What happens in part 9 of The Book Thief?
In part nine of The Book Thief, Rudy and Liesel once again go to the mayor’s house this time to steal a book. Frau Hermann has left out cookies and it is at this point that Liesel starts to think that it is possible that the library does not belong to the mayor but instead to Frau Hermann. The story then moves to Hans who at the time is playing cards with other members of the air-raid unit. Reinhold Zucker, another member of the squad, accuses Hans of cheating. Death makes a point to interrupt here to point out that it is Zucker’s dislike of Hans that will result in Zucker’s own death.
The story jumps back to Liesel in Molching, who goes to read to Frau Holtzapfel but instead is greeted at the door by her son. Michael Holtzapfel has returned from fighting in Stalingrad where he had been shot in the ribs. He informs Rosa that his brother has died and that Hans and Rosa’s son was in Russia. Death once again interjects, this time explaining how Michael’s brother died. His brother Robert died after being taken to the hospital because he was caught in an explosion that resulted in the loss of his legs. Though Frau Holtzapfel is filled with grief, Liesel still reads to her.
Death goes on to describe an afternoon where Hans and the other men are returning to their camp. Zucker complains that Hans should trade places with him in the truck, soon after Hans does the truck drives off the road due to a punctured tire. Though Hans breaks his leg during the crash, Zucker breaks his neck and dies. The men returned to the camp and upon examination by a doctor Hans is told that he is going to be sent back to Munich to work in an office. Liesel tells Rudy the good news, and though Rudy is happy for her he also wonders about the fate of his own father. Due to his rage concerning the injustices of war, Rudy decides to rob the mayor’s house but ultimately does not do so. There is another air raid a few weeks later, this time Frau Holtzapfel refuses to go to the shelter even though Liesel threatens to stop reading to her and her son is going to the shelter. She does eventually end up in the shelter and Michael asks her forgiveness because he feels guilty for choosing to go to the shelter without her. When the air raid has ended the people leave the shelter and find that there is a burning plane in the forest. The enemy plane’s pilot is barely living be the time they arrive at the wreck. Death has come for the pilot’s soul, he recognizes Liesel from the train in which her brother died. Rudy gives a teddy bear to the pilot before Death takes his soul.
Hans returns after being discharge from the hospital and talks to Liesel about his time at war. This part of the book is mainly focused on the randomness of fate, the most notable example of this is the fact that Hans has survived the truck crash. Hans was only injured in the crash due to Zucker’s insistence in trading seats, which resulted from Zucker’s dislike of Hans. It was simply chance that Hans and Zucker switched seats in the truck, this furthers the idea of randomness being at fault. The outcome that resulted from the crash, Hans’s injury, was the best thing that could happen to him since it resulted in his returning home. Without his injury he would have continued his service in the air raid unit. The events in this section emphasize the chaos that war causes. Michael Holtzapfel also only survives the war due to chance, there is not a any particular reason that he survived while his brother died. Rudy must also deal with this randomness as his father remains at war while Hans is able to come home in one piece. Rudy does not blame fate though and instead places the blame on Hitler who in his eyes has stolen in father. As a result he becomes a thief to gain some sort of empowerment basing his logic for this on the idea that it would feel good to steal something back for himself.