What day is the most horrific for Hanna/Chaya in The Devil's Arithmetic?
The most horrific experience Hannah has is when Reuven is killed.
From chapter 10 on, Hannah has one horrific experience after another. She is forced to lay face-down on the ground and searched for valuables. She is pushed into cattle cars. She is sorted and has her head shaved. She survives several Choosings by not being close to Greeks or the elderly. Yet what happens to Reuven, a little boy she befriends, is the worst.
Reuven is Yitzchak the butcher’s son. Yitzchak is Hannah’s friend Gitl’s sort of boyfriend.
The children were torn from Yitzchak’s arms and shoved toward the women’s group. Little Reuven began to whimper, but the girl, Tziporah, was silent. (ch 11, p. 88)
Hannah looks after Reuven. She begins saving the “softer insides” of her bread for him. One day he is walking from the hospital and does not hear the call to hide in the garbage pile as the commandant arrives. Hannah yells at him to run, but he freezes. The commandant asks him where his mother is, and the boy says she is dead so the commandant says boys should stay with their mother and sends him off to the ovens.
Hannah is frustrated and saddened by this event. She waits for him to come back.
But Reuven did not come back. Not that day. Not that evening. Not that night. “Not ever,” Hannah muttered to herself as she watched the smoke curling up… (ch 16, p. 141)
Hannah knows that Reuven has been killed. She is even more despondent after this incident. The war has really hit home for her. She is not just watching strangers go to their deaths, but now people she cares about.