Number The Stars Chapter 4

Chapter 4

It Will Be A Long Night

Annemarie and Ellen are playing paper dolls when Kirsti storms into the apartment in tears.

Kirsti is upset because her mother has bought her new shoes. Unfortunately, since leather is in short supply at the moment, Kirsti’s shoes are made of fish skin. They’re green and you can still see the scales on them in places.

I did some googling, and it turns out that this was very common in Denmark at the time. I was unable to find a decent picture of what this might look like. I did find a picture that claimed to be fish skin shoes dyed black, but Pinterest doesn’t let me look at pictures unless I create an account with them and that is so not happening because like I need another social media account to keep track of.

Fish skin shoes are still made today, however, and they look really pretty. I’m guessing they didn’t look like this in 1943.

Ellen tells Kirsti that really, it’s only the color that’s ugly. Kirsti makes a huge fuss about not wanting to wear green shoes. As an 20th century American (at Kirsti’s age) this doesn’t make sense to me. When I was growing up, our shoes were all kinds of colors. Were green shoes such an awful thing in 1940s Denmark? Were shoes back then only black, brown, or white? Would colorful shoes be thought of as uncool?

In any case, Ellen tells Kirsti that her father has a big jar of black ink. If Kirsti would like the shoes better if they were black, Ellen tells her, she’ll ask her father to dye them for her. Kirsti asks if Mr. Rosen can make them shiny, because she wants shiny black shoes. Ellen says she thinks it’s possible, so Kirsti brightens up.

Kirsti, feeling much more cheerful, decides to play paperdolls with her sister. Annemarie isn’t too fond of this idea but there’s not much she can do about it without starting a huge argument.

Kirsti says they should make their doll characters go to Tivoli Gardens. “They can watch fireworks!” She says excitedly.

Silly,” Annemarie scoffed, “you never saw the fireworks.”


I did too,” [Kirsti] said belligerently. “It was my birthday. I woke up in the night and I could hear the booms, and there were lights in the sky. Mamma said it was fireworks for my birthday.”

This wasn’t actually the fireworks at Tivoli Gardens (which was destroyed) but the destruction of the Danish navy, which they sank rather than allow the Nazis to take.

Thinking about all this makes Annemarie sad. She tells Ellen she doesn’t want to play anymore. Ellen says she has to go home and prepare for the Jewish New Year, and invites Annemarie and Kirsti over to celebrate it. Annemarie and Kirsti have been to Ellen’s apartment many Friday nights to open the Sabbath.

Annemarie and Kirsti had often been invited to watch Mrs. Rosen light the Sabbath candles on Friday evenings. She covered her head with a cloth and said a special prayer in Hebrew as she did so. Annemarie always stood very quietly, awed, to watch; even Kirsti, usually such a chatterbox , was always still at that time. They didn’t understand the words or the meaning, but they could feel what a special time it was for the Rosens.

That’s a very short paragraph, It is a good description of a religious ceremony, and how it can make a person feel. I’ve seen Christian novels spend paragraphs upon paragraphs trying to do the same thing and coming up short.

Kirsti gets excited about the New Year, but unfortunately, no one’s going to be doing any celebrating tonight. Sophy Rosen comes to the Johansens’ apartment after Synagogue/school and talks hurriedly to Mrs. Johansen, who comes back in and informs Annemarie that Ellen will be staying with her family for a while.

But Mama,” Annemarie says, “it’s their New Year! They managed to get a chicken somewhere. A whole roast chicken!”

Mama tells the girls that Mr. and Mrs. Rosen have been “called away to visit some relatives” so Ellen is going to stay with their family. She and Annemarie can share a bed, while Kirsti bunks in with Mr and Mrs. Johansen. Kirsti is about to make a fuss, so her mother promises to tell her an extra long story that night to make up for it.

The Rosens give the Johansens, the chicken, but even so, nobody except blissfully ignorant Kirsti is enjoying themselves. After dinner, Mama takes Kirsti to bed early, leaving the two older girls alone with Annemarie’s father. Annemarie demands to know what’s going on, because she’s not stupid and she knows something’s wrong. Her father gives up and tells her:

This morning, at the synagogue, the Rabbi told his congregation that the Nazis have taken the synagogue lists of all the Jews. Where they live, what their names are. Of course, the Rosens are on that list, along with many others…. they want to arrest them…we have told they may come tonight.

Annemarie is shocked. Why would the Nazis want that information? Where would they take the Jews?

We don’t know where [said Annemarie’s father] and we don’t really know why. They call it ‘relocation.’ We don’t even know what that means. We only know that it is wrong, that it is dangerous, and that we must help.”

I have to wonder, at this point, how much Annemarie’s father really didn’t know? I mean, I get that a lot of people really didn’t know what “relocation” meant, but these people read the underground newsletter. Surely they must have some idea? Or is Annemarie’s father just saying that because hey, 10 year old Annemarie doesn’t need to know everything.

Annemarie asks where Mr and Mrs. Rosen are, and her father explains, as gently as he can, that their tiny apartment can’t hide 3 people, so the Rosens have gone elsewhere. Which, to me, begs the question, why didn’t they take Ellen with them? Do the people who took in Sophy and Mr. Rosen not have room for 3? Are they splitting up because that way if the Nazis catch the parents, they won’t also catch the daughter? Are Sophy and her husband also separated from each other?

At this point Ellen starts crying. Annemarie’s father gives Ellen a hug and reassures her that her parents are safe.

Annemarie asks where the fuck they’re going to hide Ellen in their teeny apartment. Papa says that this part is easy. Ellen is going to hide in plain sight. He’s had 3 daughters before. He doesn’t think the Nazis will show up, but if they do, Annemarie and Ellen can pretend to be sisters. They’re together so much this won’t be that hard to pull off.

Hang on, if Ellen is basically pretending to be Lise, shouldn’t Mr. Johansen tell her that? “Oh, and by the way, we’re going to call you Lise, and you’re going to pretend to be my daughter.” In the next chapter Ellen figures this out on her own, but nobody actually tells her anything. And shouldn’t they be telling Kirsti this? What if the Nazis wake her up in the middle of the night? Yeah, 5 year olds in general aren’t always great at keeping secrets, but I mean, at this point, it would be better to tell her something because if the Nazis wake her up, they’re screwed. If they really don’t think telling Kirsti is a good idea, knockout drops are an ethical choice in this situation. They will be used later on someone much younger.

Mr. Johansen tells the girls he doesn’t think the Nazis will put in an appearance, and I wonder how naive he can be. If the Rosens are such close friends with the Johansens, the Nazis probably already know.

We are told it is the last night of September, and, as Mr. Johansen says, “It will be a long night.”


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