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Unformatted text preview: is? Who
knows what they’ve done to her?”
In bed, Liesel hugged herself tight. She balled herself up.
She thought of her mother and repeated Rosa Hubermann’s questions.
Where was she?
What had they done to her?
And once and for all, who, in actual fact, were they? DEAD LETTERS
Flash forward to the basement, September 1943.
A fourteen-year-old girl is writing in a small dark-covered book. She is bony but strong and has seen many
things. Papa sits with the accordion at his feet.
He says, “You know, Liesel? I nearly wrote you a reply and signed your mother’s name.” He scratches his leg,
where the plaster used to be. “But I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself.”
Several times, through the remainder of January and the entirety of February 1940, when Liesel searched the
mailbox for a reply to her letter, it clearly broke her foster father’s heart. “I’m sorry,” he would tell her. “Not
today, huh?” In hindsight, she saw that the whole exercise had been pointless. Had her mother been in a position
to do so, she would have already made contact with the foster care people, or directly with the girl, or the
Hubermanns. But there had been nothing.
To lend insult to injury, in mid-February, Liesel was given a letter from another ironing customer, the
Pfaffelhürvers, from Heide Strasse. The pair of them stood with great tallness in the doorway, giving her a
melancholic regard. “For your mama,” the man said, handing her the envelope. “Tell her we’re sorry. Tell her
That was not a good night in the Hubermann residence.
Even when Liesel retreated to the basement to write her fifth letter to her mother (all but the first one yet to be
sent), she could hear Rosa swearing and carrying on about those Pfaffelhürver Arschlöcher and that lousy Ernst
“Feuer soll’n’s brunzen für einen Monat!” she heard her call out. Translation: “They should all piss fire for a
When her birthday came around, there...
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