Munich, Germany in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief

Munich Marienplatz during the failed Beer Hall Putsch. PHOTO CREDIT: German Federal Archives. This photo is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

Contributed by Graham Bliss, 10th grader, City High, Tucson, Arizona.

“Whoever named Himmel Street certainly had a healthy sense of irony.”1

Munich, Germany is the real world model for the fictional town of “Molching” in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. The main character Liesel arrives here after her brother dies and her mother gives her up to the Hubbermans. In Molching, Liesel lives on a street called Himmel. Himmel means “heaven” in German, but the place is far from it–the street is lined with small boxey houses without much space. The houses are really close together and the street is lined with snow in the winter. However, it is a lot better than other places that Liesel has lived. This is the street where she grows up and plays soccer with the neighborhood kids. Every once and a while there are huge book burnings that fill the streets of Molching with people.

Munich was central to the Nazi movement. The city is where Hitler first tried to come into power and was a Nazi stronghold beginning in 1933. The first concentration camp was located ten miles outside of Munich. During World War II, the city was hit with 71 air raids over a period of six years. The Nazis were driven out in 1945 when the US invaded the city. During World War II–the time The Book Thief is taking place–the town was most likely scattered with Nazi propaganda. Molching is described as very poor looking except for the north side, where Liesel regularly visits the mayor’s house, which contains the library. The air raids probably left holes in the streets and houses. It probably looked like hell on earth.

Read more about Munich on Wikipedia. Find The Book Thief at a local library or on Amazon.

1Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print. 26.

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