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Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

Chapters III–IV

Chapters I–II

Chapters V–VII

Summary

Chapter III: Where Is Mrs. Hirsch?

September goes by and the girls have no more trouble with soldiers, though they are careful not to pass the two who stopped them. The mothers start to prepare for the hard winter ahead. Because there is no fuel, the winters are very cold. Annemarie remarks to her mother that she is lucky to share a bed with her sister since it is warmer that way. Annemarie tells her mother she remembers when Kirsti slept in her parent's bed. Annemarie worries that the comment will upset her mother because Kirsti slept with them while Lise was still alive. But her mother is not upset, and laughs remembering that Kirsti would sometimes wet the bed.

Mrs. Johansen notices that Kirsti's jacket is missing a button. She sends the girls to Mrs. Hirsch's shop. When Annemarie, Kirsti and Ellen get there, however, the shop is closed. On the door hangs a sign written in German and labeled with a swastika. Kirsti suggests that maybe the Hirsch family went on a picnic. Mrs. Johansen is upset when Annemarie tells her that the shop is closed. Annemarie thinks her mother is concerned because Kirsti's coat will still be missing a button. Mrs. Johansen goes to talk with Mrs. Rosen.

Later, when Annemarie is almost asleep, her mother comes to get her. Peter Neilsen has come for a visit. Annemarie is happy to see him, though she knows that it is past curfew and dangerous for him to be there. Peter has brought a seashell for Annemarie and beer for her parents. Mr. Johansen seems serious and tells Annemarie that the Germans are closing many shops owned by Jews. Peter explains that this is the Germans' way of "tormenting" and that it has already happened in other countries. Annemarie is perplexed; she wants to know why they would close a harmless button shop. She asks how the Hirsch family will earn a living. Mrs. Johansen says that their friends will take care of them. Suddenly, Annemarie remembers that the Rosens are Jewish. She is worried about them, but feels better once she remembers that Mr. Rosen is a teacher, not a shop owner. She reminds father of his story about the soldier and young man and says that now "all of Denmark must be the bodyguard for the Jews." Peter leaves and they go back to bed.

As she falls asleep, Annemarie wonders if, now that she is older, she would have the courage to die protecting Denmark's Jews. The thought frightens her, but she reassures herself that people are only called on to die in fairy tales, not in real life. Annemarie goes to sleep glad that she "would never be called upon for courage."

Chapter IV: It Will Be a Long Night

Ellen and Annemarie play Gone With the Wind with paper dolls cut from magazines. Annemarie is Scarlett and Ellen is Melanie. Ellen is good at using an accent and a sophisticated tone. She likes acting and had parts in school plays. Mrs. Johansen and Kirsti come home from shoe shopping. Kirsti has been crying, upset that the store only had shoes made of fish skin because there is no leather. Kirsti hates the green color and the scales. Ellen offers to make them black with ink, which quiets Kirsti. Annemarie lets Kirsti join their game. They pretend they are going to Tivoli gardens in Copenhagen. Kirsti says she remembers the fireworks in Tivoli gardens on her birthday, even though they have been closed since she was very little.

Annemarie remembers that only a month ago, on her sister's birthday, the Danes destroyed their own navel fleet to keep the Germans from using it. To calm Kirsti, Mrs. Johansen told her that the explosions were fireworks for her birthday. Thinking about this, Annemarie does not want to play anymore. Ellen leaves to help her mother prepare for the Jewish New Year. She invites Annemarie and Kirsti to come watch her mother light the candles on Thursday night. On Thursday, Annemarie and Kirsti see Ellen going to synagogue. In the afternoon Mrs. Rosen comes by and talks quickly with Mrs. Johansen. Mrs. Johansen tells the girls that Ellen will be coming to stay with them for a few days while the Rosens visit some relatives. Kirsti will sleep in her parents' bed and Mrs. Johansen promises to tell her a special story. Kirsti ask for a story about a king. They have a big chicken dinner that Mrs. Rosen had made for New Years. Everyone is quiet except for a giggling Kirsti.

After Kirsti is in bed, Mr. Johansen explains to Annemarie what has happened. He says, "I wish that I could protect you children from this knowledge." In synagogue, the rabbi announced that the Nazis had lists of all the Jews and that they might come to take them away. Annemarie cannot believe it and wants to know where they would take them. Peter has taken Ellen's parents to a safe hiding place and the Johansens will hide Ellen in the apartment by pretending that she is one of the daughters of the family. Mr. Johansen tells the girls not to be afraid, saying he had three daughters before and he is glad to once more.

Analysis

Though Annemarie is very aware for her age, she does not understand much about the war in the beginning of the novel. Her discovery that Mrs. Hirsch's shop has closed leads to more information than she was prepared to know. To Annemarie, the actions of the Germans seem nonsensical. When Peter and her parents explain that the Germans are closing Jewish-owned shops, it does not make sense to her. She wonders what harm a button shop could do. Though this is naïve in one way, it is also an example of how seeing war through a child's eyes can be illuminating. Annemarie is right: a button shop can do no harm. In her childishness, she points out how horrifyingly senseless the Nazis' actions are. To Annemarie, it seems clear that the Rosens will be fine since they do not own a shop. This also sheds light on the absurdity of the Nazi ethos. Annemarie cannot connect the torment of the Hirsches to the fact that they are Jewish. Such an explanation is so outlandish that it does not cross her mind.

The present that Peter Neilsen brings for Annemarie foreshadows later events. The seashell holds special significance, since it hints at the fact that Peter has been helping Jews escape to Sweden by boat. The seashell is also symbolic of the voyage that Annemarie will have to make from her child self to a more grown- up self.

As the potential danger moves closer to her existence, Annemarie must reevaluate her thoughts about courage. When the danger was at bay, and Annemarie still understood very little, she felt sure she could die for her country. But as she grows older and the danger grows closer, she is not so sure. As the possibility that she will need to be courageous grows stronger, Annemarie is less positive about her abilities. Her definite faith in herself is replaced by a more adult sensation of fear. To rid herself of this emotion, Annemarie dismisses the idea that she will ever be in a situation where her bravery will matter. In the comfort of her bed, she assures herself that people only have to make life or death choices in fairy tales. This thought reinforces the idea that the war is largely unreal for Annemarie.

The game the girls play with dolls is a normal children's amusement, but it is also a reflection of their own lives. Gone With the Wind is also the story of a war. Though it takes place in a different era and a different country, choosing to insert Margaret Mitchell's famous drama into Number the Stars is a way of making a statement about war in general. Lowry suggests that whether you are a young woman in Denmark, like Annemarie, or a young woman in America, like Scarlett, the experience of living through war is universally difficult. Just as Scarlett must set aside her high society ways and her girlish ideals to face the Civil War, so Annemarie must change her life and grow up unnaturally fast. The girls' playing also makes a statement about war as a game. Annemarie and Ellen play at war just as a war is a game on a great and terrible scale for the leaders involved. The girls' game ends abruptly when Annemarie remember the real life events that have occurred. Playing is shown as being incompatible with serious matters. As soon as she remembers the night Kirsti describes, Annemarie does not want to play anymore.

The Jewish New Year is mentioned in passing, but it is an important mention. Lowry uses it as a device to show Ellen's relationship to her religion. Ellen is open and willing to share her customs with her friends. To these children, the differences between their lives and religions are a source of interest, not of division. Ellen invites the girls to come watch her mother light the candles for the holiday. This is an exciting event for everyone to share. The anticipation of the shared holiday serves to make the Rosen's departure even more painful. Not only must they flee, they must flee on a day of religious celebration.

Suddenly, the war is at the Johansens' doorstep. Annemarie must now face the fact that Ellen is in danger. Games, a big dinner, a sleepover, all things that would usually be fun, are poisoned by this realization. Ellen and Annemarie have something real to worry about. They are entering the world of adult knowledge, whether they like it or not. Mr. Johansen says he wishes he could protect them from knowing, but at this point that is impossible. He must tell the girls the truth because it the truth is important to their safety. Learning is part of growing up, but because of the war, the natural process of learning has been accelerated for Annemarie and Ellen. The departure of Ellen's parents causes both girls to face harsh realities: the war will change their lives.

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Rating. I loved it!

by SoldierGina, November 26, 2014

Honestly, Number the Stars really had me thinking about life. It was just the realistic description of things that really made it go deep. It changed my whole outlook on life in general. It also helped me spiritually. It showed me that people go through bad hardships sometimes, but, you can make it through. It has helped me come to terms with some of the hardships I face in my life. Whenever something miserable happens, my mind immediately goes back to this story. This story really goes beyond a story, it touches you spiritually and emotiona... Read more

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