The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Character Name: Hannah Stern Trait: Selfless (puts others before oneself)
When Hannah speaks she rarely speaks about herself and her own fears. She is always asking about her family, friends, and people from her town. “What of Shmuel?” she said. “And Yitchak? Are they…..well?” (page 131)
Hannah often thought about where she came from to “remember,” but she was also thinking about the well-being of everyone around her. Instead of thinking of herself and her own sadness, she thought about the sadness of others. “ Then as quickly it faded, replaced by another, much more vivid memory: little Tzipporah, lying still on the low shelf, her finger corked so finally in her mouth. That image stopped any chance of a smile.” (page 109) “Even now she was afraid to look. Would Shmuel be there? Yitchak? Would Rabbi Boruch, the badchan, the members of the klezmer band? Would Mr. Unsward? “ (page 111)
Gitl, Hannah’s aunt, thought Hannah was a hero for what she did for the children and for what she did for Rivka. Because of Hannah’s selfless actions, Gitl, when freed, named an adoption agency in Hannah’s name. (Her nickname “Chaya”) “ Gitl organized a rescue mission dedicated to salvaging the lives of young survivors and locating the remnants of their families. It later became an adoption agency, the finest in the Mideast. She called it after her young niece, who had died a hero in the camps: CHAYA. Life”
Rivka, Hannah’s close friend, was “chosen” by one of the guards to go to the gas chambers. Hannah wanted Rivka to live and to remember for all the Jews in the camp, so she put on Rivka’s kerchief on her head and went to the chambers instead of Rivka. “ Hannah snatched the kerchief off Rivka’s head. ‘Run!’ she whispered. ‘Run to the midden, run to the barracks, run to the kitchen. The guard is new. He won’t know the difference. One Jew is the same as another to him. Run for your life, Rivka. Run for your future. Run. Run. Run. And remember.” (page 159)
Hannah is extremely frail and is getting thinner by the minute. Instead of eating her entire meal for the day, she has been giving parts of it to Reuven, a little boy she took care of because he had no mother. Because she was giving up so much food, she was losing weight at a quicker pace. “She began saving the softer insides of the bread, slipping it to Reuven when she could. Yitchak’s little boy was so thin and sad-looking, still wondering where his sister had gone, that she could not resist him. She even tried giving him her whole bread, meal after meal, until Gitl found out.”
Don’t take anything for granted because it can be taken away from you in a heartbeat- Hannah and her family were celebrating a wedding and in a matter of minutes, they were taken away and brought to the camps. All of their belongings were taken by the German guards.