City of Thieves Chapters 19-21 Summary & Analysis

David Benioff

City of Thieves

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City of Thieves Chapters 19-21 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 19 Summary

A peaceful few hours’ sleep at the partisans’ safe house is interrupted dramatically as the guard on patrol announces that the Germans are coming. They run through the woods and snow and Lev witnesses the death of Korsakov and other partisans. After running for twenty minutes and hiding behind a tree, he is overcome to see Kolya, Vika and another partisan called Markov coming towards him.

The relief is short-lived when they see a whole company of German soldiers, the Gebirgsjäger, coming their way, marching scores of Russian prisoners. Knowing they cannot hide, they distract the Germans with a grenade and then infiltrate the group of Russian prisoners. Unfortunately, one of the prisoners recognizes Markov as a partisan who recently stole food from him; he denounces him to the Germans and Markov is shot dead. Lev, Kolya and Vika stoically carry on, having blended into the group of prisoners without being noticed.

Chapter 20 Summary

The prisoners are taken to an old Bolshevik schoolhouse, now inhabited by the Nazis. Given a newspaper each, they are told that those who can read one paragraph will be given comfortable office jobs and three meals a day, while the illiterate will be sent to the steel mills in Estonia. Vika whispers to Lev to pretend that he cannot read; Kolya too understands and all three convince the Nazi officer that they are illiterate. The 57 men who have passed the literacy test are marched away, proud of themselves and unaware of their fate – they are lined up and shot with machine guns in front of the other prisoners.

Chapter 21 Summary

Following the mass execution, Lev, Kolya, Vika and the remaining prisoners are crammed into a small tool shed for the night, where Lev is forced to sleep sitting up for lack of space. Despite the terrible situation they are in, Lev enjoys the opportunity to be close to Vika, who falls asleep leaning on his shoulder.

Analysis: Chapter 19-21

This section brings Lev’s and Kolya’s first direct encounters with the inhumane cruelty of the Nazi regime, though the author is careful to keep reminding us…

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