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

The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen

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How do the intruders stop the procession from entering the synagogue in The Devil's Arithmetic?

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The intruders stop the procession from entering the synagogue in The Devil's Arithmetic by taking them by surprise, posting their military trucks outside the building, and using the threat of force. The procession includes women, children and older people and none are armed. They are completely unprepared for the armed confrontation in front of the synagogue.

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At first, Shmuel and Fayge's wedding procession is a very happy occasion with lots of gaiety and carefree laughter. As the procession makes its way through the village, there is lots of singing and dancing to serenade the happy couple as they gradually approach the synagogue.

As the joyful crowd gets nearer to the synagogue, however, it soon becomes clear that there's something wrong. There's a group of old cars and what looks like some kind of military vehicle parked in front of the synagogue. Suddenly, a group of men in black emerge from the cars. Hannah is chilled to the bone; with the benefit of historical knowledge, she knows that these men are Nazis, the very same Nazis responsible for the mass murder of six million Jews.

Hannah tries to warn the others, but under the guidance of the rabbi, they continue their procession toward the synagogue. When they get there, they find that the doors of the synagogue are blocked by Nazis. After talking with the Nazis' leader, the rabbi tells Hannah and the others that they must accompany the Nazis in trucks as part of the government's "resettlement" policy. But Hannah knows full well that resettlement is simply a euphemism (a nice way of saying something unpleasant) for the deportation and mass murder of the Jewish people.

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In what manner did the intruders stop the procession from entering the synagogue in The Devil's Arithmetic?

The intruders stop the procession from entering the synagogue by posting their military trucks outside the building and using the threat of force. The wedding procession consists of Hannah’s, or Chaya’s, family and friends, who are unarmed and completely unprepared for what they encounter when they reach the synagogue. Although there are strong young men among them, their party also includes women, children, and older people.

Moreover, they are not armed. Why would they be? They are coming to the synagogue to celebrate a wedding. Moreover, the synagogue is a place of worship. They are people who live in a small rural village. Other than perhaps the few men who might hunt, for the most part they are farmers, merchants, and homemakers who are completely unprepared for the armed confrontation in front of the synagogue.

When their carriages pull up to the building, they see a caravan of soldiers all clad in brown. The mere sight of the Nazis surprises and frightens them. They are overwhelmed and confused. The soldiers are armed and speak in an authoritative manner, instructing them harshly to get out of the carriages to be transported and relocated. The Nazis naturally do not tell them precisely what is about to happen to them. Only Hannah understands because she has read the history books and realizes that they are all being taken to concentration camps. Although she tries to warn them, they believe that she is exaggerating the situation, and they also believe that they have no choice.

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