The Book Thief

In wartime, conventional notions of morality and legality are continually tested. Discuss the ways that the main characters had to make decisions about how to behave, and how these decisions usually proved to be fateful.

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One way in which conventional notions of morality are tested can be found in Hans' paiinting over the graffiti on the doors of Jewish businesses by the Nazis.

It was one of the few Jewish shops that were still in operation in Molching. Inside, a small man was stuttering about, crushing the broken glass beneath his feet as he cleaned up. A star the color of mustard was smeared to the door. In sloppy lettering, the words JEWISH FILTH were spilling over at their edges. The movement inside tapered from hurried to morose, then stopped altogether.

Hans moved closer and stuck his head inside. “Do you need some help?”

Mr. Kleinmann looked up. A dust broom was fixed powerlessly to his hand. “No, Hans. Please. Go away.” Hans had painted Joel Kleinmann’s house the previous year. He remembered his three children. He could see their faces but couldn’t recall their names.

“I will come tomorrow,” he said, “and repaint your door.”
Which he did.

As a result, Hans was not permitted to join the Party.


The Book Thief