Summary and Analysis
Part 4: The Standover Man:
A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fighter
Max was born in 1916 and grew up in Stuttgart. After his father died and his mother lost all of her money, they went to live with Max's uncle and his six cousins, where he learned to fight. Max loved to fight and remembers, at the age of 13, watching his uncle die, how the man didn't put up a fight. He vowed at that moment that he would punch death in the face when it came for him — an attitude that Death likes.
He and a group of boys would gather in the evenings to fight. During these fights, he develops a close bond with Walter Kugler, the man who hides him later. With the Nuremberg Laws come extra hardships for the Jews, and Max struggles to find work. On November 9, 1938, Kristallnacht or "Night of Broken Glass," Max and his family hide in their apartment when they hear a knock on the door. Outside stands Walter in his Nazi uniform; he takes Max with him, and Max feels guilty for deserting his family and feeling relief as he does so. Before he leaves, Max's mother gives him the name and address of Hans Hubermann. Walter hides Max for two years, contacts Hans, and gives Max the supplies he needs to get to Molching before Walter ships out to Poland.
This chapter serves to develop Max's character, describing his back story and how he came into contact with Walter Kugler. It also illustrates how Max, too, is experiencing a conflicted conscience like many of the other characters. He feels relief at having been rescued, but he also feels great guilt for leaving his family behind.
The parallels between Liesel and Max become more apparent in this chapter: Both of them have lost their families because of Hitler, and they both are fist fighters, which prepares us for their friendship to come. Max's devotion to fight Death indicates, too, that Max is a strong person who won't give up during such a challenging and bleak time in his life.