I need a summary for chapter 18 of "The Devil's Arithmetic."

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of chapter 17, Hannah and Gitl are back in the prisoner camp because their escape attempt has been foiled.  During roll call  the next morning, six men in chains are marched out before them.  These six men were caught trying to escape the night before.  Among them Hannah recognizes Shmuel and the violin player. 

The commandant reminds them that if they did escape, there would have been nowhere to go.

"This camp is in the middle of nowhere, remember that.  You are in the middle of nowhere.  All that gives you life is work ---- and my good wishes." (pg 151)

He then says that he has spoiled them by giving them barracks, three meals a day, and music.  He orders the men against the wall. They were lined up against the wall, the soldiers raised their guns, and the violinist starts to sing.  All except Schmuel join in. He sees Fayge. She leaves the crowd and flings herself at his feet. He leans over and kisses the top of her head just as the soldiers fire, killing them all.  The Kommandant orders that their bodies be burnt.  Ten young men come out to remove the bodies.  Rivka tells Hannah that the one carrying Fayge is her brother, Wolfe. They are hustled back to work by a wounded blokova whose hand is wrapped in a bandage, indicating that her finger was cut off . They suddenly realize that Yitzchak wasn't in the line and wasn't in the crowd.  Hannah sees a shadow going into the forest.

Later that afternoon, Hannah meets Rivka, Shifre, and Esther at the water pump.  Hannah has a flashback to her school days and tells the girls she wants to tell them a story.  She tells them that six million Jews will die in camps like theirs.  Shifre says,

"That's impossible.  There are not six million Jews in the whole world." (pg 156)

Hannah goes on to tell her that there will be a Jewish state, a Jewish president, and Jewish movie stars.  The girls do not understand.  How can she know the future? Hannah says she doesn't understand it either.

"It's as if I have three memories, one on top of another.  I remember living with Gitl and Shmuel.......I don't remember Lublin, but I remember living there......And then there's my memory of the future.  It's very strong and real now, as if the more I try to remember, the more I do.  Memory on memory on memory, like a layer cake." (pg 156-157)

Hannah tells them they must all remember so that whoever survives will carry the message that the Jews will survive.

A guard suddenly interrupts them because they are not working. 

"I was told we need three more Jews to make up a full load(in the gas chamber)....So I was sent to find three of the commandant's pets who were not working." (pg 157)

He points to Esther and says he will take her  because she is the least healthy.  Then he chose Shifre  because she protested too much.  And then he pointed at Rivka because she was wearing a scarf.

Hannah suddenly grabbed the scarf off Rivka's head and told her to run to the kitchen. She tied the scarf on her head and walked behind Esther and Shifre.  She caught up with the weeping girls, put her arms around them and said "Let me tell you a story" (pg 159).  She tells them about an American girl who lives in New Rochele. Her last sentence before they walk into the gas chamber is,

"And where one day, I bet, a Jewish girl will be president if she wants to be...... Ready or not, here we come...." (pg 160)

And the three of them walk into the gas chamber to their deaths.