illustration of main character Hannah opening a door which leads to a barbed wire fence

The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen

Start Free Trial

Who is Shifre in The Devil's Arithmetic?

Quick answer:

Shifre is one of the girls from the labor camp that befriends Chaya and works with her in the kitchen. She ultimately dies in the camp.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Devil's Arithmetic is a work of historical fiction by Jane Yolen published in 1988. It centers on a young Jewish girl, Hannah Stern (aka Chaya), who has become disinterested with the stories her relatives tell about the plight of the Jewish people, especially during World War II. As a consequence, she gets transported to 1942 Poland so she can learn about the past by personally experiencing the tragedies of the Holocaust.

Shifre is a friend of Chaya's from the village who is close to her in age. We meet her just before the wedding of Chaya's uncle, Shmuel. Shifre is a small supporting character in the story and one of four girls Chaya initially meets, along with Esther, Yente, and Rachel.

Chaya and Shifre work together in the labor camp's kitchen dishing out meals to the others interned there, cleaning the cooking kettles, carrying giant buckets of water, and scrubbing the floors. During this time they get close, and Chaya tells her and the other girls stories that sound like fairytales to them.

Shifre winds up dying in the camp and, along with the deaths of many of the other characters, helps Chaya understand the importance of the past, her religion, her relatives' stories and the sacrifices of so many Jews.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial