Sadly, Misha's lack of memory about his past and the tragedy of the Holocaust that resides in his future means that the best days of his early life are spent with a thief named Uri, who takes the nameless child, who introduces himself as Stopthief, under his wing in Warsaw, Poland during World War II. Uri will play the role of surrogate parent for Misha for a time, getting him a bath, a haircut, a place to sleep, and showing him how to acquire things he needs through the fine art of thievery--and to Uri, it is an art of sorts, something that should be done only when an item is needed. Uri scoffs at a member of the band of thieves who takes whatever he can just to show he can do it, and instructs Misha how it is supposed to be done. It is Uri who first introducts Misha to "Jackboots", his name for the omnipresent Nazis, and it is Uri who disappears briefly, only to return to warn Misha that the "Jackboots" are planning to deport and kill every Jew in Poland.
During Uri's absence, the conditions in Warsaw had worsened, the Nazis began tightening control, and Janina, her family, and Misha are forced to join other Jews in a ghetto city designed especially for them--a place where space and provisions are in terribly short supply. Misha continues his stealing expeditions, which have taken on a new seriousness as Janina joins him at the behest of her parents. Eventually, Janina's father tried to convince the two kids to run away, but Janina refuses, and eventually she and her family are deported; Misha is "saved" by Uri, who shoots, but does not kill him, and a farmer rescues Misha and allows him to live and work on his farm for the next few years.