Liesel Meminger, in “The Book Thief,” is a hardworking, book-loving girl known for her bravery and kindness.
Despite her challenging early life characterized by a lack of education and family instability, Liesel turns her circumstances into opportunities.
She learns to read from her foster father and finds solace, escape, and strength in books.
Her undiminished spirit and determined character captivate Death, the novel’s narrator, and provide a unique perspective on the human spirit during the dark times of Nazi Germany.
Liesel Meminger Character Traits
Liesel Meminger, the protagonist of Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief,” is a character composed of bravery, intelligence, and love.
Her courage shines through in her interactions with her surroundings and challenges the hostile, oppressive Nazi regime.
This is evident when she steals the book from the burning pile (Page 254), displays her resilience when she tells Rudy that her heart is exhausted (Page 427), and bravely holds Max Vandenburg’s face, her friend and protector, on a fateful day (Pages 512-13).
Meanwhile, her intelligence is clear in her love for words. This is demonstrated when she says, “Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes” (Page 526).
Her understanding of metaphors underpins her intellectual curiosity and deeply emotional connection with her father.
Most significantly, Liesel’s unconditional love for those around her – from her love for Max Vandenburg to the poignant loss of her best friend, Rudy Steiner, with whom she shared her first kiss (Page 518 at the end of the book).
She exhibits great courage, particularly in her interactions with Max – “Is it really you, Max?” (pages 512-13), demonstrating her ability to love deeply despite the adversities surrounding them.
Interestingly, her complex relationship with words is also a defining trait. She declares, “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right” (page 528).
This statement encapsulates Lies el’s journey and development throughout the novel, showing her awareness of the power words hold, their potential to harm and heal, and her growth as an individual who learns to use them in a way that brings meaning and purpose to her life.
Her character mixes sorrow with strength, fear with daring, and love with loss, making her a compelling literary figure.
Liesel Meminger Quotes With Page Numbers (Direct Quotes)
“What do you want to kiss me for? I’m filthy.’- Liesel
So am I.’- Rudy”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel and Rudy), Page 54
“No…thank you. I have enough books at home. Maybe another time. I’m rereading something else with my papa. You know, the one I stole from the fire that night.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel), Page 254
“My heart is so tired”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel Meminger), Page 427
“There were people everywhere on the city street, but the stranger could not have been more alone if it were empty.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (a quote from Liesel’s most recent book).Page 473
“Max,” she said. He turned and briefly closed his eyes as the girl continued.
There was once a strange, small man,” she said. Her arms were loose but her hands were fists at her side. “But there was a word shaker, too.”
One of the Jews on his way to Dachau had stopped walking now. He stood absolutely still as the others swerved morosely around him, leaving him completely alone. His eyes staggered, and it was so simple. The words were given across from the girl to the Jew. They climbed on to him.
The next time she spoke, the questions stumbled from her mouth. Hot tears fought for room in her eyes as she would not let them out. Better to stand resolute and proud. Let the words do all of it. “Is it really you? the young man asked,” she said. ” Is it from your cheek that I took the seed.?”
Max Vandenburg remained standing.
He did not drop to his knees.
People and Jews and clouds all stopped. They watched.
As he stood, Max looked first at the girl and then stared directly into the sky who was wide and blue and magnificent. There were heavy beams– planks of son– falling randomly, wonderfully to the road. Clouds arched their backs to look behind as they started again to move on. “It’s such a beautiful day,” he said, and his voice was in many pieces. A great day to die. A great day to die,like this.
Liesel walked at him. She was courageous enought to reach out and hold his bearded face. “Is it really you,Max?”
Such a brilliant German day and its attentive crowd.
He let his mouth kiss her palm. “Yes, Liesel, it’s me,” and he held the girl’s hand in his face and cried onto her fingers. He cried as the soldiers came and a small collection of insolent Jews stood and watched.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel and Max), about Max, Pages 512-13
“Hair the color of lemons,'” Rudy read. His fingers touched the words. “You told him about me?”
At first, Liesel could not talk. Perhaps it was the sudden bumpiness of love she felt for him. Or had she always loved him? It’s likely. Restricted as she was from speaking, she wanted him to kiss her. She wanted him to drag her hand across and pull her over. It didn’t matter where. Her mouth, her neck, her cheek. Her skin was empty for it, waiting.
Years ago, when they’d raced on a muddy field, Rudy was a hastily assembled set of bones, with a jagged, rocky smile. In the trees this afternoon, he was a giver of bread and teddy bears. He was a triple Hitler Youth athletics champion. He was her best friend. And he was a month from his death.
Of course I told him about you,” Liesel said.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Rudy), Page 518
“Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel Meminger), Page 526
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel Meminger), Page 528
“The tears grappled with her face.
Rudy, please, wake up,…wale up, I love you. Come on, Rudy, come on, Jesse Owens, don’t you know I love you, wake up, wake up, wake up..”
But nothing cared…
She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Liesel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist’s suit collection. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled hersel away, she touched his mouth with her fingers. Her hands were tremblin, her lips were fleshy, and she leaned in once more, this time losing control and misjudging it. Their teeth collided on the demolised world of Himmel Street.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel Meminger), about Rudy and death, Pages 535-36
“Goodbye, Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. I’ll never drink champagne. No one can play like you.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Liesel Meminger), about Hans Hubermann, Pages 538-39
Quotes About Liesel Meminger From The Book Thief
“The impoverished always try to keep moving, as if relocating might help. They ignore the reality that a new version of the same old problem will be waiting at the end of the trip . . . ”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel, Page 25
“She stood up and took the book from him, and as he smiled over her shoulder at some other kids, she threw it away and kicked him as hard as she could . . . on the way down, he was punched in the ear. When he landed, he was set upon. When he was set upon, he was slapped and clawed and obliterated by a girl who was utterly consumed with rage.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel, Page 78
“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel and words, Page 80
“It’s a lot easier, she realized, to be on the verge of something than to actually be it. This would still take time.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel, Page 87
“What came to her then was the dustiness of the floor, the feeling that her clothes were more next to her than on her, and the sudden realization that this would all be for nothing—that her mother would never write back and she would never see her again. The reality of this gave her a second Watschen. It stung her, and it did not stop for many minutes.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel, Page 99
“She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.
With wonder, she smiled.
That such a room existed!”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel, words, and books, Page 134
“If there was one thing about Liesel Meminger, her thieving was not gratuitous. She only stole books on what she felt was a need-to-have basis.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (By Death about Liesel), Page 254
“She didn’t care about the food. . . . It was the book she wanted. . . . She wouldn’t tolerate having it given to her by a lonely, pathetic old woman. Stealing it on the other hand, seemed a little more acceptable. Stealing it, in a sick kind of sense, was like earning it.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (By Death about Liesel), Page 287
“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Max Vandenburg), about Liesel and kindness, Page 313
“She wanted none of those days to end, and it was always with
disappointment that she watched the darkness stride forward. ”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death, about Liesel Meminger, Page 355-56
“One was a book thief. The other stole the sky.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death) about liesel and Max, Page 381
“The best world shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words. That’s why she could climb higher than anyone else. She had desire. She was hungry for them.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death) about Liesel, Page 446
“After more than two hours, Liesel Meminger started writing, not knowing how she was ever going to get this right.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death about Liesel), Page 446
“She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Leisel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist’s suit collection. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled herself away, she touched his mouth with her fingers…She did not say goodbye. She was incapable, and after a few more minutes at his side, she was able to tear herself from the ground. It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on…”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel, Rudy and death, Page 536
“She took a step and didn’t want to take any more, but she did.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death), about Liesel Meminger, Page 537
When the war was over and Hitler had delivered himself to my arms, Alex Steiner resumed work in his tailor shop. There was no money in it, but he busied himself there for a few hours each day, and Liesel often accompanied him. They spent many days together, often walking to Dachau after its liberation, only to be denied by the Americans.
Finally, in October 1945, a man with swampy eyes, feathers of hair, and a clean-shaven face walked into the shop. He approached the counter. “Is there someone here by the name of Liesel Meminger?”
“Yes, she’s in the back,” said Alex. He was hopeful, but he wanted to be sure. “May I ask who is calling on her?”
Liesel came out.
They hugged and cried and fell to the floor.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death, Max, and Alex about Liesel), Page 548
“There’s a multitude of stories (a mere handful, as I have previously suggested) that I allow to distract me as I work, just as the colors do. I pick them up in the unluckiest, unlikeliest places and I make sure to remember them as I go about my work. The Book Thief is one such story.
When I traveled to Sydney and took Liesel away, I was finally able to do something I’d been waiting on for a long time. I put her down and we walked along Anzac Avenue, near the soccer field, and I pulled a dusty black book from my pocket.
The old woman was astonished. She took it in her hand and said, “Is this really it?”
With great trepidation, she opened The Book Thief and turned the pages. “I can’t believe . . .”
Even though the text had faded, she was able to read her words. The fingers of her soul touched the story that was written so long ago in her Himmel Street basement.
She sat down on the curb, and I joined her.
“Did you read it?” she asked, but she did not look at me. Her eyes were fixed to the words.
I nodded. “Many times.”
“Could you understand it?”
And at that point, there was a great pause.
A few cars drove by, each way. Their drivers were Hitlers and Hubermanns, and Maxes, killers, Dillers, and Steiners. . . .
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race—that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.
All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.”
~Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, (by Death and Liesel), Page 549-50
What is the last thing death says to Liesel?
The last thing Death says to Liesel is not directly to her but a comment made to both Liesel and the reader. Death’s final words are, “I am haunted by humans.”
This indicates the profound perplexity and emotional turmoil Death experiences from observing the complexities and contradictions inherent in human nature.
Did Liesel kiss Rudy when he died?
Yes, Liesel did kiss Rudy when he died. Overcome with emotion, Liesel leaned down and kissed her best friend Rudy on the lips, long and soft. The kiss was flavored with a touch of both sweetness and regret, marking their final farewell.
Did Liesel fall in love with Rudy?
Throughout the story’s narrative, Liesel develops a deep affection and a sense of love toward Rudy. However, this wasn’t a conventional romantic love but a bond stemming from their shared experiences, friendship, and an understanding formed under the difficult circumstances they endured together.
Rudy’s death at the end reveals the depth of these feelings when Liesel finally gives him the kiss he had always asked for, indicating a love deeper than mere friendship.
Who does Liesel love the most according to death?
According to Death, Liesel harbors a deep and abiding love for her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and her best friend, Rudy Steiner.
Her relationship with Hans is particularly significant, with his calming influence helping her navigate traumatic experiences. However, Death doesn’t definitively point out who Liesel loves the most, leaving it to the interpretations based on Liesel’s relationships throughout the novel.
Did Liesel fall in love with Max?
In the novel, Liesel develops a deep emotional bond with Max Vandenburg, the Jewish man hidden by her foster parents. However, their relationship resembles friendship and shared experiences rather than romantic love.
Their mutual understanding and affection are born from similar backgrounds and the undertaking of personal tragedies, creating a form of love rooted in deep friendship instead of romance.