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article imageReview: 'The Book Thief' — War is a crime Special

By Ruth Hull     Nov 16, 2013 in Entertainment
It is undeniable that Nazi Germany had one of the worst, if not the worst, government in history. This is not a movie about the German Government. "The Book Thief" is an honest look at the human spirit that will grip your heart from start to finish.
The Hitler Regime was horrible, criminal, and sadistic. However, the German people and children were not the government and so war on the German people was also criminal. But victors get celebrated and you won't see any of them getting nailed for war crimes.
The Book Thief is a beautiful story about a German village full of wonderful people and children who played and cared about each other. They had hopes and dreams and they loved each other. The residents were just like their counterparts of the time in the United States. Of course, at that time, people the world over were warmer and kinder to their neighbors. Do you remember when almost nobody locked their houses or cars? Do you remember when cars would collide with only property damage and the participants would say to each other, "Forget it?"
Like people in the Book Thief, many of us don’t like our current government but don’t know what to do to fix it. So we go about our daily lives hoping that our government won’t pass any more oppressive laws. Americans allowed the Japanese to be interned in some pretty horrible camps back during World War II. In America, people turned in "friends" during the McCarthy witch hunts. The KKK and other racist organizations tortured, lynched and otherwise killed Blacks and bombed churches. Even today, groups of racists are terrorizing immigrants in this country. Yet, like most people in Germany who were not part of the atrocities, most Americans are not shooting immigrants and African-American children walking home with candy bars.
The book thief, herself was a young girl, Liesel (Sophie Nelisse), whose mother was a communist. The movie reminds us that the communists were rounded up first. They were the scapegoats for the Reichstag fire (Germany’s 9/11) and the excuse for the Enabling Acts (the German version of the PATRIOT Act), all of which propelled Adolph Hitler and the Nazi’s into full power.
In Germany, children loved their mothers and their mothers loved them as well. Liesel’s mother (Heike Makatch) is not seen after the start of the movie, though Liesel had hoped for a reunion. Later Liesel comes to believe that her mother had probably been executed as a communist. It is interesting how both the U.S. and German Governments villainized the communists.
Like a great many other German families, Liesel’s adoptive family took in and hid a Jewish boy (Max, played by Ben Schnetzer). They did so realizing that they, themselves, could be taken away and killed if they were caught. Max and Liesel had much in common, loving their mothers, loving books and treating everyone with basic kindness. Max’s biggest regret was leaving his mother. Liesel’s biggest regret was that her mother had left her but Liesel eventually realized that leaving was not her mother’s choice.
Though Liesel initially hoped to run away and find her mother, she quickly warmed to her new family and discovered that even her tough-speaking adoptive mother Rosa (Emma Watson) was a loving, caring woman. The girl especially bonded with her adoptive father Hans (Jeffrey Rush), who called her, “Your Majesty,” a term I often used to call my son. (I used to refer to my daughter as “Your Highness.”) The use of such terms is a way of letting kids know that the parent is honored to have the child in the parent’s life.
Hans taught Liesel to read. Books become the center of her life. At one point, after a public book-burning ceremony , the wife of the mayor who hosted the book-burning witnessed Liesel pick up a copy of H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man, from the stack of smouldering books. The reaction of the mayor's wife (Ilsa Hermann, played by Barbara Auer) was to introduce Liesel to her own library of books. The two bonded over their love for literature.
Shortly into the movie, the audience members fall in love with the town and its people. Those who want to demonize foreigners for simply having a bad government need to look in the mirror. The United States has Guantanamo and genocidal wars for oil. Our government has colluded in genocide in Palestine and has supplied the bombs used on the children there. Our government’s mass murder of the innocent people and children of Fallujah and extraordinary rendition were no less culpable than the war crimes of the other countries but there have been no trials for our government’s crimes. Instead those, such as Bradley Manning, who exposed the war crimes were punished. Newsmen, like Julian Assange, who dared to tell the truth were sought under the Espionage Act of 1917. Why isn’t Edward Snowden hailed as a hero for his support of our Constitution at the risk to his own safety? Our Congress passed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) multiple times, The NDAA allows our government to permanently detain any citizen for life without any right to a trial or any other rights. Our President has asserted his right of assassination. You better hope you are not on his hit list.
There is no denying the history of the German Holocaust that exterminated millions of Jews, communists, Gypsies, Blacks, Arabs, and others. However, most German citizens had nothing to do with the Holocaust, just as most Americans have little or nothing to do with Guantanamo, the drone bombings, the extraordinary renditions or the enforcement of the NDAA. So why were we bombing neighborhoods, instead of military installations?
Early in the movie. music and ideology were used to attempt to brainwash kids – but it didn’t work on those with strong morals. The two main kids may have sung along with a bigoted song and worn a school uniform but Liesel's friend Rudy (Nico Liersch) found himself harassed for painting himself black and trying to pretend he was Jesse Owens. Liesel risked her life to protect a Jew and to later rush through a crowd of Jews being marched away so as to ask them about a friend. In school, in the United States children are programmed into mindlessness by standardized tests and falsified history books but the programming often fails. Americans are programmed through the news media on a daily basis. They are fed lies and taught to hate others who are different. Why did the news media suddenly start asking if torture was acceptable? It is a question that should never be asked as the answer, automatically known in the hearts of non-sociopaths, is that torture is unacceptable under any circumstances. Some people buy the lies and support the racist oil wars and attacks on immigrants. Many are willing to ignore the prevalence of domestic violence and further punishment of domestic violence victims by family law courts. Some Americans turn their eyes from the pain of homelessness and poverty and go about selfishly figuring out how they can get more than their brothers and sisters. Still, there are good people here who care about others and who try to help anyone in need.
In today’s America, we have an all volunteer army. In World War II’s Germany, men and boys were forced into service against their wishes. Rudy, Liesel’s playmate, wanted to run away rather than go to elite training. Hans was conscripted, in spite of his elderly age, to punish him for speaking up for one of his Jewish neighbors. Some of us remember the draft. In World War Ii and during Vietnam, a lot of young Americans went to prison rather than fight and large numbers of those who went to war didn't come back. Too often men who returned committed suicide. My cousin Philip, a wonderful human being, was one of those suicides. Today, suicides have overtaken combat deaths of U. S. troops.
The movie shows what happens after civilian homes are bombed. We supposedly kill people and children to save them. Today, our military just presses a button to drop bombs on innocent people who have no weapons. When our government drone bombs wedding parties, hospitals, schools and villages, it kills human beings just like you and me and children just like ours. Those killed have lives. They love and they care about others and have hopes and dreams. What if somebody bombed your neighborhood or the neighborhood of someone you loved? They could justify it in their minds based on atrocities our government has committed. Would their excuses make you feel any better about the little kids who can no longer smile when you bring them presents or about the teachers who can no longer teach your children or about the doctors who can no loner try to save sick children from dying?
If collateral damage is part of war, then isn’t war itself a crime? Ask yourself, what we could have done to defeat the Axis Powers without bombing civilians? Are there so few creative thinkers in America that our government could not have come up with a peaceful solution or one that minimized collateral damage? Don’t forget that the slaughter of Jews stemmed from Henry Ford’s mass distribution of The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion. Maybe if our government had bothered to clean house, the death camps never would have been created. Our government goaded Japan into attacking and then watched and waited as Japan’s fleet crossed the Pacific on its way to Pearl Harbor. Learning about this was hard for me to accept because I had a relative in FDR's cabinet. Before my grandmother’s cousin Paul Tibbets dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Japan was ready to surrender. There was no need to kill all those people, children and babies.
Tonight, before you go to sleep, picture the children who will die in Pakistan or Afghanistan or elsewhere from the bombs dropped by your nation’s drones in the next day or two. Now give those dead children the faces of your own children. – because they are no different than your children.
The Book Thief has a message that people the world over are the same. The movie is so gripping that the time seems to fly by. The theater’s audience was filled with tears of oy and sadness at various points in the movie. The acting was amazing. Sophie Nelisse is one of the finest actresses to grace the silver screen this year and should be a top contender for the Best Actress award. Jeffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Barbara Auer, Ben Schnetzer and other cast members were all very convincing and gave memorable and very touching performances. This movie is a must see and one every member of Congress should be required to watch before any more of our drones drops one more bomb.
For me, The Book Thief was a learning experience , It definitely had an impact on my perception of the Germans of the time of World War II. They weren't the enemy. They were us and, if you don't get that, go see the movie.
When we ask ourselves how the Germans could let their government get so out of hand, we need to first ask ourselves how we could do the same? What have you done to close Guantanamo, stop the mistreatment of Blacks, immigrants and women that has only escalated in recent years? Have you petitioned your government to drone bombing or to force the courts to treat domestic violence victims as human beings? Have you risked your life to help a neighbor or a friend? Maybe, it's time we all woke up and remembered that, in the end, it doesn't matter who we are or how much money we have. All that matters is how we treat others - even the people we don't like.
More about the book thief, Germany, World war II, War crimes, Sophie Nelisse
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