When Liesel arrived in Molching, she had at least some inkling that she was being saved, but that was not a comfort. If her mother loved her, why leave her here on someone else’s doorstep? … The fact that she knew the answer—if only at the most basic level—seemed beside the point. Her mother was constantly sick and there was never any money to fix her. Liesel knew that. But it didn’t mean she had to accept it…. Nothing changed the fact that she was a lost, skinny child in another foreign place, with more foreign people. Alone.
Every night, Liesel would nightmare. Her brother’s face. Staring at the floor. She would wake up swimming in her bed, screaming, and drowning in the flood of sheets. On the other side of the room, the bed that was meant for her brother floated boatlike in the darkness. Slowly, with the arrival of consciousness, it sank, seemingly into the floor. This vision didn’t help matters, and it would be quite a while before the screaming stopped.
…Liesel tried on her new uniform. Ten years old meant Hitler Youth, Hitler Youth meant a small brown uniform. Being female, Liesel was enrolled in what was called the BDM…. The first thing they did there was make sure your “heil Hitler” was working properly. Then you were taught to march straight, roll bandages, and sew up clothes. You were also taken hiking and on other such activities.
In one of their basement sessions, Papa dispensed with the sandpaper (it was running out fast) and pulled out a brush. There were few luxuries in the Huberman household, but there was an oversupply of paint, and it became more than useful for Liesel’s learning. Papa would say a word and the girl would have to spell it aloud and then paint it on the wall, as long as she got it right. After a month, the wall was recoated. A fresh cement page.
At the end of the day, Liesel walked home with Rudy and the other Steiner children. Nearing Himmel Street, in a flurry of thoughts, a culmination of misery swept over her—the failed recital of The Grave Digger’s Handbook, the demolition of her family, her nightmares, the humiliation of the day—and she crouched in the gutter and wept. It all led here. Rudy Stood there, next to her.