The Devil's Arithmetic Chapter 9 Summary
by Jane Yolen

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Chapter 9 Summary

As the people wait to be let into the synagogue, the Rabbi, Shmuel, and another man speak with the Nazi leader. When the exchange is over, the Rabbi tells the villagers that the Nazis are insisting that everyone accompany them in the trucks. Shmuel explains that the Jews are being resettled as part of a government policy. Several of the men begin to argue, and when their tone becomes belligerent, Shmuel grimly reminds them to be careful because the Nazis are all armed. Fayge plaintively asks, “What about our wedding?” Shmuel reassures her that they will be married, at least in God’s sight.

Hannah suddenly interjects, predicting that the Nazis will put them all into concentration camps and kill them in gas ovens. Fayge protests, telling Hannah that her words will call the Angel of Death down upon them. Gitl defends her niece, telling Fayge that Hannah is a child who has only recently recovered from a very serious illness and who under the best of conditions has “too much imagination and stories filling her head.” Rachel says that Hannah had just that morning told them a story called Hansel and Gretel, in which a witch throws children into an oven. Though Hannah insists that what she is saying now is no fairytale, her words are dismissed as the capricious creation of a child’s fanciful mind.

Gitl then asks Fayge kindly why her mother, grandmother, and other relatives are not there at the village to greet them, and Shmuel reveals that, according to the Nazi colonel, they have all been sent for resettlement already. As the people argue about what they should do, the Rabbi steps forward, counseling submission, as they “have no choice in the matter.” The Nazi leader assures the crowd that all their needs will be taken care of in their new homes and that “anyone who wants to work will be treated humanely.” He tells the Jews that they will be happy among their own people, but the badchan murmurs ominously, “The snake smiles but it shows no teeth.” Several in the crowd continue to voice their misgivings, but the Rabbi is immovable. He says he has been told that the war is almost over and that the people will not be kept from their homes in Viosk for long. Again, the badchan mutters darkly, “How long is eternity?”

The people climb into the trucks in their family groups. Shmuel holds Fayge’s hand tightly, despite the disapproving looks of her father the...

(The entire section is 648 words.)