About the Book

Book Protagonist: Liesel Meminger
Publication Date: 2005
Genre: Historical Fiction, Teen and Young Adult

Historical Context

The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' was written following the events that happened in Germany from 1939 - 1942 during the second world war.

It was written to show the horrors of war, the ill treatment of the Jews by the Nazi army and even touched on the holocaust, one of the most gruesome events in human history.

The Book Thief is set in Germany during World War II and the time of the Holocaust, where six million Jews were killed died. The leader of the Nazi party, Adolf Hitler, rose to national power in 1934 and started enforcing his anti-semitism policies and German aggression, which led to World War II. Some of the events that directly affect the story are the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany in 1941 and the Allied fire-bombings of Munich, Stuttgart, and the fictional town of Molching in 1942 and 1943.

The Book Thief Historical Context

In the book, one day Liesel hears a Nazi spokesperson speaking about the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler’s rule. The spokesperson mentioned that all Jews and communists will die. She then remembered that her father was accused of being a communist and now she can’t find her father. She also tried to write to her mother after she learned how to write but none was replied. She then concluded that her mother had died. And so she blamed Hitler for the death of her father, mother, and brother.

The Book Thief is a genre of literature classified as historical fiction. This means that even though it is fiction and in this case, it is set in the fictional town of Molching, which is near Munich in Germany; it is still set through historical periods. The story is set and told through historical accurate events like the Holocaust, Jews marching to the death camps, Kristallnacht, burning of books, and others.  A major theme of the book is Liesel’s interest in the book and a major event that happened in the book was the book-burning by the Nazis.

The events in the books were either exact replicas of the Holocaust or similar to all the things that happened. The Holocaust was majorly religious against the Jews and to show Nazi supremacy over others. The Book Thief used places, events, and people in the book and tried to capture all the events that happened in Germany during the set period of 1939 to 1945. Many of the things that were captured in the story were based on true events since the author was inspired to write from the story he heard from his parents.

So the story was not based on present events or accounts or even modern-day conflicts. Markus Zusak’s parents were both immigrants from different countries of Europe and had witnessed what happened during WWII. They told their children stories from what happened in their homeland before they left. An example is a story that Markus’ mother told him about a boy who took pity on the marching Jews and gave bread to a particularly weak one. For that action, both of them were whipped by a soldier.

Publication and Legacy 

The novel was written and published in Sydney, Australia in the year 2005. The tone of the novel is casual and relaxed, with the narrator (Death) at times interrupting himself or interjecting reactions to the narrative. Though his voice employs humor, the overall sense is of sorrow and sadness.

The Book Thief celebrates the legacy of words: the power of words to do good, to do bad, to raise low and raise high, to create a Hitler, to allow a Hans Hubermann to exist, in essence, the power of words to change worlds. The book showed that words, indeed, rule the world.

The novel was adapted into a film that was released on 8 November 2013 and filmed in Görlitz, Germany. The script of the film was written by Michael Petroni, and directed by Brian Percival. The film starrs Ben Schnetzer as Max Vandenburg, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as Hans and Rosa Hubermann, Nico Liersch as Rudy Steiner, and Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Meminger. John Williams wrote the music soundtrack.  


Is The Book Thief historically accurate?

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is a category of literature known as historical fiction. This means that it is a fiction story, but one that is told through historically accurate events and time periods. It has elements of historical events like the Kristallnacht, the Jews marching to the death camps, in it.

Why is The Book Thief a historical fiction?

Historical fiction is a literary work in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. What makes The Book Thief a historical fiction is that it is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions, and other details of the depicted period.

What books did Liesel steal?

Here are the books that Liesel steals in The Book Thief: First is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, which she stole at the graveyard when they buried her brother. Next is The Shoulder Shrug, Mein Kampf, The Whistler, The Dream Carrier, A Song in the Dark, and The Last Human Stranger.

What year is The Book Thief set in?

Most of the stories in the novel took place in the fictional town of Molching, near Munich in Germany during the years 1939 – 1945. This is the period that the world witnessed another world war popularly known as World War II. Adolf Hitler, the German ruler, and leader of the Nazi party, rose to national power in 1934 and began enforcing his policies of anti-Semitism and German aggression, which led to World War II.

What inspired The Book Thief?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was inspired by the stories the author heard when he was young. His parents were migrants from Europe so they witnessed the events of the Second World War and they told him the stories when he was a small boy. An example is a story his mother told about a boy giving bread to a weak Jew.

Ugo Juliet
About Ugo Juliet
Ugo Juliet is a passionate lover of books. For over 10 years, she has written books and articles for various organizations. She continues with her passion for literature as an expert analyst on Book Analysis.
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