As the month of September passes by, Annemarie, Ellen, and Kirsti are careful to take the long way to school and back, avoiding the two soldiers who accosted them. As the nights grow colder, Mama and Mrs. Rosen sit up together knitting—there is no fuel or heat in the homes of Copenhagen, and the bitter fall chill is setting in. The Johansens can sometimes find some coal to burn in their little stove, but electricity, too is soon rationed, and the family must make their way around the apartment at night using only the light from candles.
The encroaching fall chill symbolizes the ways in which the Johansens and the Rosens both are losing hope and faith. Fear is creeping deeper and deeper into their day-to-day lives as conditions become more dire.
One morning, while getting the girls ready for school, Mama notices that a button on one of Kirsti’s sweater has broken. She tells Annemarie to stop by the button shop around the corner after school—the shop is run by a woman named Mrs. Hirsch. When Annemarie and Kirsti—along with Ellen—stop by the shop, though, they find that it is closed. There is a padlock on the door, and a sign posted to it, but the girls cannot read the German words. When Annemarie and Kirsti return home and tell their mother about the closure of Mrs. Hirsch’s shop, Mama grows worried. She tells Annemarie to watch Kirsti, and hastily heads out the door to talk to Mrs. Rosen.
Though the girls don’t know what the sign on Mrs. Hirsch’s button shop means, Lowry’s readers very well may. The Nazis are stepping up their control over Copenhagen—and targeting its Jewish citizens.
That night, Annemarie is nearly asleep when her mother knocks on the bedroom door and pulls her out of bed. Mama leads Annemarie into the living room, where Papa and Peter Neilsen are sitting. Annemarie is excited to see Peter, but knows something strange is going on, as there is a strict curfew imposed over all of Copenhagen. Nevertheless, Annemarie runs to Peter to give him hugs and kisses—his presence reminds her of happier times.
Annemarie’s parents have decided that she is old enough to see and know certain things, and in pulling her out of bed to talk with them and with Peter, they are showing her that they trust her with the burden of knowing the truth about what’s happening in her community.
Papa, growing serious, tells Annemarie that the Germans have begun to issue orders closing any Copenhagen stores owned by Jews. Annemarie is surprised to learn that Mrs. Hirsch is Jewish, and wonders why the soldiers would close a harmless button shop belonging to a “nice lady.” Annemarie what will happen to Mrs. Hirsch and her family now that the shop is closed, and Mama tells her that their friends will take care of them—“that’s what friends do” for one another, she says.
Mama and Papa are trying, in this passage, to teach Annemarie that as friends and neighbors of Jewish people, they must use their privilege to look out for the individuals they love who will soon become open targets of the Nazi soldiers.
Annemarie grows nervous—she points out that the Rosens are Jewish, too. Mama and Papa nod solemnly and ask her to take special care in keeping an eye out for Ellen at school and helping her stay away from the soldiers on the street. Annemarie tells her parents that just as all of Denmark serves as bodyguard to the king, they must now “be bodyguard[s] for the Jews, as well.” As Peter bids the family goodbye and takes his leave, Annemarie wonders whether she and her family will truly be called upon to die for Denmark’s Jews—she is nervous and frightened, but as she returns to bed, she tells herself that “only in the fairy tales” are people “called upon to […] die for one another.”
Even though Annemarie’s parents have told her a difficult truth and warned her of the sacrifices that may need to be made, Annemarie still believes that things will never get so bad for her, her family, or their close friends. Annemarie sees the kind of sacrifice and bravery her parents have told her might be necessary as the stuff only of fairy tales—this demonstrates how privileged Annemarie’s life has been so far, and how distant from her mind any true peril is.