Rebellion is a very large and significant theme in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief. Firstly, the act of rebellion is already apparent in the title of the novel. Zusak's story follows Liesel, a young girl living in war-torn Germany, who rebels by stealing books. The act of book stealing is significant because Nazis during World War II were known to burn thousands of books specifically written by Jewish authors and other writers considered "Other." Liesel is reclaiming these stolen and destroyed words, building her knowledge of other cultures, people, and history. Beyond the physical act of stealing, the act of learning, especially in Liesel's circumstances where she is a Jew in hiding, is an act of rebellion in itself.
Not only do we see books physically stolen throughout Zusak's novel, but, perhaps even more powerfully, we are privy to books being rewritten. Max, another Jew in hiding, physically paints over Adolf Hitler's autobiography Mien Kampf, a text formerly meant to spread hate and propaganda, to create a story that figures a young girl, meant to represent Liesel, as its central protagonist. Max's book, titled "The Word Shaker," features a fable about Hitler and his act of planting "word seeds" throughout the nation. This act of planting words is meant to symbolize the very real ways in which Hitler rose to power, by creating and spreading harmful images of the Jewish people in order for the masses to turn against them and commit mass genocide. What is so powerful about Max's "The Word Shaker" is that through his act of rebelliously painting over and rewriting Hitler's original words, Max is reclaiming the chaotic narrative of war. Max rebels against Hitler's narrative of the Jewish people and uses words to spread love rather than hate.