What is "The Devil's Arithmetic"?I'm trying to answer a focus question on the book, and I just can't seem to figure it out. The answer is supposidly in the 15th or 16th chapter, but i can't find...

What is "The Devil's Arithmetic"?

I'm trying to answer a focus question on the book, and I just can't seem to figure it out. The answer is supposidly in the 15th or 16th chapter, but i can't find it. If anyone can help me out ASAP, that would be great.

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The camp is run with a macabre sense of logic and organization, on the part of both the Nazis and the prisoners.  The Commandant arrives at unpredictable intervals with his clipboard, on which he keeps a list of carefully ordered numbers and names.  He has come to do a "Choosing" - "anyone who cannot get out of bed (on that) day will be 'chosen'...for 'processing'".  It is a known fact that "processing" is a euphemism for "death", but no one acknowledges it.  On the Commandant's papers, people are not "killed", they are "chosen", they are not "cremated", they are "processed", and their remains are not "corpses", they are "rags".  The tallies the Commandant keeps on his clipboard give no proof of the grisly truth, because "what is not recorded cannot be blamed" (Chapter 15).  The Commandant uses a sick methodology to keep the camp running - the "Devil's Arithmetic".

Gitl applies the concept of "the Devil's Arithmetic" to the attitude the Jews must adopt to survive as well.  In a world gone insane, the rules which govern the camp, including the Choosings, become useful, because "in a world of chaos any guidelines (help)".  Each day that each one of them remains alive is an important victory - "one plus one plus one".  Again, brought on by necessity, this evil sense of illogic is another example of the "Devil's Arithmetic" (Chapter 16).

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The Devil's Arithmetic

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