Summary and Analysis
Part 9: The Last Human Stranger:
The Snows of Stalingrad
It is January 1943. Liesel goes to see Frau Holtzapfel to read to her and a man with a bandaged and bleeding hand answers the door. He tells Liesel to leave, that he'll get her later. Three hours pass and the man comes to her door. He is Michael Holtzapfel, one of Frau Holtzapfel's sons. When Liesel asks what happened to his hand, he says Stalingrad happened to his hand. When Rosa comes to the door, he asks if he can take Liesel with him to read to his mother. Michael also tells them that his brother, Robert, died in Stalingrad, and that he also heard that the Hubermanns' son is still alive in Russia. Death describes how Robert died, how his legs were blown off below the shins, and how it took three days in the hospital for him to finally die, his brother at his side. Death describes Russia and how whenever he thinks of that place, no matter where he is, he sees snow falling.
This chapter serves as another example of how the outside world, overwhelmingly the violence from the war, finds its way to Himmel Street and into Liesel's life. It also demonstrates how Liesel is able to use her gift of reading and words, her accordion, to bring help to others. It is soothing for her to be able to read to Frau Holtzapfel and to hope that it brings her some comfort, too.