WWII-centric Movie, The Book Thief, Hit Theaters


“The Book Thief” is a movie that takes place in a fictional German town at the height of World War II and it focuses on one little girl’s life while she lives with a foster family.

The setting for the movie doesn’t seem like a World War II movie because the town looks like it belongs in a heart warming tale for the holidays–that is if you are able to disregard the Nazi flags hanging on every building. The story begins in 1938 and it flows onward with ease and simplicity of any  well known fairy tale.

Don’t be fooled though. The stark division between innocence and the cruelest aspects of Nazism are easily noted in “The Book Thief,” Markus Zusak’s young adult novel which the movie was adapted from, Stephen Holden from The New York Times reports.

The movie spans several years and it is uses the little girl, Liesel, as a point of reference. She is the only ray of sunshine and hope in a film about one of the darkest points in human history.

Such dark spots in the film include a moment where Jews whose sleeves are adorned with the yellow star are being marched out of town. Another instance is when the Nazi officers are searching through houses looking for Jews hiding in cellars. One of the more sobering scenes depict the town being decimated by a bomb. The damage was horrific however the bodies were laid out among the streets as though they were asleep. While these moments are dark in nature, they are glossed over to warrant the PG-13 rating the movie has.

Liesel’s foster parents, Hans Hubermann and Rosa, are feeling the effects of not joining the Nazi party. Hans is a kind-hearted man who plays the accordion and is very loving to the young Liesel. Rosa, on the other hand, is rather mean when they first meet. Rosa eventually warms up to Liesel, so fret not.

The characters are portrayed like storybook figures that came straight from a curious child. Each character has their own unique accent which varies from a thick Germanic accent to British. Even the language itself is English with sprinkling of German phrases.

Hans teaches Liesel how to read when her classmates tease her for being unable to read. After she watches a book burning rally, she begins to steal tomes from the local burgermeister whose wife allows her to visit her deceased son’s personal library. Liesel is able to distract Germans who are huddled in a bomb shelter later in the movie because she has memorized everything that she reads.

Fear not, hopeless romantics. There is a love triangle hinted at in this movie. Rudy is Liesel’s best friend and (of course) next door neighbor. When he is chosen to participate in training for the Nazi’s elite military, he and Liesel run away to a secret location where they declare their hatred for the Nazi dictator.

The Hubermanns put their lives in danger when they agree to hide Max, the son of the man who saved Hans’ life during WWI. Max could give Rudy a run for his money when it comes to Liesel’s heart.

“The Book Thief” was released in theaters on November 8, 2013 in New York and Los Angeles, California.  Rotten Tomato critics give the movie 59% ; however, the audience gives the movie a 79% stating that they enjoyed the movie. The movie only made
$0.1M in the box office opening weekend.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE