Death is always busy—“the world is a factory.” The last fact of this story is that Liesel, the book thief, died only yesterday. Liesel lived to a very old age; her long life carried her far away from Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, to Sydney, Australia. She died with “her soul sitting up,” just like Hans. In the moments before her death, Liesel envisioned her children, her grandchildren, and all those whom she loved at one point or another in her life like the Hubermanns and her little brother. She also envisioned her time on Himmel Street so long ago.
After the street was cleared, Liesel had nowhere to go and no one left to care for her. She was called “the girl with the accordion” when she was taken to the police station. Three hours later, Ilsa Hermann and her husband arrived at the station asking for Liesel. They drove her to their home, a line separating the bombed section from the homes left standing. At the Hermanns’ house, Liesel ate sparingly and muttered to herself well into the night, and she refused to wash herself. Even on the day of the funerals, Liesel did not wash herself and only put on a pretty dress over the grime. Later that day, she walked fully clothed into the Amper River to say her goodbyes. The war continued, and the memory of her books drowned out her sorrow. It would take years for her to really recover.
Alex Steiner eventually returned home, but the news of his family’s death undid him. Alex learned that Liesel was still alive and visited her at the Hermanns’ home. She told Mr. Steiner that she had kissed his son Rudy once, and although it embarrassed her, she thought that it might make him feel better. Alex Steiner resumed his work at his tailor shop once the war was over and Hitler was dead. Liesel spent time with Mr. Steiner, and they even walked all the way to Dachau only to be turned away by the Americans. In October 1945, a man (Max) walked into the tailor shop and asked Alex for Liesel. When she came out, she hugged the man, and the two cried as they fell to the floor.
Death has seen so much in his time, and a handful of these stories have distracted him during his work. The Book Thief is one such story. When Death came for Liesel, he put her down and the two of them walked along Anzac Avenue. He handed her the book. Death wanted to tell her about beauty and brutality, but what could he tell her that she did not already know? All he could say to her was the one truth he did know: “I am haunted by humans.”