My questions to Liesel Meminger
- What did you really mean when you said “words give power”?
As I have experienced the beauty and the brutality of humanity, I learned that words can influence humans to act towards both good and evil. When I started learning how to read, the words comforted me and made me feel accepted in my new foster home. Books helped me bond with my foster dad, Hans. They gave me strength; reading The Gravedigger’s Handbook reminded me of my brother and made me stronger. Words gave power to not only me but also Hitler, words were the only thing he had to become powerful. He manipulated people into believing his ideas with words. Words can cause both happiness and pain.
- How would you describe Max Vandenburg and his impact on your life?
When I first met Max, I was hesitant towards him. He was a complete stranger, I still can’t believe how far we have come from that day. When he came to our house, he did his best to live in the shadows so he won’t be a burden on us. I know he felt bad for taking refuge in our house, he didn’t was to put our family in danger. Even though his set up in the basement was freezing, he never once complained. It got so bad to the point that he got severely sick, but still he felt the guilt. He fought for his life, so that he would cause any difficulty. His guilt was a driving force for his survival. When we first talked, he was weak, angry and I think guilty. This is probably why we became so close so fast. Like me, he also had nightmares about the last time he saw his family. Having him in my life changed the way I looked at everything. He made me stronger, he taught me the importance of words and gave me courage.
- What do you think was the meaning of Max painting over Mein Kampf. What was he able to express by doing this and by drawing over it?
Mein Kampf was a copy of Hitler’s autobiography, initially a powerful tool of fascism. Max first removes it and then turns it into a tool of peace. It was a way for him to strike against Hitler, but I also believe that it was a symbol of him reclaiming his life. He was hidden from everyone, He couldn’t move around the house freely, he couldn’t go outside or anything, so i think this was his way of getting his story out.
- What is your opinion on Hans’s action of giving bread to an elderly Jew from a concentration camp? Were the consequences worth the benefits?
Papa’s action resulted in him and the Jew being whipped. Max was forced to leave because our basement was no longer safe for him, and Papa had to join military again. Still it was worth it, Papa’s action made the Jewish man believe that there is still humanity in a nation that has dehumanized him. That day my Papa set an example for other German citizens in the crowd, who helped him get up after he was beaten. I have never met a man more courageous than him.
- How did your feelings change for Rudy Steiner over time?
Rudy and I were neighbors, we lived down the street from each other, and occasionally crossed paths at school. He was very impulsive but very caring. He had a strong sense of justice and compassion. We became friends and started hanging out together quite a bit. At first, it was just occasionally, but after a while, we end up doing almost everything together, including thieving for local gangs, and stealing books. When we aren’t at our individual homes, we were together. We got in trouble together, we stole together, we schemed together. I saw him as a great, caring friend but I didn’t think we were anything more. Although my feelings towards him began to change after he heroically brought back my book from the icy cold river.