Number The Stars Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Who Is The Dark Haired One?

 

Ellen talks about pretending to be Lise if the Nazis show up. She was really good as The Dark Queen in the school play last year, and wants to convince her father that she should go to acting school instead of teacher school.

I am the Dark Queen! I have come to command the night!”

Annemarie giggled “You should practice saying, ‘I am Lise Johansen.’ the Nazis will haul you off to a mental institution if you tell them you’re the dark queen.”

This kills the silly mood. Annemarie reassures Ellen that the Nazis won’t come here in a million years, that they’re always just saying things to try and scare people.

As the girls get into bed, Ellen asks Annemarie how Lise died. The funeral was the only time she’s ever been in a Lutheran church.

So, then, the Johansens are Christians, specifically Lutheran. They’ve mentioned church before, but now getting specific.

I don’t know exactly” Annemarie confessed. “She and Peter were out somewhere together when there was a telephone call. Mama and Papa rushed to the hospital…my parents came home in the middle of the night and they told me Lise had died.”

Annemarie tells Ellen that she gets out Lise’s things from time to time and goes through them, but her parents never do.As difficult as it is, the parents do need to talk about it more. I get that that would lead to awkward questions about Lise’s death, but they could talk about the happier times, when she was alive. It would be healthier than pretending it never happened.

“She was so pretty. I used to pretend she was my sister too.” [Said Ellen.]

She would have liked that,” Annemarie said. “She liked you very much.”

That’s the worst thing in the world,” Ellen said. “To be dead so young. I wouldn’t want the Germans to take me and my family away…. but still, it wouldn’t be as bad as being dead.”

Poor Ellen. She has no idea that “dead” is exactly what “relocation” would mean for her. From what I’ve read, children were pretty much killed right away in most camps. I’m not sure how long her parents would last, either, given the horrific conditions.

It’s completely plausible that Mr. Johansen doesn’t know the specifics of the Nazis anti-Jewish agenda, and that even if he did, he wouldn’t tell Ellen. I can’t help but think, however, that Ellen must have some clue, even subconsciously, that she could be killed.

Annemarie quickly reassures Ellen That their family won’t let anyone take Ellen and her family away. Gradually, the girls fall asleep.

They don’t get to sleep for very long, however, before the Nazis show up. Conveniently, Kirsti sleeps through it all.

Annemarie eased the bedroom door open quietly, only a crack, and peeked out. Behind her, Ellen was sitting up, her eyes wide.

Annemarie’s mother turns on the electric light, which startles Annemarie. It seems rather silly; in the harsh glare of the light, the Nazis will notice every little detail. You’d think they’d want to keep the candles on.

“I understand you are a friend of your neighbors, the Rosens, Mrs. Johansen,” the soldier said angrily.

Mrs. Johansen confirms this, then asks the officers to be quiet, so as not to wake the sleeping children.

“Then you will be so kind as to tell me where the Rosens are.” He made no effort to lower his voice.

I assume they are in their apartment, sleeping. It is 4am, after all.”

The Rosens are not in their apartment. We are wondering if they are visiting with their good friends, the Johansens.”

The Nazis decide to search the apartment. Mrs. Johansen asks the soldiers not to wake the children. She’s probably terrified they won’t be able to put on a decent act. Kirsti, at least, probably can’t keep a secret.

Annemarie, who has been watching through a crack in the bedroom door, shuts it and comes back to the bed.

“Ellen,” She whispered urgently, “take your necklace off!”

Ellen’s hands flew to her neck. Desperately she began trying to unhook the tiny clasp. Outside the bedroom door, the harsh voices and heavy footsteps continued.

“I can’t get it open!” Ellen said frantically. “I never take it off–I can’t even remember how to open it!”

Annemarie heard a voice just outside the door. “What is here?”

…..

“Hold still,” Annemarie Commanded. “This will hurt.” She grabbed the little gold chain, yanked with all her strength, and broke it. As the door opened and light flooded into the bedroom, she crumpled it into her hand and closed her fingers tightly.

I’m almost surprised the Nazis didn’t see this happen. It’s almost too bad Annemarie is too young to be wearing a bra. It would be the perfect place to hide that necklace.

Annemarie notes that the soldiers are different from the ones on the street corners. Those soldiers are young, and sometimes let their harsh poses slip. These soldiers are older and have angry hatred looks on their faces.

The 3 soldiers bring Annemarie and Ellen out into the living room after a brief search of their bedroom. Ellen tells the soldiers her name is Lise Johansen.

The officer…grabbed a handful of Ellen’s hair. Ellen winced. He laughed scornfully. “You have a blond child sleeping in the other room. And you have this blond daughter–” he gestured toward Annemarie with his head. “Where did you get the dark-haired one?…. From the milkman?”

Annemarie’s father gets angry about this insult to Annemarie’s mother that I totally never picked up on my first 5,000 read throughs of this book. But the soldier is still talking.

“Or maybe you got her someplace else?” The officer ocntinued with a sneer. “From the Rosens?”

Well. They’re screwed. But not completely. Annemarie’s father keeps his head, hurriedly walking over to the book case. He pulls out 3 pictures from 3 separate pages, tearing them from the album.

The pictures are professional photographs of Kristi, Annemarie, and Lise as babies.The names of each child are written on the photographs.

Annemarie realized with an icy feeling why papa had torn them from the book. At the bottom of each photo, on the page itself, was the date. The real Lise Johansen had been born 21 years earlier.

Yeah, very lucky the officers didn’t start asking about that. I mean, really, Mr. Johansen could have had those pictures taken of random children yesterday and planted them in the album.

The officer looks at the first 2 pictures, of Annemarie and Kirsti. He lets them fall to the floor. Then he stares long and hard at the photo of “Lise Margarete.”

Annemarie pictured the photograph that he held: the baby, wide-eyed, propped against a pillow, her tiny hand holding a silver teething ring, her bare feet visible below the hem of an embroidered dress. The wispy curls. Dark.

The officer tore the photo in half and dropped the pieces on the floor.

Ouch. Hope that wasn’t the only picture of Baby Lise.

The officers leave the apartment without another word.

I’m not saying this is impossible, but doesn’t it usually go the other way around? Most babies I know have blonde hair when they’re little, and then it turns dark. I’ve never even heard of the opposite happening. I could put that aside for the sake of a good story, but man oh man are the Johansens ever lucky.

Because really, it’s not just Ellen that is in danger at this point. The Johansens are risking their own lives, at this point, to help their friends. The lives of every single person in that room depended on Mr. Johansen being able to fool the Nazis.

It’s a good thing he had planned to take the pictures out of that album.

The chapter closes with this paragraph.

Annemarie relaxed her clenched fingers of her right hand, which still clutched Ellen’s necklace. She looked down, and saw that she had imprinted the star of David into her palm.

 

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