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Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Want To Be Hans Hubermann

Hans Hubermann and Liesel Meminger
In what is probably the most delicious and heart-breaking book I have ever read, I met a man—a fictional, yet true man—named Hans Hubermann.

If I become a man like Hans Hubermann, I will consider my life a success.

Hans Hubermann, a German living in Nazi-Germany, is the foster father of Liesel Meminger, the main character of The Book Thief. During World War I, Hans' life was saved by a Jew. Because of this, Hans consciously decides to not join the Nazi party. In the book, Hans quietly—yet daringly—resists the hatred of the Nazis while simultaneously offering beautiful acts of kindness.

At one point, a group of Jews are marched are marched through the town:
When they arrived in full, the noise of their feet throbbed on top of the road. Their eyes were enormous in their starving skulls. And the dirt. The dirt was molded to them. Their legs staggered as they were pushed by soldiers’ hands—a few wayward steps of forced running before the slow return to a malnourished walk.
Liesel watches them and describes their condition:
Hunger ate them as they continued forward, some of them watching the ground to avoid the people on the side of the road. Some looked appealingly at those who had come to observe their humiliation, this prelude to their deaths. Others pleaded for someone, anyone, to step forward and catch them in their arms. 
No one did. 
Whether they watched this parade with pride, temerity, or shame, nobody came forward to interrupt it. Not yet.
Then, after a hungry, dying Jew staggers forward, something unbelievable happens:
[Hans] reached into his paint cart and pulled something out. He made his way though the people, onto the road. 
The Jew stood before him, expecting another handful of derision, but he watched with everyone else as Hans Hubermann held his hand out and presented a piece of bread, like magic.
For the past week, I have been haunted by the thought of that scene. I think the actual weight of what he did really hit me today. Hans was not only offering food to someone who was deeply malnourished, but he was offering love to someone who had been deprived of it. Throughout his life, Hans is shown offering life-saving love to those in desperate need.

Our lives are filled with people starved for love—true love. Our offerings to them may seem meager, but they are no less meaningful. Indeed, our offerings of love may make all the difference between life and death.