If Liesel is the novel’s moral center, her foster father, Hans, is its heart. Generous, kind, and patient, Hans is immediately sympathetic, and remains that way to the end. As a father figure to Liesel, he represents paternal self-sacrifice and the wisdom of experience. The few occasions when Hans is strict or harsh with Liesel, he is acting not out of anger but because he wants to protect her and teach her something. With his insistence on education and self-determination, he is the opposite of the paternalistic leaders of the town and country, who infantilize citizens rather than allowing them to think for themselves. Hans initially seems quite passive about his life. He has no particular ambitions and goes where circumstances propel him. Yet Hans is clearly not weak or cowardly, as he is one of the few characters who directly challenges Hitler’s regime. He is guided by his conscience, and suffers greatly when he feels he has acted in error. He cannot stand to see others in pain, and at times this sense of empathy causes him to put himself and his family in jeopardy. But his acts of kindness are rewarded at other times. By the end of the novel, Hans has made peace with his life and his fate, and accepts his death gracefully.