PlotIn April 1938, a voice representing Death (Roger Allam) tells about how the young Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) has piqued his interest. Liesel is traveling on a train with her mother (Heike Makatsch) and younger brother when her brother dies. At his burial she picks up a book that has been dropped by his graveside (a gravedigger's manual). Liesel is then delivered to foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann because her mother, a Communist, is fleeing Germany. When she arrives, Liesel makes an impression on a neighboring boy, Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch).
Rudy accompanies her on her first day of school. When the teacher asks Liesel to write her name on the chalkboard, she is only able to write three Xs. She draws the first X and the children laugh at her; she draws the second X and the children laugh at her more; and finally on the third X she is then asked to return to her seat, embarrassed, showing that she doesn't know how to read. Later that ...
In April 1938, a voice representing Death (Roger Allam) tells about how the young Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) has piqued his interest. Liesel is traveling on a train with her mother (Heike Makatsch) and younger brother when her brother dies. At his burial she picks up a book that has been dropped by his graveside (a gravedigger's manual). Liesel is then delivered to foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann because her mother, a Communist, is fleeing Germany. When she arrives, Liesel makes an impression on a neighboring boy, Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch).
Rudy accompanies her on her first day of school. When the teacher asks Liesel to write her name on the chalkboard, she is only able to write three Xs. She draws the first X and the children laugh at her; she draws the second X and the children laugh at her more; and finally on the third X she is then asked to return to her seat, embarrassed, showing that she doesn't know how to read. Later that day, she is taunted by her schoolmates who chant "dummkopf" ("fool" in German) at her. One of the boys, Franz Deutscher, challenges her to read just one word to which Liesel responds by beating him up. She impresses Rudy, and they become fast friends. When Hans, her foster father, realizes that Liesel cannot read, he begins to teach her, using the book that she took from the graveside. Liesel becomes obsessed with reading anything she can get her hands on.
Liesel and Rudy become members of the Hitler Youth movement. While at a Nazi book burning ceremony, Liesel and Rudy are bullied into throwing books onto the bonfire by Franz, but Liesel is upset to see the books being burned. When the bonfire ends, and everyone but she has left, she grabs a book that has not been burned. She is seen by Ilsa Hermann (Barbara Auer), the mayor's (Rainer Bock) wife. Hans discovers that she has taken the book and tells her she must keep it a secret from everyone. One day, Rosa asks Liesel to take the laundry to the mayor's house. Liesel realizes that the woman who saw her taking the book is the mayor's wife, and she is scared she will be found out. Instead, Ilsa takes her into their library and tells Liesel she can come by anytime and read as much as she'd like. Liesel also finds out about Johann here, who was the son of Ilsa and is now missing. Ilsa feels the loss of her son profoundly and has kept his library intact to commemorate him. One day Liesel is found reading by the mayor who not only puts a stop to her visits but dismisses Rosa as their laundress. Liesel continues to "borrow" books from the mayor's library by climbing through a window.
There is a night of violence against the Jews (known historically as Kristallnacht). Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) and his mother, who are Jewish, are told by a friend that one of them (but only one) can escape, and Max's mother forces him to go. Max goes to the Hubermanns' house where Rosa and Hans give him shelter. Max is the son of the man who saved Hans's life in World War I. Max is initially allowed to stay in Liesel's room while recovering from his trip, and they begin to become friends over their mutual hatred of Hitler since Liesel blames Hitler for taking her mother away. World War II begins, initially making most of the children in Liesel's neighborhood very happy. Max is later moved to the basement so that he can move around more, but it is colder in the basement, and Max becomes dangerously ill. Liesel helps Max recover by reading to him with every spare moment.
One day while "borrowing" a book from the mayor's home, Liesel is followed by Rudy. He discovers the secret of the books and also the secret of Max, whose name he reads on a journal Max gave to Liesel for Christmas. Rudy guesses that her family is hiding someone, and he swears to never tell anyone. Franz overhears Rudy's last words of keeping it a secret. Franz violently pushes Rudy to reveal the secret, but Rudy throws the journal into the river to keep it away from Franz. However, after Franz has gone, Rudy plunges into the icy river to rescue the journal, and Liesel realizes that she can truly trust him. Soon a local party member comes by to check the Hubermanns' basement, and they have to hide Max. However, they are told that their basement was being checked as a potential bomb shelter and realize they weren't suspected of harboring a fugitive.
While working one day, Hans sees a neighbor and friend named Lehman being taken away by the police because he is a Jew. Lehman tries to tell the police that he is a German whose son is in the war fighting for Germany, but they drag him off nonetheless. Hans tries to intervene, telling the officer that Lehman is a good man, but Hans's name is taken by the soldiers and he is thrown to the ground. Hans realizes what a mistake he has made, since this has made his family visible. He tells the family, and Max realises he must leave in order to protect them. Hans then receives a telegram that he has been conscripted into the army and must leave immediately.
On the way home from school one day, Liesel believes she has seen Max in a line of Jews being forcibly marched through town, and she begins screaming his name, running through the line. She is thrown to the sideswalk twice by German soldiers and finally relents when Rosa picks her up and takes her home. Within a few days, Hans returns from the front because he was injured by a bomb that hit another of his unit's truck.
The family is reunited only for a short time. One night the city is bombed by accident, and the air raid sirens fail to go off. Hans, Rosa, and Rudy's family (except for his father who has also been conscripted into the army) are killed in the blast. Liesel was spared from the bombing because she fell asleep in the basement while writing in the journal given to her by Max. Neighbors bring Rudy out of his house, barely alive. He begins to tell Liesel that he loves her, but he dies before he can finish the sentence. Liesel begs him to "wake up," telling him that she will give him the kiss that he has been asking for; although he has already died, she kisses him. During this scene, Death is heard speaking again about how he received the souls of the dead. Liesel passes out, and one of the soldiers carries her to a stretcher. When she wakes up, she sees a book among the rubble and picks it up. She then sees the mayor and Ilsa drive up. With Ilsa being the only friend she has left, Liesel runs up to her and hugs her.
Two years later, after Germany has fallen to the Allies, Liesel is in the tailor shop owned by Rudy's father, and she sees Max enter. Overjoyed by his survival and return, she runs to hug him. The final scene is Death speaking again about Liesel's life and her death at the age of 90, mentioning her husband, children, and grandchildren, as we look over her modern day Manhattan Upper East Side apartment with pictures of her past and a portrait of her, upon which the camera lingers. The narrator does not state whom she married but implies that she became a writer. Death says that he has seen many good and bad things over the years, but Liesel is one of the few who ever made him wonder "what it is to live." Death concludes that the only truth he genuinely knows is that he is "haunted by humans".
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Book_Thief_(film)", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0