Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars | Chapter 3 : Where is Mrs. Hirsch? | Summary



September passes, and the mothers are knitting mittens. They have no fuel, and the nights in Copenhagen will be cold. They have a little stove for heat and sometimes for cooking if they can find coal. They use candles for light because electricity is rationed. As the girls are getting ready for school, their mother notices that Kirsti has a broken button.

When the girls stop after school, they learn that Mrs. Hirsch's store is closed. There is a sign, in German, and a swastika. The Hirsch family had gone. Mrs. Johansen leaves Annemarie and Kirsti and goes to see Mrs. Rosen.

Late that night, Peter Neilsen arrives. He brings word that the Germans are closing shops owned by Jews, and Annemarie worries the Jews will have no way to make a living. Her mother assures her that "friends will take care of them."

After Peter leaves Annemarie worries about the Rosens, about the war, and comforts herself by thinking that while the Resistance fighters had to be brave, "an ordinary person would never be called on for courage."


Now that the setting has been well established, the driving conflict of the novel is starting to take shape. Even if readers are not aware of Jewish history in Denmark, they see well before the protagonist that the situation in Denmark is about to become untenable. The Hirsch family has vanished. The reader does not know their fate, but the presence of the swastika—a symbol of the Nazi party—and their disappearance adds tension. As a backdrop for the action Lowry references the increasing systematic oppression of the Jews. Their shops are being closed. Lowry has already established that this is a time of hunger and privation for all Danes. Removing the ability to earn a living cruelly adds to this difficulty.

However, the novel also makes clear that in spite of the privations and growing dangers for the Jewish population, the Danes still resist and come together. It seems it's not only the Resistance fighters who exhibit bravery in such times. Annemarie's thought that "ordinary people would never be called on for courage" is a bit of dramatic irony in that readers may already be sensing there may be a larger role for Annemarie as the story unfolds.

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