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Chapters 22-24 Summary

Chapters 22-24: "Spring"

By defying Uncle Shepsel and accepting Misha into the family, Mr. Milgrom gives the young boy a new identity. Deep down, Misha has always known that the tale of his Gypsy background, as bestowed upon him by Uri, is only a fantasy. Misha Pilsudski is now Misha Milgrom, and the only evidence of his past life is the yellow stone he still wears around his neck. Something deep within him tells Misha that this is the one part of Uri's story that is true: the yellow stone had been given to him by his father.

Although he sleeps at the Milgrom's apartment on occasion, Misha still spends most of his time with the band of homeless boys. Every night, they are all involved in the business of crossing over to the other side of the wall and smuggling food back into the ghetto. One night, Big Henryk, who rarely speaks, announces, "Himmler coming." According to Kuba, Himmler is "the Number Two Jackboot" and in charge of the ghetto and the fate of all the Jews in Warsaw.

When Misha brings this news to the Milgroms, Uncle Shepsel is uninterested and rudely complains because the boy has not brought any food with him that day. Janina declares that she hates Himmler and will kick him if she sees him. Mrs. Milgrom, who is no longer able to work and has become "skinny and gray," shows no reaction at all to the information. Mr. Milgrom gathers both Janina and Misha in his arms, affirming to them that they are "the best children." Voices are heard in the courtyard, and people are calling, "Himmler's coming!"

Mr. Milgrom and Uncle Shepsel restrain a screaming Janina as Misha races down the stairs. In the street, the amazed child sees a parade of "huge cars, magnificent cars," with the tops down, carrying stern and "magnificent men." The crisp hats of the men are adorned with "great silver eagles spread[ing] their wings," like angels' wings, fully unfurled. A few people line the street, their eyes downcast. Only the ghetto police, the Flops, stand at attention and give the "Jackboot salute." With imprudent but undeniable curiosity, Misha runs alongside the cars, but he does not recognize anyone as the legendary Herr Himmler. The orphan boy does momentarily catch the eye of one of the Jackboots, however, a small man with a little black mustache who has an uncanny resemblance to the disagreeable Uncle Shepsel. As he races after the decidedly undistinguished officer, trying to determine if he is, in fact, the famed Himmler, Misha crashes into the great bulk of Buffo, "the worst Flop of all." Buffo, who enjoys smothering Jewish children against his "bottomless belly," brandishes a club over the fallen boy. The Flop harbors a special hatred for Misha, who calls him...

(The entire section is 719 words.)