harder times, the mayor's wife, Ilsa Hermann, gives Liesel a book from the mayor's library titled The Whistler and also an envelope, saying, "I'm sorry. It's for your mama." Inside of the envelope is Rosa's last payment and dismissal from the mayor's services as their maid to do their washing and ironing, presumably because the mayor could no longer afford Rosa's services due to harder times.

Liesel makes the valid point to herself that "the fact that harder times were coming was surely the best reason for keeping Rosa employed," as well as many like Rosa, rather than firing her. At first, Liesel willingly leaves the mayor's mansion, saying thank you to Ilsa. However, the feelings of devastation and anger at knowing her family had just lost their last job drive her back to the mayor's house and shout at Ilsa. Ilsa let Liesel have her say, tried again to apologize but failed, and then retreated back into the house.

Hence, this passage ultimately serves to show us what work conditions were like in Germany during World War II, more specifically, just how many German citizens were suffering from lack of money and employment during World War II.

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The Book Thief

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