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Books

The Theme Of Political Hatred In Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

“Racism is one of the worst forms of torture because it’s directed at something you never asked for and something you can’t change.” – Paolo Nutini. This describes the feelings of Jews and gypsies during World War II. Markus Zusak’s novel, The Book Thief, he explains a story by “Death” about Liesel, a girl growing up in Germany during World War II. She steals books and learns to read. She and Max, the Jew her family protects, are the only main characters that survive the war. Throughout Markus Zusak’s novel, he emphasizes the difference between Nazis and the Hubermann’s through the theme of political hatred or racism to show not all Germans had the same political views and had compassion for one another.

The theme of political hatred that Markus Zusak shows in the novel, starts with a flashback to 1936, when Jesse Owens, a black American runner, won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics, embarrassing Hitler. Rudy, obsessed with the achievement, paints himself black with charcoal, and runs the 100- meter relay at an empty track, imagining himself to be Owens. Rudy’s father Alex Steiner drags his son home and lectures him not to pretend to be black or Jewish because of the Nazis’ policies. Alex Steiner is a member of the Nazi Party but not a racist, and that he will do anything to support his family, even if that means being in the party. The theme of political hatred is used by Markus Zusak to describe the Nazi regime during this time period during this time period, but again, Alex Steiner is not a racist, he is just trying to protect Rudy and his family. The first example is “Is it really you,’ the young man asked,” she said, “Is it from your cheek that I took the seed?”. When Liesel sees Max marching to Dachau she recites passages from “The Word Shaker,” the book he leaves for her when he flees. This is interesting because Liesel is able to best communicate her feelings to Max using his words. She has to choose her words for maximum impact, since she might not get to say very many of them. She’s acknowledging Max’s gift and telling him she understands it. This also shows compassion for Max Vandenberg (Jewish), Liesel cares for him and wishes him nothing positive things as he marches to Dachau (Nazi concentration camp). Death states, “You could argue that Liesel Meminger had it easy. She did have it easy compared to Max Vandenburg. Certainly, her brother practically died in her arms. Her mother abandoned her. But anything was better than being a Jew”. This quote serves as reminder that no matter how hard things got for characters like Liesel and Hans, their lives were much safer and easier than those of many others during this period. Instead Death tells us that our pity for Liesel should be mitigated by the knowledge that she was not the only one who suffered under Hitler, and that many people suffered a great deal more simply because they were Jewish. Although Liesel lost her mother and brother, the Jews of Germany and Eastern Europe often lost as much and more.

The Hubbermann’s, as well as the Steiner’s, defied and resisted Nazi rule. They truly do not believe in what Hitler is trying to establish and refuse to do certain things they are asked of that puts their lives at risk for the greater good. For example, this quote states, “He put a lot of thought into his decision. He was not well educated or political but if nothing else, he was a man who appreciated fairness. A Jew once saved his life, and he could not forget that. He couldn’t join a party that antagonized people in such a way.” Death stated. Also Hans states, “A star, the colour of mustard was smeared to the door. In sloppy lettering the words ‘Jewish Filth’ were spilling over at the edges, ‘I will come tomorrow’; he said ‘and repaint your door’”. Both of these quotes explain how Hans may have not have been well educated, but he certainly knew right from wrong. His decision was based upon his beliefs, and his beliefs were to that antagonize or humiliate people especially if they have helped you. There were also signs of resistance from the Steiner’s. They did not want to send their son to the athletic camp run by Hitler. Nazi officers want Rudy because of his intelligence and his athleticism. But when they arrive at his house Alex rejected it and offered to take him instead of his son. The theme of political hatred is used heavily by Zusak and shows exactly how even some Germans were against the Third Reich.

In Markus Zusak’s novel, The Book Thief, he explains the theme of political hatred and racism to show the difference between Nazis and Germans citizens’ views of politics. Markus Zusak does a good job of using the theme of political hatred because it gives the reader a perspective of both sides such as a German citizen and a Jew like Max Vandenberg. Zusak wants to show the reader how life as a German may not be what one expects, and that compassion can be found within evil.

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