Part 4 Summary

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Walter Kugler arrives at the Hubermanns’ home and is standing in the kitchen with Hans when he asks Hans if he still plays the accordion. Of course, Hans still plays—he learned in World War I. It was during the war when Hans was twenty years old that Death first ran across Hans’s path. So many young soldiers died during the war, but Hans kept himself in the middle of other men, so he never came close to dying. A German Jew named Erik Vandenburg taught Hans to play the accordion, and the two men became friends. Erik nominated Hans for a writing job which spared Hans from going into battle that day—everyone else in the troop died in battle. Hans inherited Erik’s accordion. After the war, Hans returned to his job as a painter, and he and Rosa had two children, Hans Junior and Trudy. As the Nazi party took power, Hans lost business and submitted to joining the party in 1937. Now, Kugler asks Hans if he is a man who keeps his promises. They arrange a meeting for later in the night.

It is November 1940 when Max arrives at the Hubermanns’ home. Max grew up in Stuttgart, where he had his first fist fight at eleven years old with a boy named Wenzel Gruber. After suffering the loss of his uncle, Max fought more often. His favorite fight was against Walter Kugler. The two fought thirteen times over the next few years. Eventually, the Nuremberg Laws were instated, barring Jews from having German citizenship. Max and Walter saw each other infrequently while Max tried to find work. Many Jewish establishments were destroyed, and one day a man dressed in a Nazi uniform arrived at the Vandenburg home. It was Walter, who had come to take Max into hiding. Max left his family behind, but the guilt over his actions remained. He stayed in hiding for two years before ending up in the Hubermanns’ home.

Liesel hears Rosa’s expression from the kitchen, and when she goes inside, she sees Max hungrily slurping Rosa’s infamous pea soup from a bowl. Rosa watches him with a hint of satisfaction and worry, but Max’s stomach is not used to large amounts of food. After finishing the soup, he vomits in the sink. Rosa rushes to clean up the mess, and Max apologizes, sitting back down at the table looking morose. Liesel wonders about the true nature of her foster parents. Later, Hans comes into the bedroom to talk to Liesel about their new visitor. Max sleeps in the bedroom that night, and in the morning, Hans wakes Liesel to tell her that she will not be attending school that day. Hans tells Liesel about his history with Max’s father and asks her to keep Max’s residence in their home an absolute secret. Hans warns Liesel that telling anyone about Max will likely lead to Hans and Rosa being taken away and her books being burned.

Max sleeps for three days. Liesel watches him. Sometimes, Max mutters names in his sleep, and he appears to be having a struggle. Liesel feels that she and Max are similar because they have both arrived on Himmel Street plagued by nightmares. When Max wakes, he reads Mein Kampf. During a scare, Hans moves Max to the basement for everyone’s safety, and while in the basement, Max cuts pages from Mein Kampf and paints them white. He writes and draws over them with a small black paintbrush—The Standover Man, a book about his exile and hiding.

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