What secret code was spoken in Number the Stars?
In the book Number The Stars, there are several examples of the use of secret code to convey messages to family members that were part of the Danish resistance to the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. Germany had taken over many countries and had begun to round up the Jewish people to send them to concentration camps. Since Denmark is so close to Sweden, the Danish people helped the Jewish people escape by hiding them in boats that would head over to Sweden just a few miles away. Since Sweden wasn’t occupied by Germany during World War II, the Jewish people would be safe if they got to Sweden. Getting there, however, could be tricky.
The Rosens and Johansens were friends. The Rosens knew they needed to escape to Sweden in order to be safe. The Johansens and their extended family were part of the Danish resistance that helped the Jewish people escape from capture and from persecution by the Nazis. While the rest of the Rosen family would go elsewhere, their oldest daughter, Ellen, would stay with the Johansens. One example of the use of code was when Ellen would accompany the Johansens to visit their uncle, Uncle Henrik, for a few days. When the phone call was made to their uncle, he was told that they would be bringing a carton of cigarettes. During World War II, cigarettes were in short supply. In reality, the cigarettes were the code word for bringing Ellen.
Another example of the use of code was when their uncle said that the next day would be a good day for fishing. Since he was a fisherman, and he fished every day, this seemed like an odd statement. In reality, this statement meant that tomorrow would be the day the Rosen family would be smuggled by boat to Sweden.
Another example of code was the discussion about putting a coffin of a deceased great-aunt in the living room of their uncle’s house. The discussion about and the placement of the coffin in the living room was to distract the German soldiers who would want to know why so many people were in Uncle Henrik’s house. When the German soldiers would try to open the coffin, the Johansens would tell them the great-aunt died from a highly contagious disease. This likely would keep the German soldiers from opening the coffin. It worked perfectly as the German soldiers didn’t open the coffin.
The use of code and the actions of the Danish people show the bravery of the Danish people in helping the Jewish people escape from German persecution. Some of the Danish people in the resistance were killed for their defiance of German rule when they were caught taking part in some of the activities of the resistance movement.