The protagonist of the story. She is an adopted young girl on the verge of adolescence, with blonde hair that "was a close enough brand of German blonde" and a "smile that was starving" when she very rarely showed it. She is fostered by the Hubermanns when her father "abandons" their family and her mother is forced to give her up as a foster child. Liesel is the "book thief" referred to in the title.
Hans Hubermann (Papa)
Liesel's foster father and husband of Rosa. Hans was a World War 1 fighter, accordion player, book aficionado and handyman. He develops a close and loving relationship with Liesel, and becomes a main source of strength and support for her throughout the novel. He, like Liesel, doesn't have much experience with reading. Together, the two of them help each other with reading and write all the words they learn on a wall in the basement.
Rosa Hubermann (Mama)
Liesel's sharp-tongued, often abrasive, foster mother. She is 5'1" and has a "wardrobe" build, with a displeased face, brown-grey tightly-cinched hair often tied up in a bun, and "chlorinated" eyes. To supplement the household income, she does washing and ironing for five of the wealthier households in Molching. She has a quick temper, dictates to the household, and is known for straightening out previous foster children. Though she often swears at Liesel, she cares very much for her. She has two children of her own, Trudy and Hans, Jr.
Liesel's neighbor. He has bony legs, rugged teeth, blue eyes, lemon-colored hair and likes to get in the middle of situations. Despite being the German ideal (blond hair and blue eyes), he does not support the Nazis. As part of a household with six children, Rudy is habitually hungry. He is known throughout the neighborhood due to the "Jesse Owens incident", in which he colored himself with coal one night and ran one hundred meters at the local sports field. He is academically and athletically gifted, which attracts the attention of Nazi Party officials, leading to an attempted recruitment. His lack of support for the Nazi party becomes problematic as the story progresses. Rudy becomes Liesel's best friend, and eventually falls in love with her, always trying (unsuccessfully) to get a kiss out of her.
A Jewish fist-fighter takes refuge from the Nazi regime in the Hubermann's basement. He is the son of a WWI German soldier who fought with Hans Hubermann, and the two developed a close friendship during the war. He has brown, feather-like hair and swampy brown eyes. During the Nazis' reign of terror, Hans agrees to shelter Max and hide him from the Nazi party. During his stay at the Hubermann's house, Max befriends Liesel due to their shared affinity for words. He writes two books for her and presents her with a sketchbook that contains his life story, which helps Liesel to develop as a writer and reader.
Tommy lives on Himmel Street and is friends with Liesel and Rudy. Tommy has severe ear problems because he got lost in the snow for a long period of time as a young child. He is part of the Hitler Youth organization.
The wife of the mayor of Molching who employs Rosa Hubermann. Ilsa allows Liesel to visit and read books in her personal library. She also gives Liesel a diary, which leads Liesel to write her own story, "The Book Thief".
The narrator throughout the story, Death, is tired of his job and wants a vacation, but cannot take one because there would be nobody to replace him. Death speaks of his job, removing souls and carrying them away. He is "haunted by humans".