In The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolan, the young Jewish American girl Hannah Stern travels back in time to the 1940s. She finds herself in the home of her aunt and uncle, Gitl and Shmuel, who are sister and brother. Gitl and Shmuel live in rural Poland in a Jewish community called a shtetl.
We are not told the actual name of the shtetl, for it is meant to represent the typical Jewish village, but the characters in the novel clearly love their community very much, continually referring to it as "our shtetl." It is, for the residents, a place of security, a comfortable home. Certainly there is much work to do, but there are also family members, friends, religious observances, and traditional customs that bring happiness and peace to life.
In fact, those who leave the shtetl are pitied by those who remain behind. Hannah discovers that in Poland, her name is Chaya and her parents are dead. They had moved to Lublin, a city in Eastern Poland, after their marriage, and Gitl declares that "city living does damage to the soul." It also exposes people to a greater risk for diseases, like the one that killed Chaya's parents.
As the story progresses, Gitl, Shmuel, Hannah/Chaya, and many of their neighbors are rounded up by the Nazis and transported to a concentration camp. The members of the shtetl try their best to remain together and support each other. Some, including Shmuel, even die together during an escape attempt.