Why did Liesel's mother leave her in The Book Thief?

Liesel's mother left her because she felt that she could not properly care for her. There is evidence that Liesel's mother was sick, and Liesel herself is thin and pale at the beginning of the book. Later on, there is evidence that Liesel's mother might have abandoned her because her mother had ties to the Communist Party.

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Death narrates the book and provides some insight about Paula Meminger's decision to leave Liesel with a foster family.

First, Liesel understands that her mother is "constantly sick." Because of crushing poverty, there is no means to obtain sufficient medical treatment. Liesel and her brother have not been well cared...

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Death narrates the book and provides some insight about Paula Meminger's decision to leave Liesel with a foster family.

First, Liesel understands that her mother is "constantly sick." Because of crushing poverty, there is no means to obtain sufficient medical treatment. Liesel and her brother have not been well cared for; they are hungry, thin, and pale. Paula understands that a foster family will at least be able to provide some nourishment and decent housing for Liesel, so it's possible she abandons Liesel with the expectation that this is a sacrifice to provide better care for her daughter.

Yet there are clues that this isn't entirely the truth. Although Liesel doesn't know much about her father, she has heard him being labeled a "communist." Liesel doesn't understand the meaning of the word, but she recognizes that it carries a heaviness and that people in "uniforms" use the word in ways that seem ominous.

Liesel keeps processing the reasons for her abandonment, and one day her eleven-year-old mind pieces a few clues together:

The word communist + a large bonfire + a collection of dead letters + the suffering of her mother + the death of her brother = the Führer

She then asks Hans whether her mother was a communist and remembers how men were "always asking her things" before Liesel was abandoned. Hans admits that he doesn't know because he never personally met Paula. Liesel asks, "Did the Führer take her away?"

Hans admits that this might be the truth. During World War II, Hitler viewed communists as "murderous pests" that must be crushed with an "iron fist." If Paula had ties to the Communist Party, she may have abandoned Liesel in an effort to secure a new family for her, particularly if she felt that her own capture was imminent.

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