Uncle Henrik, Mrs. Johansen, Annemarie, and Kirsti sit at the table after dinner. They laugh about Blossom, the cow. Uncle Henrik teases Annemarie because she had to milk Blossom on her own. When she got home, her mother and Kirsti had gone to the hospital. Annemarie heard Blossom complaining and went to milk her, but she did not really know how. Kirsti asks if Ellen is coming back. Mama says that Ellen's parents surprised them by coming to pick her up last night. Uncle Henrik offers to show Annemarie the real way to milk a cow. Kirsti wants to go, too, but Mrs. Johansen says she must stay to help take care of her mother.
Annemarie asks her uncle where the Rosens are. She did not see them on the boat. Henrik says they were there. He stops and tells Annemarie she should not know these things, but because she was so brave he will tell her. Annemarie says she does not think she was brave, only scared. She did not even think about the danger, she adds. Uncle Henrik tells her that is what it means to be brave: to do what you must without thinking of the danger. He tells Annemarie that he and other fishermen have made hiding places in their boats. Resistance members, like Peter, bring people to the boats. Annemarie is surprised to hear that Peter is in the Resistance, but she realizes it makes sense. She says she did not hear any of the people in Henrik's boat. She wants to know if they could hear her, and Henrik says they could. They also heard the soldiers who came to search the boat.
Annemarie wants to know why the handkerchief was so vital. Uncle Henrik explains that she is being told a secret. The Germans have trained dogs to find humans so they can tell if there is anyone hiding in a boat. Peter talked with some scientists to solve the problem, and the scientists came up with a special drug that kills the dogs' ability to smell. Annemarie came just in time. Not long after she delivered the packet to her uncle, German soldiers brought dogs to the boat. The handkerchief saved them all. Now the Rosens and the other passengers are safe in Sweden. Annemarie asks if the Nazis will invade Sweden and Henrik says no. Suddenly Annemarie feels sad, and wonders out loud if she will see Ellen again. Uncle Henrik is sure that she will—they will be joined someday and the war will end someday. The kitten, who has followed them to the barn, falls into the milk, which makes them laugh.
The war ends two years later; Annemarie is now twelve years old. The Johansens watch the celebrations from their apartment. Below, people are waving the flag of Denmark in the streets. Annemarie thinks of all the empty apartments where Jewish families lived; they will soon be filled again. Mrs. Johansen has taken care of the Rosens' home in their absence. Kirsti has grown up a lot and now looks like the photos of Lise. She is more quiet and serious then before. Peter Neilsen has been killed. He was caught and jailed by the Nazis, then shot in a public square. The night before he died, Peter wrote to the Johansens saying he was proud, and not afraid. Peter asked to be buried with Lise, but the Nazis would not return his body.
When Annemarie went to visit Peter's grave with her parents, they told her the truth about how Lise died. Lise was also part of the Resistance. Her parents had not known this; Peter told them after her death. Annemarie fears that the Nazis also shot her sister. Mr. Johansen tells her that Lise and other Resistance members were being chased. Some were shot (Peter was wounded in the arm), but not Lise. The soldiers saw her and "simply ran her down." In a way, Annemarie had been told the truth. Lise was hit by a car, but it was not an accident.
Standing on the balcony, Annemarie thinks of her older sister. The celebration makes her think of Lise's engagement party, when Lise danced all night. Annemarie goes into her bedroom and opens the trunk that holds Lise's trousseau. From the skirt of the dress Lise wore that night, Annemarie pulls out Ellen's Star of David necklace. She asks Mr. Johansen if he can fix the broken chain. He says he can and then she will be able to give it to Ellen when she comes back. Annemarie says she will wear it herself until Ellen returns.
Annemarie continues to take on adult responsibility, without even thinking about it, when she goes to milk the cow. Though the assignment of responsibilities has returned to normal, she has progressed. Her progression is evident in the way her actions are contrasted with Kirsti's. Kirsti does not understand why Ellen is gone. Annemarie, on the other hand, is included with the adults. Uncle Henrik takes her for a milking lesson because she is grown up enough now to learn how to do it. Annemarie is also allowed to know some of the things that were hidden from her before. The danger has subsided for the moment, so Annemarie can be told more. This is in keeping with the idea that too much knowledge is not a good thing when you must be brave. Now that the immediate danger is passed, more knowledge is acceptable. Uncle Henrik also helps Annemarie see her own bravery. She thinks that because she did not concentrate on the danger of the situation, she was not being brave and that because she was afraid in the first place, her actions were not courageous. But Henrik sets her straight. He acknowledges that she risked her life. To be brave you cannot think about how dangerous your actions are. When she realizes that Peter was a Resistance member, Annemarie finally understands that bravery is not something you can categorize so easily. Peter's bravery was not visible to her, but he was brave nonetheless. Annemarie's talk with Uncle Henrik reveals exactly what happened on the boat. Along with Annemarie, we have known that the Rosens and the others were hidden and protected. Like Annemarie herself, however, we have been kept from knowledge that might have made earlier scenes more obviously dangerous.
Two years elapse between the day Henrik takes his passengers to Sweden and the day the occupation ends. Circles are completed. The novel begins and ends in Copenhagen. Lise is dead, but Kirsti has started to look more and more like her. Ellen's necklace is brought back out and the implication is that its owner will return, too. The war has left absences and changes in its wake. Some Jewish families will return to Copenhagen and their apartments, but not all of them will. The loss of Peter and Lise is irreversible and devastating. With the end of the war, the secret of Lise's death can be revealed. The Germans robbed Lise's youth from her. Although Annemarie was spared, in one way the Germans took her youth from her, too. Even little Kirsti has grown serious.
Annemarie decides to wear Ellen's necklace. Because the war is over, she can wear it without fear. This action is symbolic of Annemarie's belief that she and Ellen will again be able to live the same life. The Star of David is an echo of Annemarie's earlier fears. When she heard the psalm on the night of Ellen's departure, she was overcome by the bigness of the world. Annemarie felt that the stars could never be named. Perhaps she still feels this way, but now Annemarie has a star she can claim as her own.
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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