EMSAH Seminar: German Innocents in the Land of the perpetrators: Examining the 'Everyday' in Markus Zusak's The Book Thief
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- This paper investigates Markus Zusak’s bestselling novel The Book Thief. In doing so I refer to the German scholar Martin Broszat who called for studies of the Third Reich—and/or representations of the Third Reich—to focus on the “everyday”.
Broszat argued in the late 1980s that Nazi Germany would be better understood if the day-to-day running of German life during Hitler’s reign was examined. Zusak’s book inadvertently embraces Broszat’s request, but in doing so it separates the Third Reich from a noncommittal German population.
I argue that Zusak’s book, while not anti-Semitic as such, does pose interesting dilemmas of representation, pushing the Nazi perpetrator to the periphery of German society. These “demonic” individuals are thereby removed from the day-to-day, the novel implying that the majority of Germans who lived an everyday existence under the Third Reich were not only innocent of any wrongdoing, but also victims of this regime.
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