|Photo taken by Ms. C|
I could research the topic into oblivion during my Undergraduate days... I would read book after book on the Holocaust prior to my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Yet, I was now unable to read the first few pages of any Holocaust-themed item.
What was the weirdest part about my reading rut? The actual visit at Auschwitz-Birkenau did not move me to the degree that I thought it would. I found that the camp, while an emotional site, had become too tourist-centered. It was only after I returned to Canadian soil that the thought of reading about events at the place I had just visited began to disturb me. I could vividly picture what the authors were writing. I could recall walking in that very camp the authors were so expertly describing, and if I closed my eyes, their stories and my experiences at the same site began to overlap.
Consequently, I have a large pile of Holocaust literature sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.
I told my friend, K, my reading problems... and the fact that I really wanted to read a book called The Book Thief. After a little persuasion, I left a store with The Book Thief placed neatly into my shopping bag. I began reading the book later on that afternoon.
The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, portrays the adolescent life of Lisel Meminger in Nazi Germany. Lisel is a young Aryan teenager who is placed into foster care in order to avoid the perils of having communist parents. Lisel steals books from Nazi book burning ceremonies and townspeople as she learns how to read and write with the help of her foster father. Zusak explores the adolescents of Germany's Third Reich and the power of literature as a source of escape at the darkest of times.
The Book Thief is narrated by Death. Zusak expertly creates the character of Death as an individual which is kind, welcoming, and always there. I will admit that at first the thought of Death as a narrator pushed me away from this book. However, Death's voice is engaging, strong, emotive, and the glue which holds this tale together.
While Zusak mentions the Holocaust - parades of Jewish peoples heading for concentration camps and one character even hiding a Jewish man - his tale does not heavily focus on the atrocities.
I found it very refreshing to read a World War II themed book which focused on Germans. Not the big, bad Nazi Germans... but the everyday Germans. Individuals who were not bad people but people placed within a demonizing society.
The Book Thief is definitely a good gateway into the realm of Holocaust literature. I would recommend this book to everyone - it is now one of my all time favourite pieces of Holocaust literature.
Zusak, M. (2005). The book thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.