Number The Stars Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Is the weather good for fishing?

 

  Annemarie’s father is a little spooked. He says he thought that if the Nazis came at all, they’d look around, see they had no place to hide anyone, and leave. This is a little naive sounding, but let that pass.

Ellen apologizes for her dark hair because it made the Nazis suspicious. Annemarie’s mother tells Ellen never to think like that. Her hair is beautiful, just like her mother’s.

Weren’t we lucky that papa thought so quickly and found the pictures? And weren’t we lucky that Lise had dark hair when she was a baby? It turned blond later on, when she was two or so.”

Um, if Ellen was pretending to be Lise, shouldn’t this have been one of the first things they thought of? I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to think that we might need some kind of an explanation for why we have a dark haired dark eyed child when our other daughters have blonde hair and light eyes. I’m not really sure why the Johansens weren’t more paranoid.

I’m a little suspect about this dark hair turning lighter later on. Usually it’s exactly the opposite. Most children I know are born with blond hair and blue eyes, and then, if it’s going to, these things change colors later on. It was that way with almost all my family, except, some reason, for me. Maybe *I* came from the milkman.

In any case, I can put that aside for the sake of a good story. It is a really lucky coincidence.

Annemarie realizes, with a jolt, that this is the first time in 3 years that her parents have spoken of Lise.

“I think we must not take the risk of sending you to school today,” he said. “It is possible that they will look for the Jewish children in the schools.”

Oh sure, now he’s properly paranoid.

Ellen’s reaction to this is very telling.

Not go to school?” Ellen asked in amazement. “My parents have always told me that education is the most important thing. Whatever happens, I must get an education.”

 

 I wonder if this is Ellen’s family in particular, or the attitude of Danes in general.

Mr. Johansen tells her to think of it as more of a vacation, and that her parents would agree that her safety is the most important thing right now.

What’s sad is that Ellen’s education may indeed suffer. In certain times and places, the war interfered with children’s education. I’m not sure if that was the case in Denmark at the time, I’ll have to go look it up later.

Do they even speak the same language in Sweden? Would Ellen be able to find a school over there she could understand the language in right away?

Mr. Johansen calls over Mrs. Johansen, who’s name we learn is “Inge.”

“Remember what Peter told us? I think today is the day to go to your brother’s.”

Inge agrees, but tells papa that he must stay behind. If only she and the girls make the trip, the Nazis probably wouldn’t look too hard at that. But if the whole family leaves, that would look suspicious.

I’m not sure how much sense this makes. The Johansens are still being watched. They will still observe Inge and the kids leaving, on a school day, right before the Jewish New Year. Unless today is Friday?

I’m not entirely sure it’ll look much less suspicious, and their father will still be in the city where the Nazis can easily get to them…

At any rate, the others leave to go get ready, so Annemarie is the only one observing Mr. Johansen’s call to Henrik, Annemarie’s mother’s brother.

We were told about him earlier, how he had the farm that was across the sea from Sweden. He happens to be a fisherman, with a boat.

So, Henrik, is the weather good for fishing?” Papa asked…. “I’m sending Inge to you today with the children, and she will be bringing you a carton of cigarettes…. yes, just one…but there are a lot of cigarettes available in Copenhagen now, if you know where to look….and so there will be others coming to you as well, I’m sure.”

Clearly, they had this code worked out beforehand. That means that they knew, at some point, that the Jews would have to flee the country. Which makes their lack of paranoia in the previous chapter a little strange.

Annemarie takes a while to work out what all this is code for. There are not plenty of cigarettes in Copenhagen, and people have been smoking some truly awful smelling things. Her papa complains about it a lot.

So, what is her father really sending Uncle Henrik?

Then she knew. It was Ellen.

We cut to a scene on the train, where the girls are looking out the window at the scenery. Annemarie wishes they could stop at the deer farm, which could better be described as a deer zoo. Mrs. Johansen promises Ellen she’ll see it someday, and it seems like wishful thinking to me.

The train does stop at the deer park, but no one gets off. Instead, Nazi soldiers get on.

Annemarie tensed. Not here, on the train, too? They were everywhere.

Yes, yes they are. In fact, it seems to be a recurring fact throughout this book. Soldiers stop, question the main characters, then go away. Then the characters have more runins with the soldiers and the cycle repeats.

The soldiers stop and question random passengers. They approach Mrs. Johansen, who tells them they are going to Gilleleje, where her brother lives.

The soldier turned away…then, without warning, he turned back. “Are you visiting your brother for the New Year?” he asked suddenly.

Mrs. Johansen, surprised, replies that of course they’re not celebrating the New Year, it’s only October.

And guess what!” Kirsti exclaimed suddenly in a loud voice, looking at the soldier…..Annemarie knew what she was about to say. “This is our friend Ellen, and it’s her New Year! But she didn’t. Instead, Kirsti pointed at her feet. “I’m going to visit my uncle Henrik,” she chirped, “and I’m wearing my brand new shiny black shoes!”

Annemarie and Mrs. Johansen aren’t happy with Kristi for this , but I actually think that this is kind of genius. Yes, Kirsti is 5, and it’s unlikely she’s doing this on purpose.

But, it actually is less likely to draw suspicion to act like a 5 year old chatterbox who babbles on and on about her shiny shoes than it is to simply be reserved and quiet and answer only the questions asked.

In any case, Kirsti makes the officer laugh, and he moves on.

Hang on, how come these German officers don’t ask what Mrs. Johansen is doing with a dark haired child? If Ellen is that noticeably different from the Johansens, I’d think the soldiers would be bringing this up constantly.

They make it to Gilleleje without further incident, and Mrs. Johansen reminisces about her childhood a little as they walk to the farm.

The chapter ends with Annemarie running ahead to the house, and Mrs. Johansen giving Ellen a hug.

I’m starting to realize that not a whole lot really happens in this book. I think it may be more realistic that way, but still, the next chapter not much really happens except that Annemarie and Ellen pick flowers and stare across the ocean at Sweden.

I’m not sure I agree with those who gave it a bad review, but I can at least see where they’re coming from when they say it is boring. These next few chapters… aren’t the most interesting. It does pick up again in the chapters after that, but still, I’m actually kind of surprised at how not well this book seems to be holding up after 20 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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