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Chapters 5-8 Summary

Chapters 5-8: "Autumn"

During the bombardment, sirens scream every day. Uri and Stopthief go outside only at night to see the city on fire beyond the rooftops. One day, the sirens are finally silent, and Uri takes Stopthief out into the street. Twisted skeletons of streetcars and the shattered remains of buildings dot the landscape. People are everywhere, all heading in the same direction. One person starts running, and Stopthief, thinking delightedly that it must be a race, streaks after him.

Breaking through the mob, Stopthief is struck on the ear and falls to the ground. When he looks up, he is faced with lines and lines of "the tallest, blackest, shiniest boots [he has] ever seen." Knowing instinctively that these are the Jackboots Uri has spoken about, Stopthief watches in awe. One of the soldiers looks down at him and amiably calls him a "tiny little Jew," but Stopthief corrects him, saying, "I'm not a Jew...I'm a Gypsy." Uri finally catches up with Stopthief, and the little boy notices that his friend is not cheering the grand parade. The crowd, too, is somber, and someone throws out a single white flower, which bounces from one of the Jackboot tanks and breaks into petals.

The next morning, the world outside is changed. The Jackboots distribute bread among the people, but also seem to go out of their way to torment men with beards who wear long coats. One of these sad individuals is forced to clean the sidewalk with his beard, while another is crudely shorn of his hair right out on the street. When Stopthief, still impressed with the majesty of the soldiers, declares that he wants to be a Jackboot, Uri smacks him in the face. That night, as he reflects upon what he has seen, it suddenly occurs to Stopthief that the bearded men who are being victimized in the city are Jews.

The days immediately following the coming of the Jackboots are "good times" for the street children. They prowl the city with impunity, stealing whatever they desire. Stopthief develops an addiction to hazelnut buttercream candies, and Uri craves pickles. The older boy never ceases to be amazed at his little friend's agility and skill as a thief.

Stopthief has little understanding of dates and times, but realizes later that these events must have occurred during the fall of 1939. On one of his forays a few days after the coming of the Jackboots, he comes upon a garden and picks a ripe tomato. As he eats it, he sees a little girl with "round, unblinking eyes," watching him. Soon afterwards, Uri decides that Stopthief must have a name. Uri creates an identity and a history for him, calling him Misha Pilsudski. Misha had been born a Gypsy in Russia and has seven brothers and five sisters. His family had traveled to Poland, where they had been bombed by Jackboot airplanes, leaving Misha alone on the streets of Warsaw. The only remembrance he has of his past is the yellow stone given to him by his...

(The entire section is 798 words.)