The Book Thief

The Responsibility of German Citizens: Rhetoric, Close Reading, and Meaning in The Book Thief 9th Grade

Does following orders and laws justify allowing the mass persecution of a race? Is protecting one’s family a viable reason to tolerate the mistreatment of the Jews? During the Nuremberg trials, judges ruled simply following orders was an insubstantial reason to condone the actions of many of Hitler’s party officials. Although leaders who ran death camps and killed Jews blamed their involvement on obeying direction, half received the death sentence and the other half were sentenced to life imprisonment. The Nuremberg trials established “the idea that individuals are responsible for their own actions, even in times of war” (Danzer, 587). Similarly, in The Book Thief, the author Markus Zusak points out the responsibility of German citizens to speak out against Hitler’s actions towards Jews. The main character Liesel learns kindness towards Jews despite her community’s negative view of them when her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, shelter a Jew, Max, in their basement. Liesel forms a friendship with Max and bonds with him over their common loss of family. Later Max leaves the Hubermanns in order to protect them after Hans publicly gives bread to a Jewish man in the street. Throughout The Book Thief, Markus Zusak portrays...

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