There are countless lessons that can be drawn from the pages of 2006 bestseller novel “the Book Thief.” I feel that anyone who merely dismisses the book as the story of a hungry, illiterate girl who has such a desire to read that she steals books has truly missed the defining principles of this book. Allow me to share 3 of them.
How To Be Loyal…..
Imagine that someone has just saved your life. Naturally we would say to that person “If there is anything that you need just ask”. If you were Hans Hubermann you would not have to make good on that promise until 20 years later. However, this would involve hiding a Jewish young man in your basement during the height of Nazi Germany. Your loyalty would put your family at risk, your reputation, and of course your own life. Hans was a man loyal to a fault. And the depth of his loyalty not only defines this book, but defines what humanity is supposed to represent.
How To Fight….
The best part of Max Vandenburg’s fighting career is the fact that he loses most of his fights. In hindsight this was his strength because he never fell into complacency. Max bravely fought every person and every obstacle he faced. This included childhood bullies, Antisemitism, and his fight for self respect.
One of the most powerful fights that Max engages in is his fight against Adolph Hitler in his dreams. Being in his comfort zone he used the boxing ring of his dreams not only to fight Hitler but the entire racist system that lead him to seek refuge in the Hubermann’s basement. As the book progresses Max finds himself being forced to a Nazi concentration camp. But his feisty combative desire to live is no doubt why he is still standing in his corner of the ring at the end of the war.
How To Steal….
Liesel Meminger’s character reveals powerful lessons regarding when and what one can rightfully steal. While she spent a fair amount of time stealing literal food during the war, her true character is defined by stealing books, words, and experiences. The first book stolen forever captures the last time she was together with her mother and brother. Books stolen from the mayor’s house provide comfort and support during air raids. But the theft of a book banned by the Nazi’s is when Liesel stole the right to think for herself and not let wartime propaganda define her.
Together with Max she truly steals words directly from Hitler by painting over the hate and intolerance of “Mein Kampf” and writing their own stories. Writing her own story is literally what saved Liesel’s life and made her discover that the ability to tell your own story is something beautiful that can be created despite any ugliness life can present. I can not call Liesel a thief the the true sense of the word because no such word defines what it means to steal something that is already yours!
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