In Number the Stars, some code phrases that the characters use include the one that Papa uses when he asks Uncle Henrik, "is the weather is good for fishing?” Papa is speaking in code and not referring to the weather at all. In this phrase, Papa uses the word “weather” to learn how heavily the ports are being watched. He uses the word “fishing” to signify smuggling.
Thus, what Papa is really asking Uncle Henrik about is whether the ports are being heavily guarded at the moment. If they are, then the timing is not good to try to smuggle across the water. However, if the Nazis are not actively watching the ports, then the timing is good for smuggling.
What Papa and Uncle Henrik contemplate smuggling is not contraband but people. Papa wants to help get Ellen out of Copenhagen, where they are at risk. Prior to this conversation, the rabbi of Ellen’s synagogue alerted his congregation that the Nazis are looking to round up Jews and deport them. Papa wants to keep Ellen’s family out of the clutches of the Nazis.
Annemarie listens to Papa’s side of the conversation and is puzzled, particularly when Papa says that Inge will be bringing Henrik a carton of cigarettes. Annemarie knows that it is difficult to obtain cigarettes in wartime Copenhagen with rations and...
lack of provisions. Papa tells Uncle Henrik:
"But there are a lot of cigarettes available in Copenhagen now, if you know where to look.“
Annemarie realizes that Papa is speaking in code. Annemarie is able to puzzle it out and understand that “cigarettes” is short for people or refugees, referring to the Jews who need to escape. Papa is really telling Uncle Henrik that there are a lot of Jews in Copenhagen who need to get to safety.
Furthermore, Papa tells Uncle Henrik that he is sending him only one carton of cigarettes. The cigarettes are the code word for refugees and the number represents how many refugees will be using Uncle Henrik’s boat to escape to safety. Annemarie understands that Papa and Uncle Henrik are referring to Ellen, who will be leaving Copenhagen for the duration of the war if Papa and Uncle Henrik can get her to safety.