October 30th, 2012
October 19th, 2012

The Book Thief (and Friends)

A list of characters from The Book Thief, fully described and brought to you by Chicago’s librarians.

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LIESEL MEMINGER is the book thief. She is 9 years old at the beginning of the story, when after the death of her brother she is taken in by the Hubermann family.

HANS HUBERMANN is Liesel’s foster father. Once a reluctant soldier during World War I, he is a house painter and accordionist. He teaches Liesel to read.

ROSA HUBERMANN is Liesel’s foster mother. She washes and irons clothing for the wealthy people of Molching.

RUDY STEINER is Liesel’s neighbor and eventual best friend. He is one of six children and is obsessed with American track athlete Jesse Owens.

MAX VANDENBURG is a young Jewish man who changes the Hubermanns’ lives.

DEATH is the sympathetic narrator of Liesel’s story. Death’s duty is to carry the souls of the dead away.


(listed in alphabetical order by last name)

Klaus BEHRIG is a neighborhood boy. Liesel runs into him on purpose during a game of soccer.

Arthur BERG is the leader of a group of young thieves who steal food. He shows kindness to Liesel and Rudy, and proves to be fair.

Viktor CHEMMEL is Arthur Berg’s successor as leader of the group of thieves. He is cruel to the others.

Franz DEUTSCHER is Rudy’s sadistic Hitler Youth leader.

Frau DILLER is the owner of the corner shop and a fervent Nazi sympathizer. One must say “Heil Hitler” in order to be served in her shop.

Wolfgang EDEL is a Nazi Party acquaintance of Hans.

The FIELDERS are a family that lives six houses down from the Memingers. Their basement serves as a bomb shelter during air raids.

Rolf FISCHER is a Nazi who sees Hans painting Joel Kleinman’s door.

Wenzel GRUBER is the first boy Max fought with as a child.

Fritz HAMMER is an older neighborhood boy who introduces Liesel and Rudy to the gang of thieves.

Herr HECKENSTALLER is a supervising teacher who oversees the humiliating medical examination of Rudy and other boys who are being considered for elite Nazi schools.

Frau HEINRICH is the woman from the foster care agency who brings Liesel to the Hubermann home.

Heinz HERMANN is the mayor of the town of Molching.

Ilsa HERMANN is the wife of the mayor of Molching. Her son, Johannes Hermann, was killed in World War I and she mourns his death with her silence. She introduces Liesel to her library.

Frau HOLTZAPFEL is the Hubermanns’ hostile neighbor. She spits on their door every time she walks past.

Michael HOLTZAPFEL is Frau Holtzapfel’s son who returns from the war injured.

Robert HOLTZAPFEL is Michael’s brother. He never returns from the war.

Hans HUBERMANN, Jr. is the Hubermanns’ grown son. He is a Nazi Party member who believes his father is a coward for not supporting Hitler.

Trudy HUBERMANN is the Hubermanns’ grown daughter. She is a live-in housemaid for a wealthy Munich family.

The JENSONS are a family that use the Fielders’ basement during air raids.

Joel KLEINMANN is a Jewish shopkeeper whose store door is defaced, then repainted by Hans Hubermann.

Walter KUGLER is Max Vandenberg’s friend, with whom he used to fight in his youth. Walter helps Max hide from the Nazis before he goes to the Hubermann home.

Thomas MAMER is a grocer who calls for police when Rudy steals the largest potato. Teacher Herr Link defends Rudy.

Paula MEMINGER is Liesel’s mother, who gives her up into foster care. Her husband was taken away for being a communist and Paula awaits the same fate.

Werner MEMINGER is Liesel’s brother.

Harald MOLLENHAUER is a neighborhood boy and a leader in the Himmel street soccer games.

Tommy MÜLLER is Liesel and Rudy’s classmate whom Liesel beats up after misunderstanding his reaction to her being teased. He has chronic ear infections, twitches a lot and is not athletically inclined.

Frau OLENDRICH is Liesel and Rudy’s teacher.

PFIFFIKUS is an old man who likes to whistle. The children taunt him and he taunts them back.

Andy SCHMEIKL is Ludwig’s older brother and also a member of the group of thieves.

Ludwig SCHMEIKL is a student in Liesel’s class. He makes fun of her for not being able to read, and Liesel beats him up.

Boris SCHIPPER is an Air Raid Special Unit sergeant during World War I. Hans Hubermann is a member of his unit.

Stephan SCHNEIDER is Hans’ sergeant during World War I.

Jürgen SCHWARZ and Olaf Spiegel are fellow school boys who are examined by Herr Heckenstaller.

Sister Maria is Liesel’s teacher who doles out corporal punishment.

Alex STEINER is Rudy’s father. He owns a tailor shop and is a member of the Nazi Party but does not hate Jews.

Barbara STEINER is Rudy’s mother.

Kurt STEINER is Rudy’s older brother. Rudy’s other siblings are Emma, Bettina, Karin and Anna-Marie.

Otto STURM is a somewhat wealthy boy who is targeted by Arthur’s gang and is knocked off his bicycle by Liesel and Rudy.

Erik VANDENBERG is Hans’ German Jewish friend and fellow World War I soldier. He is also Max’s father.

Ernst VOGEL, the PFAFFELHÜRVERS, Helena SCHMIDT and the WEINGARTNERS are Rosa Hubermann’s washing/ironing customers. Ernst was the first of the customers to tell Rosa he wouldn’t be able to use her services any longer.

Dieter WESTHEIMER is the owner of a bar called the Knoller.

Reinhold ZUCKER is an Air Raid Special Unit member who trades seats with Hans on a truck.

October 3rd, 2012

Accordionist Robert Cruz channels Hans Hubermann and turns the marble lobby of the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago into a German public square circa 1940 from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

September 12th, 2012

Death, Personified: A List

The Book Thief provides one of the most memorable portrayals of Death in recent memory. Here are more, from 18th century literature to current pop culture. To read the full (and fully entertaining) list, go to onebookonechicago.org.

“The Masque of the Red Death”

Short story by Edgar Allan Poe, 1842

As a horrible plague rages outside, Prince Prospero shelters the nobility in his abbey and welds the doors shut to prevent anyone else from entering. Later they celebrate with a masquerade ball but become fearful and angry upon seeing someone costumed in a bloody shroud and a corpse mask. They confront the figure and pull away his mask but find nothing inside, realizing it is the Red Death himself.

The Seventh Seal
Film directed by Ingmar Bergman, 1957
In this classic film, actor Bengt Ekerot introduces the iconic dark-robed and hooded figure of Death subsequently parodied by many filmmakers. A medieval knight journeys home while the Black Plague ravages the land. Throughout the story he delays his own demise by playing a game of chess with Death.

“(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”
Song by Blue Öyster Cult, 1976
These heavy metal iconoclasts scored a hit song with a defense of Death featuring menacing guitars, eerie vocals and a darkly ambiguous message. Many people thought the lyrics, which mention Romeo and Juliet, alluded to a murder/suicide pact. However, songwriter Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser says he intended it as a metaphysical love song.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
Film directed by Terry Jones, 1983
The Grim Reaper, played by John Cleese, arrives unexpectedly at a dinner party, scythe in bony hand. He is repeatedly interrupted by the stereotypical loud-mouthed American guests, while the very British hosts attempt to engage him in small talk.

Family Guy

Fox TV series created by Seth MacFarlane, 1999–2002 and 2005-present
Radio personality Adam Carolla is the voice of Death in eight episodes of this irreverent animated comedy. The iconic black-robed, scythe-carrying character has a grating personality and still lives with his mother. His pet dog, voiced by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, reaps canine souls.

A Dirty Job

Novel by Christopher Moore, 2006
In this humorous fantasy novel, Charlie Asher is a neurotic beta-male whose wife has just died after giving birth to their daughter Sophie. He meets a pastel-suited stranger in the hospital and begins working with him as a minor death merchant, collecting souls from the recently departed and protecting them from forces of evil.

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