On the way home, Liesel can no longer take the pain of the hot book, so she takes it out and confesses to Papa that she has stolen the book. He promises that he will teach her how to read it in the basement so that they are undetected. In return, Papa asks that Liesel keep any secret that he might share with her. Soon after, Hans goes to the recruiter’s office to sign up for military service so that his family is not suspected of being against the Nazi regime, and he is given a tattered copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Paranoia has taken over Molching, but Liesel has her own worries. She is afraid of being caught for her stealing, and she thinks that she is being punished for her crimes by having to go to the mayor’s house to see about the washing. Liesel tells Mama that no one is ever home, but Mama keeps sending Liesel back to the house. Finally, the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann, opens the door on one of Liesel’s visits, and instead of giving Liesel the washing, Ilsa invites her into the home to see the library. She allows Liesel to go the bookshelves and run her fingers over the spines. On the way home, Liesel remains dazed by having been in a room full of books.
The setting shifts to a small, dark, enclosed room away from Himmel Street—the place where a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg is being hidden by friends. Max sits on his suitcase in the dark and waits to be given the occasional piece of bread or other provision by his friend Walter Kugler. It takes a long time, but Walter finally arrives with a bag of bread, fat, and carrots and a bottle of water. He also brings a book that contains a forged identity card that Walter has secured for Max's escape. Then he leaves and Max is once again left in the darkness.
Back on Himmel Street, Liesel spends the summer of 1940 enjoying her reading of The Shoulder Shrug and visiting Ilsa’s library. As the summer continues and food rations become ever smaller, Rudy and Liesel take to stealing food, and the two climb a fence surrounding an apple farm to quiet their hunger.
Meanwhile, time has run out for Max—Walter must flee the city, so he leaves Max with one last package containing shaving supplies and a train ticket. Max takes the train to Molching and arrives at Himmel Street, afraid to ask the Hubermanns to risk their lives to save his.
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