Number the Stars

by

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That night at dinner, Annemarie, Mama, and Uncle Henrik laugh as Mama tells Henrik all about Annemarie’s attempts at milking Blossom the cow. The doctor has been to see Mama, and her broken ankle is wrapped up in a cast. Little Kirsti, uninterested in the story about the cow, speaks up to ask when Ellen will be coming back. Mama tells her that Ellen has gone to be with her parents, and Kirsti is indignant that Ellen didn’t wake her up to say goodbye.
The tension, fear, and danger of the previous night gone, everyone enjoys a happy and carefree meal. Only Kirsti is in the dark as to all that has transpired around her, and the others make sure that she stays innocent and naïve as to the true events of the last several days.
Themes
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Sisterhood Theme Icon
After dinner, Uncle Henrik takes Annemarie out to the barn to show her how to milk Blossom properly, but as the lesson begins, Annemarie’s mind is on other things. She asks Uncle Henrik where Ellen and the others are, and points out that earlier, she didn’t see where they were hiding on the boat. Henrik reminds Annemarie of his earlier assertion that it is “safer not to know” some things, but then acquiesces and agrees to tell her just a little because of how brave she was earlier. Annemarie insists she wasn’t brave—she was terrified—but Henrik tells her that putting others before herself even in difficult situations is the very definition of bravery. 
Though Kirsti is shielded from the truth, Annemarie demands to know what is going on. As Henrik provides her with some of the details of his role in smuggling Jews out of Denmark, the two of them have an earnest discussion about what constitutes bravery—and decide that true bravery comes from self-sacrifice.
Themes
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Uncle Henrik reveals that many fishermen, himself included, have built secret hiding spots underneath the decks of their boats. Peter Neilsen brings groups of Jews to the fishermen, who ferry them over to Sweden. Annemarie, realizing that Peter is in the Resistance, chides herself for not having figured it out earlier. Uncle Henrik explains that though Ellen and the others had to be silent for many hours, they could hear Annemarie when she was on the boat—as well as the soldiers who came to search it shortly after Annemarie left.
As Annemarie learns more and more about the truth of what her family, friends, and neighbors risk and sacrifice daily in the name of resisting the Nazi occupation, she feels naïve for not having put together the obvious clues sooner. At the same time, she realizes just how carefully the people she loves have been trying to shield her from the burdensome truth.
Themes
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Annemarie is horrified that soldiers searched the boats, but Uncle Henrik tells her that there is a system in place for making sure the Jews stay well hidden. The hiding places are very carefully concealed, and when fishermen pile dead fish on the deck, the soldiers do not want to dirty their shiny boots mucking around in the refuse and leave the boats quickly. Annemarie thanks Uncle Henrik for telling her so much about the Resistance and their schemes—but begs to know what the handkerchief was and why it was important.
Now that Annemarie has learned the bare bones of what’s going on all around her, she is desperate for more knowledge. She knows that she can be brave even in the face of the truth, and so hungers for it rabidly.
Themes
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon
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Uncle Henrik explains that the handkerchiefs have been dipped in a special solution created by scientists working on behalf of the Resistance—solutions that ruin the soldiers’ dogs’ senses of smell and keep them from finding the hidden Jews on Resistance boats bound for Sweden. Uncle Henrik tells Annemarie that the soldiers who searched his boat earlier had dogs—if Annemarie hadn’t rushed the packet to him, all might have been lost. Uncle Henrik assures her that Ellen and all of the others made it safely to Sweden—and will remain safe there—thanks to her. Annemarie sadly wonders aloud if she’ll ever see Ellen again, and Henrik assures her that she will. “Someday the war will end,” he tells her; “all wars do.” 
Henrik has tried to shield Annemarie from the scarier, more dangerous aspects of the truth of what he and the Resistance do in order to fight the Nazis and their torment of Danish Jews, but now he tells her the whole truth. He knows that Annemarie is growing older, and will soon learn the truth whether it comes from him or someone else. Henrik’s weathered prediction about the end of the war shows how much he’s been through, and how heavy it’s weighed on him—and implies that Annemarie will soon bear these same scars and burdens.
Themes
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
Bravery Theme Icon