Number the Stars

by

Lois Lowry

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Mrs. Johansen/Mama Character Analysis

Annemarie’s mother is a kind, gentle, and yet fiercely brave woman committed to resisting the fascist regime which has occupied her city and threatened her closest friends. Mama is a nurturer to her core, and though she’s reeling from the pain of losing her eldest daughter Lise, she remains attentive and devoted to Annemarie and little Kirsti. At the same time, she understands that she has a responsibility to more than just her own family—and shoulders the burden of working alongside her brother Henrik to help smuggle Danish Jews across the sea to Sweden with grace, grit, and determination.

Mrs. Johansen/Mama Quotes in Number the Stars

The Number the Stars quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Johansen/Mama or refer to Mrs. Johansen/Mama. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin edition of Number the Stars published in 1989.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Mama, is there anything to eat?” Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mother’s mind away from the soldiers.

“Take some bread. And give a piece to your sister.”

“With butter?” Kirsti asked hopefully.

“No butter,” her mother replied. “You know that.”

Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen. “I wish I could have a cupcake,” she said. “A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.”

Her mother laughed. “For a little girl, you have a long memory,” she told Kirsti. “There hasn’t been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time. A year, at least.”

“When will there be cupcakes again?”

“When the war ends,” Mrs. Johansen said. She glanced through the window, down to the street corner where the soldiers stood, their faces impassive beneath the metal helmets. “When the soldiers leave.”

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen (speaker), Mrs. Johansen/Mama (speaker)
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Redheaded Peter, her sister’s fiancé, had not married anyone in the years since Lise’s death. He had changed a great deal. Once he had been like a fun-loving older brother to Annemarie and Kirsti, teasing and tickling, always a source of foolishness and pranks. Now he still stopped by the apartment often, and his greetings to the girls were warm and smiling, but he was usually in a hurry, talking quickly to Mama and Papa about things Annemarie didn’t understand. He no longer sang the nonsense songs that had once made Annemarie and Kirsti shriek with laughter. And he never lingered anymore.

Papa had changed, too. He seemed much older and very tired, defeated.

The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.

“And they lived happily ever after,” Annemarie recited, whispering into the dark, completing the tale for her sister, who slept beside her, one thumb in her mouth.

Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Now she was ten, with long legs and no more silly dreams of pink-frosted cupcakes. And now she—and all the Danes—were to be bodyguard for Ellen, and Ellen’s parents, and all of Denmark’s Jews.

Would she die to protect them? Truly? Annemarie was honest enough to admit, there in the darkness, to herself, that she wasn’t sure.

For a moment she felt frightened. But she pulled the blanket up higher around her neck and relaxed. It was all imaginary, anyway—not real. It was only in the fairy tales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another. Not in real-life Denmark. Oh, there were the soldiers; that was true. And the courageous Resistance leaders, who sometimes lost their lives; that was true, too.

But ordinary people like the Rosens and the Johansens? Annemarie admitted to herself, snuggling there in the quiet dark, that she was glad to be an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage.

Page Number: 25-26
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Alone in the apartment while Mama was out shopping with Kirsti, Annemarie and Ellen were sprawled on the living room floor playing with paper dolls. They had cut the dolls from Mama’s magazines, old ones she had saved from past years. The paper ladies had old-fashioned hair styles and clothes, and the girls had given them names from Mama’s very favorite book. Mama had told Annemarie and Ellen the entire story of Gone With the Wind, and the girls thought it much more interesting and romantic than the king-and-queen tales that Kirsti loved.

“Come, Melanie,” Annemarie said, walking her doll across the edge of the rug. “Let’s dress for the ball.”

“All right, Scarlett, I’m coming,” Ellen replied in a sophisticated voice. She was a talented performer; she often played the leading roles in school dramatics. Games of the imagination were always fun when Ellen played.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Ellen Rosen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen, Mrs. Johansen/Mama
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Annemarie grinned and walked her Scarlett toward the chair that Ellen had designated as Tivoli. She loved Tivoli Gardens, in the heart of Copenhagen; her parents had taken her there, often, when she was a little girl. She remembered the music and the brightly colored lights, the carousel and ice cream and especially the magnificent fireworks in the evenings: the huge colored splashes and bursts of lights in the evening sky.

“I remember the fireworks best of all,” she commented to Ellen.

“Me too,” Kirsti said. “I remember the fireworks.”

“Silly,” Annemarie scoffed. “You never saw the fireworks.” Tivoli Gardens was closed now. The German occupation forces had burned part of it, perhaps as a way of punishing the fun-loving Danes for their lighthearted pleasures.

Kirsti drew herself up, her small shoulders stiff. “I did too,” she said belligerently. “It was my birthday. I woke up in the night and I could hear the booms. And there were lights in the sky. Mama said it was fireworks for my birthday!”

Then Annemarie remembered. Kirsti’s birthday was late in August. And that night, only a month before, she, too, had been awakened and frightened by the sound of explosions. Kirsti was right—the sky in the southeast had been ablaze, and Mama had comforted her by calling it a birthday celebration.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen (speaker), Ellen Rosen, Mrs. Johansen/Mama
Page Number: 30-31
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Ellen,” [Annemarie] whispered urgently, “take your necklace off!”

Ellen’s hands flew to her neck. Desperately she began trying to unhook the tiny clasp. Outside the bedroom door, the harsh voices and heavy footsteps continued.

“I can’t get it open!” Ellen said frantically. “I never take it off—I can’t even remember how to open it!”

Annemarie heard a voice just outside the door. “What is here?”

“Shhh,” her mother replied. “My daughters’ bedroom. They are sound asleep.”

“Hold still,” Annemarie commanded. “This will hurt.” She grabbed the little gold chain, yanked with all her strength, and broke it. As the door opened and light flooded into the bedroom, she crumpled it into her hand and closed her fingers tightly.

Terrified, both girls looked up at the three Nazi officers who entered the room.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Ellen Rosen (speaker), Mrs. Johansen/Mama (speaker)
Related Symbols: Ellen’s Necklace
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

“So, Henrik, is the weather good for fishing?” Papa asked cheerfully, and listened briefly.

Then he continued, “I’m sending Inge to you today with the children, and she will be bringing you a carton of cigarettes.

“Yes, just one,” he said, after a moment. Annemarie couldn’t hear Uncle Henrik’s words. “But there are a lot of cigarettes available in Copenhagen now, if you know where to look,” he went on, “and so there will be others coming to you as well, I’m sure.”

But it wasn’t true. Annemarie was quite certain it wasn’t true. Cigarettes were the thing that Papa missed, the way Mama missed coffee. He complained often—he had complained only yesterday—that there were no cigarettes in the stores. The men in his office, he said, making a face, smoked almost anything: sometimes dried weeds rolled in paper, and the smell was terrible.

Why was Papa speaking that way, almost as if he were speaking in code? What was Mama really taking to Uncle Henrik?

Then she knew. It was Ellen.

Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Ellen touched her neck after she had put on Annemarie’s flower-sprigged nightgown, which Mama had packed.

“Where is my necklace?” she asked. “What did you do with it?”

“I hid it in a safe place,” Annemarie told her. “A very secret place where no one will ever find it. And I will keep it there for you until it is safe for you to wear it again.”

Ellen nodded. “Papa gave it to me when I was very small,” she explained.

She sat down on the edge of the old bed and ran her fingers along the handmade quilt that covered it. The flowers and birds, faded now, had been stitched onto the quilt by Annemarie’s great-grandmother many years before.

“I wish I knew where my parents are,” Ellen said in a small voice as she outlined one of the appliqued birds with her finger.

Annemarie didn’t have an answer for her. She patted Ellen’s hand and they sat together silently.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Ellen Rosen (speaker), Mrs. Johansen/Mama, Mr. Rosen
Related Symbols: Ellen’s Necklace
Page Number: 64-65
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

[Peter’s] eyes turned to the page he had opened at random, and he began to read in a strong voice.

O praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing psalms to our God!
How pleasant to praise him!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem;
he gathers in the scattered sons of Israel.
It is he who heals the broken in spirit
and binds up their wounds,
he who numbers the stars one by one . . .

[…]

The words were unfamiliar to her, and she tried to listen, tried to understand, tried to forget the war and the Nazis, tried not to cry, tried to be brave. The night breeze moved the dark curtains at the open windows. Outside, she knew, the sky was speckled with stars. How could anyone number them one by one, as the psalm said? There were too many. The sky was too big.

Ellen had said that her mother was frightened of the ocean, that it was too cold and too big.

The sky was, too, thought Annemarie. The whole world was: too cold, too big. And too cruel.

Page Number: 86-87
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

“The old man stumbled. But Peter helped him up. He didn’t seem to be hurt. Maybe just his pride,” she added, smiling a bit.

It was an odd word: pride. Annemarie looked at the Rosens, sitting there, wearing the misshapen, ill-fitting clothing, holding ragged blankets folded in their arms, their faces drawn and tired. She remembered the earlier, happier times: Mrs. Rosen, her hair neatly combed and covered, lighting the Sabbath candles, saying the ancient prayer. And Mr. Rosen, sitting in the big chair in their living room, studying his thick books, correcting papers, adjusting his glasses, looking up now and then to complain good-naturedly about the lack of decent light. She remembered Ellen in the school play, moving confidently across the stage, her gestures sure, her voice clear.

All of those things, those sources of pride—the candlesticks, the books, the daydreams of theater—had been left behind in Copenhagen. They had nothing with them now; there was only the clothing of unknown people for warmth, the food from Henrik’s farm for survival, and the dark path ahead, through the woods, to freedom.

[…]

But their shoulders were as straight as they had been in the past: in the classroom, on the stage, at the Sabbath table. So there were other sources, too, of pride, and they had not left everything behind.

Page Number: 93-94
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

Annemarie’s mind raced. She remembered what her mother had said. “If anyone stops you, you must pretend to be nothing more than a silly little girl.”

She stared at the soldiers. She remembered how she had stared at the others, frightened, when they had stopped her on the street.

Kirsti hadn’t been frightened. Kirsti had been—well, nothing more than a silly little girl, angered because the soldier had touched her hair that after noon. She had known nothing of danger, and the soldier had been amused by her.

Annemarie willed herself, with all her being, to behave as Kirsti would.

“Good morning,” she said carefully to the soldiers.

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Kirsti Johansen, Mrs. Johansen/Mama
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

That night, Annemarie’s parents told her the truth about Lise’s death at the beginning of the war.

“She was part of the Resistance, too,” Papa had explained. “Part of the group that fought for our country in whatever ways they could.”

“We didn’t know,” Mama added. “She didn’t tell us. Peter told us after she died.”

“Oh, Papa!” Annemarie cried. “Mama!”

Related Characters: Annemarie Johansen (speaker), Mrs. Johansen/Mama (speaker), Mr. Johansen/Papa (speaker), Peter Neilsen, Lise Johansen
Page Number: 129-130
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Number the Stars LitChart as a printable PDF.
Number the Stars PDF

Mrs. Johansen/Mama Character Timeline in Number the Stars

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Johansen/Mama appears in Number the Stars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Why Are You Running?
Bravery Theme Icon
Sisterhood Theme Icon
...the door and begins telling her mother all about their encounter with the soldier—Annemarie’s mother Mrs. Johansen is sitting with Mrs. Rosen at the kitchen table. The women are having “coffee,” as... (full context)
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
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...is—Annemarie assures her that Ellen is safe downstairs. As Kirsti continues talking about the encounter, Mama goes over to the window and looks down at the quiet street. She comments that... (full context)
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Annemarie asks if there’s anything to eat for a snack, and Mama tells her there’s some bread, though they can’t spare any butter. Kirsti sighs and says... (full context)
Chapter 2: Who is the Man Who Rides Past?
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Sometimes, when Annemarie was little, she and her older sister Lise would go out to see King Christian ride by. As Lise enters Annemarie’s thoughts, though,... (full context)
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Annemarie turns her thoughts away from war and back to Lise, though it is painful to think of her “tall, beautiful sister” who died in an... (full context)
Chapter 3: Where Is Mrs. Hirsch?
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 4: It Will Be a Long Night
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Who is the Dark-Haired One?
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...she has a plan—if anyone asks who she is, she would “just pretend to be Lise.” (full context)
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As the girls brush their hair, Ellen asks Annemarie how Lise died—she says that though she remembers the funeral, she never knew what happened to Lise.... (full context)
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Together the girls get into bed and continue talking about Lise—about her terrible fate, her secret trunk of things, and how beautiful she was. The girls... (full context)
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...girls’ names. Annemarie gives them her own name, while Ellen tells them her name is Lise Johansen. Mama, distraught, urges the officers to let the innocent children go back to bed.... (full context)
Chapter 6: Is the Weather Good for Fishing?
Privilege, Sacrifice, and Solidarity  Theme Icon
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...from school, as the Nazis may go there looking for Jewish children, too. He calls Mama into the room and tells her that it might be time to take the girls... (full context)
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Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
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...way to Sweden. Annemarie overhears her father’s phone conversation, in which he tells Henrik that Mama will be bringing “a carton of cigarettes” to him later on in the day. Annemarie... (full context)
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Annemarie, Ellen, Kirsti, and Mama make their way by train north along the Danish coast. The trip is beautiful, and... (full context)
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...the fresh seaside air, they feel relieved to be away from the soldiers—but still anxious. Mama, Ellen, Kirsti, and Annemarie begin the walk to Uncle Henrik’s house, and Mrs. Johansen remarks... (full context)
Chapter 7: The House by the Sea
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As Ellen, Annemarie, and Mama approach Uncle Henrik’s house, Ellen is stunned by how beautiful the farmhouse and surrounding meadow... (full context)
Chapter 8: There Has Been a Death
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...Kirsti announces that she has named the cat Thor, after the Norse god of thunder. Mama has made oatmeal and set out a pitcher of cream on the table—Annemarie is overjoyed,... (full context)
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...day long. They spend time petting the cow, Blossom, and romp around with Thor. Inside, Mama cleans the house top to bottom, rearranges the furniture in the living room, and has... (full context)
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As Mama and Uncle Henrik begin discussing “preparations” for something, Annemarie grows curious about what’s happening. Henrik... (full context)
Chapter 9: Why Are You Lying?
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...Henrik in the barn, where he is milking Blossom, and asks him why he and Mama are both lying to her. She says she knows that there is no Great-aunt Birte.... (full context)
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Uncle Henrik reveals that there is no Great-aunt Brite—he and Mama have lied to Annemarie, Kirsti, and Ellen to “help [them] to be brave.” He tells... (full context)
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...Kirsti is asleep upstairs, but Ellen and Annemarie sit up in the living room with Mama and Uncle Henrik. Ellen doesn’t know the truth of what’s going on, and tells Annemarie... (full context)
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...dark and opens the front door. He whispers for Ellen to come with him, and Mama urges Ellen to follow Henrik’s lead. The two go out into the dark, and soon... (full context)
Chapter 10: Let Us Open the Casket
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Mama comes over to Annemarie and points out how late it is. Though Annemarie is tired,... (full context)
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...into the room and ask why so many people have gathered at this house tonight. Mama explains that there has been a death, and it is “custom” to gather together to... (full context)
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Annemarie feels a panic come over her, but Mama quickly answers that Great-aunt Birte died of typhus, and her doctor suggested the casket remain... (full context)
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Annemarie runs to Mama and embraces her, while Peter calms everyone down by reading a psalm from the Bible... (full context)
Chapter 11: Will We See You Again Soon, Peter?
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...cold. Ellen and her family pull shabby, patched coats and jackets around their shoulders, and Mama begins getting together even more spare clothes for the other “mourners”—Danish Jews about to make... (full context)
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...will put it to sleep—the group “can’t take a chance” that the baby will cry. Mama passes out food, and then Peter removes a paper-wrapped packet from his own coat and... (full context)
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Peter heads out with the first group, and instructs Mrs. Johansen to set out with the Ellen and Mrs. Rosen and follow him after twenty minutes... (full context)
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Just a few moments after they all set out, a noise comes from outside. Mama looks out the window and says that Mr. Rosen has simply stumbled—he is not hurt,... (full context)
Chapter 12: Where Was Mama?
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Mama prepares to set out in the dark with Ellen and Mrs. Rosen down the path... (full context)
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...that the journey takes about half an hour, and feels that on her way back, Mama will be able to complete it in even less time than that. Annemarie looks at... (full context)
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...upstairs to see if her mother has already returned and gone straight to bed, but Mama’s room is empty. She then checks Kirsti’s room, but her sister is fast asleep alone... (full context)
Chapter 13: Run! As Fast As You Can!
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...house and runs through the meadow to the edge of the woods, calling for her Mama. When she gets to her mother’s side, she is relieved to see that she’s all... (full context)
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...pick it up—it is the packet Peter gave to Mr. Rosen. Seeing what it is, Mama nearly swoons—she worries that their work will “all have been for nothing” without the packet.... (full context)
Chapter 14: On the Dark Path
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...Kirsti at bedtime. At the same time, walking the familiar road, she remembers the story Mama has told her of her own childhood, walking through the woods to school each day.... (full context)
Chapter 16: I Will Tell You Just a Little
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That night at dinner, Annemarie, Mama, and Uncle Henrik laugh as Mama tells Henrik all about Annemarie’s attempts at milking Blossom... (full context)
Chapter 17: All This Long Time
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...Annemarie, standing on the balcony of her family’s apartment, looks around at those she loves. Mama is crying happy tears, while Kirsti—“taller, more serious, and very thin”—happily waves a Danish flag.... (full context)
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Annemarie has, in the last two years, learned the truth about her sister Lise’s death. Papa revealed to Annemarie that Lise, too, was part of the Resistance, though neither... (full context)
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Annemarie leaves the balcony and goes into her room, where she opens Lise’s special blue trunk. She takes out the wedding gown and sees that it has begun... (full context)