What happens in chapters 11-12 in The Devils Arithmetic?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter 11 describes the trip to the concentration camp in the boxcars.  Chapter 12 describes how they are treated when they get there.

Hannah and the others from the village have been stuffed into boxcars.  The doors open and many people are dead, including a baby.  Soldiers force them out, telling them to leave the dead behind.

Hannah followed the line of his pointing gun.   Below them, on a gravel embankment, was a stark line of low barracks.  She tried to count them; they seemed to go on and on. A barbed wire fence surrounded them. (ch 11, p. 86)

Conditions in the camp are bad.  When they see a sign that says “Work makes you free,” the rabbi says they are “in God’s hands” and they will be fine because they are not afraid to work.  Someone says it’s the Devil’s work, not God’s.  Men and women are separated. Hannah is surprised to find that their guard is also a prisoner.

When they are directed to showers, Hannah does not want to go.  She thinks she knows what the showers mean.

I will be brave.  I am the only one who knows about the ovens, but I will be brave.  I will not take away their hope, which is all they have.  I will not tell them that Nazis often lied and said people were going to take showers when they took them to be killed. (ch 11, p. 93)

Hannah and the others have their heads shaved and are forced to pick through foul-smelling rags to choose their clothes.  They are assigned numbers tattooed onto their arms and taken to barracks.  Hannah feels depersonalized by her number.  She is annoyed at Gitl’s laughter.  Gitl explains.

“Without laughter, there is no hope.  Without hope, there is no life.  Without life …” (ch 12, p. 101)

Gitl tries to encourage Hannah to keep her humanity, but she feels lost and alone.  She is the only one who knows what is really happening.  She does not see a happy ending.

Knowledge of what is going to happen cannot save Hannah.  Since the others are not from the future, they are able to tell themselves it will be  all right.  Yet by now it is pretty clear to everyone that they are not.