- Fizzy Thoughts: Days of Remembrance and The Book Thief

Days of Remembrance and The Book Thief

Sunday, April 19, 2009

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
— Elie Wiesel

Today marks the beginning of the Days of Remembrance, when the US commemorates the victims of the Holocaust. This year’s theme is Never Again: What You Do Matters.

Did you know that the word genocide did not exist before 1944? Raphael Lemkin formed the word to describe the Nazi policy of extermination of the Jews and other targeted groups. Genocide was formed by combining geno (Greek for race or tribe) and cide (from Latin for killing). For Lemkin, genocide meant "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide which made genocide an international crime. In the Convention, genocide is defined as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

For more info on the Days of Remembrance and genocide, visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Although I finished the following book earlier in the month, I thought it appropriate for today’s post.

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak
550 pages

“I am haunted by humans.” -Death

Why am I quoting Death? Because he is the narrator of The Book Thief. And I must say, he does a damn good job of narrating.

Liesel Meminger is being sent to foster care when Death first encounters her. In the course of her journey young Liesel steals a book. Later, as a foster child living with Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Liesel steals her second book from a pile of burning books (it’s Nazi Germany…do I need to say more?). From there, she moves on the library of the mayor’s house. Liesel is subtly abetted by her beloved foster father Hans, her best friend Rudy, and even the mayor’s wife. Since life in Molching Germany in the early 1940’s is harsh and scary, books provide Liesel with an escape and a purpose. As the war escalates, Liesel reads to others in bomb shelters, kitchens and basements.

The story of the book thief is told alongside the story of WWII and the Holocaust. However, the book does assume some knowledge of both events, as Death provides more biting asides than he does historical lessons.

At 550 pages, I did find the book a bit long. I think the book could have stood a bit of a heavier hand with the red pencil. Especially since Death is not shy about telling you what’s coming. And it’s also a bit odd that Death never divulges what happened to Liesel’s mom. Yeah, it’s pretty obvious, but still, you’d think he could fill in a few blanks. After all, he has to know.

Still, this is a book worth reading.

10 comment(s):

Care said...

I have plans to read The Book Thief in July. Thx for the reminds of The Days of Remembrance.

bermudaonion said...

Thank you so much for bringing the Days of Remembrance to our attention. It is so important to remember history's tragedies so we don't repeat them in the future.

Nymeth said...

I had no idea about Days of Remembrance either. Thank you for spreading the word.

beastmomma said...

I agree that it is important to spread awareness of the Days of Remembrance. Also, I am looking forward to reading the Book Thief.

Bookfool said...

The Book Thief is one of those rare books that I found absolutely un-put-downable. It's been nearly 3 years and it still is one of the first books that comes to mind when someone says, "What should I read?" Very possibly I liked it better than you did. ;) Thanks for mentioning Days of Remembrance. I hadn't heard of that.

Kim said...

Deborah recommended The Book Thief years ago, I think when it was first published, it was one of the first books she recommended after she started working at B&N - good story and it's stayed with me. Just got home from book club where we read The Reader. For such a short book, it's the longest discussion we ever had - very interesting.

Scobberlotcher said...

I just got The Book Thief last week. :)

lilly said...

I'm glad to see that you brought Days of Remembrance to our attention. I personally think it should get more publicity than it currently does.
As for the book, I have read tons of Holocaust/WWII books and this one was quite different, and death did crack me up several times. It still was a good book and I'm keeping it on my shelf so my daughter can read it when the time comes.

chartroose said...

I can't get into that book, although I've tried several times.

Good info on genocide, Jillora. I didn't know the word was so new.

Wrighty said...

Thank you for such an important reminder. I've been planning to read The Book Thief for some time and I need to get to it. I never knew the origin of the word genocide either. So tragic but so vital that we don't repeat it.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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