What's a summary for chapter 11 of The Devil's Arithmetic?

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hannah and the wedding group have been placed on a train by the Nazi's.  They travel four days and nights. During the day the cars are hot and smell of sweat, urine, and feces.   During the night, they are cold, and everyone is grateful for the warmth of the others and that they are huddled together. The train makes only two stops the entire time. When they reach Troniat, they realize that three old women have died, and one is close to death. All bodies, including that of an infant child, are thrown behind  the horse's water trough. 

The dirty water from the horse's water trough was passed around, but people didn't care.  They were thirsty. Hannah's car is the only one that is opened at this point.  When they come to another stop, the second car is opened, but theirs remains shut.

On the fourth day, the train stops and they are hustled out. Five more women and a child have died. They are ordered into a camp that has a sign that reads, ARBEIT MACHT FREI (Work makes you free).  The rabbi thinks that is a good sign because Jews are not afraid of work. The badchen disagrees and says it is the work of the Devil. The soldiers separate the men from the women.

The women are met by a woman who tells them that they are the lowest of the low.  Hannah thinks they will have to wear striped pajamas like the prisoners in the old photographs that she remembers. The woman tells them that she is a prisoner, but she is not a Jew. She shows them her number. The number means nothing to the women at this time. She tells them that one of the first lessons they need to learn is not to call attention to themselves. She demands the blue ribbons in Hannah's hair.

Hannah refuses, the woman slaps her,and Gitl convinces her to give up the ribbons. The woman orders them into an ampitheater where they are ordered to undress. She says they are filthy and need to bathe. Gitl tells Hannah to live "moment by moment" .  Hannah feels she needs to share her knowledge of the Holocaust with them, but she watches as the women undress and decides she will not add more to their misery.

They wait twenty minutes in that room.  Hannah asks where Rachel is and finds out that Rachel died in the boxcar because she had breathing issues. Soldiers enter and order the women into the showers. Hannah decides she is going to be brave and not scare the other women with her stories.

Hannah is relieved that the showers actually had water and not gas.   It was cold water, but it was not gas. When they leave the showers, they are taken to the barber where their heads are shaved. The barber is also a prisoner. When her hair is shorn, Hannah suddenly realizes she has no memory of the past. She is terrified and calls out for Gitl.  She feels Gitl's arms around her.  Gitl makes her promise not to cry. She says,

"...promise me you will cry no more before these monsters.  We will never cry again." (pg 95)

Hannah promises.

Read the study guide:
The Devil's Arithmetic

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