Annemarie and Ellen sit on the floor of the Johansen apartment, playing with paper dolls. They act out parts of Gone With the Wind, a story they love but see as more sophisticated than the “king-and-queen tales” Kirsti loves. Ellen is a talented actress, always featured in school productions, and dreams of making acting into a career one day. Mama and Kirsti come in from shopping, and Kirsti is in a bad mood. Mama has bought the little girl “fish shoes”—because there is no leather to spare in Copenhagen, people have begun wearing shoes made from fish skins. Ellen and Annemarie look at the shoes, which are odd but not necessarily ugly. Kirsti is irate, though, and Ellen kindly offers to paint the greenish shoes black so that they are pretty and shiny.
Her mood lifted, Kirsti excitedly joins the game of paper dolls, and the game’s imaginary story transitions from America to Copenhagen’s own Tivoli gardens, where the girls take their dolls for a “party.” As Annemarie and Ellen reminisce about the fireworks they saw in Tivoli Gardens as children, Kirsti jumps in to say that she remembers seeing fireworks there, too—but Annemarie and Ellen know that the source of the lights in the sky and loud noises Kirsti claims to remember was really an incident many months ago in which King Christian ordered the bombing of the entire Danish naval fleet to keep the ships from being captured by the Nazis.
Now feeling sad, Annemarie says she doesn’t want to play anymore. Ellen says it’s okay—she has to go home anyway and help her mother with preparations for the upcoming Jewish New Year on Thursday. Ellen invites Annemarie and Kirsti over to celebrate and light candles for the New Year—the girls often spend Friday nights at the Rosens’ lighting Sabbath candles and enjoying a meal. Kirsti accepts the invitation, and looks forward to wearing her “new black shoes” to the party.
Ellen and her family often extend their hospitality to the Johansens, who happily celebrate religious and non-religious special occasions alike in the company of their friends and neighbors.
Thursday afternoon, though, Mrs. Rosen knocks at the door and speaks hushed and hurriedly with Mama. Mama comes back into the apartment and tells Annemarie and Kirsti that Ellen is going to come stay with them for a few days. Annemarie points out that it’s the Jewish New Year, but Mama says only that the Rosens’ plans have changed—Mrs. and Mr. Rosen have been called away to visit relatives, and Ellen is coming to stay.
Though Mama is trying her best to shield Annemarie and Kirsti from the truth, Annemarie knows that something frightening is happening to her friends and neighbors.
That night, as Ellen joins the Johansens at their table for dinner, the meal is a quiet and anxious one. Ellen looks frightened, and even though Annemarie’s Mama and Papa try to lighten the mood, Annemarie can tell that they, too, are worried. After dinner, Mama and Papa send Kirsti to bed, and sit Annemarie and Ellen down so that Annemarie can learn the truth. Annemarie’s parents tell her that this morning, at the synagogue, the rabbi revealed that the Nazis have managed to get lists of the names and addresses of all the Jews in Copenhagen. The Nazis are planning to arrest all of the Jews tonight and “relocate” them.
After once again sheltering Kirsti from the painful truth of what’s happening in Copenhagen, Mama and Papa at last tell Annemarie what’s really happening. Annemarie understands that something major has shifted—and that she and her family have at last been called upon to make a sacrifice to help ensure the survival of their friends and neighbors.
Annemarie’s parents tell her that Ellen’s parents have gone to hide with other friends, because to hide three people would be impossible—but to hide just Ellen is doable, as they plan to pass Ellen off as one of their own children. Ellen cries, terrified for her parents and herself. Annemarie’s parents try to prepare both Annemarie and Ellen for the possibility that soldiers will come to the apartment looking for Ellen later on this evening—they tell the girls that it will be a “long night,” but that they should have no problem pretending to be sisters, as they are already such good friends. Annemarie’s Papa kisses both girls goodnight, and as he sends them off to bed, he tells them that tonight he is proud to have “three daughters” once more.
Ellen, who dreams of being an actress, is about to inhabit a new kind of “performance.” Annemarie’s Papa knows that the girls are close enough that they are already sisters in a way—and even though he and Mama are still reeling from the loss of Lise, he makes it clear that he is happy and even “proud” to have another “daughter” in his home.