Part 2 Summary

Death reports that Liesel stole her first book on January 13, 1939, and more than a year passed before she stole her second. On April 20, 1940—Hitler’s birthday—Liesel sees a group of German soldiers burning a pile of books. From the heap of ashes she takes a copy of The Shoulder Shrug.

Papa successfully teaches Liesel how to read, and together they finish The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Liesel confides in Papa and tells him about the death of Werner. For Christmas that year, Papa gives Liesel two more books: Faust the Dog and The Lighthouse. While eating in the kitchen, Liesel asks Papa how he managed to afford the books, and Rosa, whom Liesel now regards as Mama, tells her that Hans traded cigarettes with a gypsy to buy the books. Hans is also able to trade cigarettes for eggs, which Rosa cooks while uncharacteristically singing.

However, the good times soon end as the war continues and money gets tight. Rosa has been washing and ironing clothes for several families in the area, and one by one they dismiss her services. Liesel continues to carry the washing for Rosa’s remaining customers during the day. One night she feels lonely and decides to pen a letter to her mother. But her mother never replies, and Hans is so moved by the girl’s sadness that he decides to forge a letter from her mother.

The sadness continues as Hitler’s birthday approaches and the German forces get ever stronger. Soldiers now walk the streets, and the Hubermanns are afraid they will be arrested because they cannot find their flag. The Hubermanns’ son, Hans Junior, comes for a visit and accuses his father of never supporting the Nazi party. Liesel then puts on her Hitler Youth uniform and goes to a party assembly. During the speeches, Liesel continues to think about all the sadness in her life, and she repeatedly thinks about the word “Kommunisten.” Liesel wonders if the Fuhrer took her mother away, and she says that she hates him. Liesel feels like she is going to vomit and then attempts to leave the crowd. A hand grabs her—it is Ludwig Schmeikl, who has fallen and twisted his ankle. She helps him get to a safe place in the crowd. They manage to get to the church steps and from there they watch a pile of books burn that have been set afire by the officers. Papa finds her on the steps, and they make the journey home. On the way, they pass the pile of ashen books, but Liesel sees that there are three that look virtually untouched by the flames—“survivors.” Liesel snatches The Shoulder Shrug from the pile. She slips it under her uniform, and although it is cool at first, the book heats up against her skin. She hides the fact that the book is burning her skin.