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Number the Stars

by Lois Lowry

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What happened to Annemarie's sister Lise in Number the Stars?


In Number the Stars, Annemarie's sister Lise was killed in a car accident. This tragic event was initially described as an accident, but it is later revealed that Lise was part of the Danish Resistance movement, and her death was a result of her involvement in the fight against the Nazis.

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What happened to the character Lise in Number the Stars?

Lise was Annemarie’s eldest sister. She died when she was about eighteen years old, two weeks to her wedding to Peter Neilsen. According to Annemarie’s parents, Lise was part of the Resistance—a group of people who fought against the Nazis using whatever means at their disposal. Her fiancé, Peter, was also a member of the Resistance group. On the day of her death Lise, Peter, and other members of the Resistance group had a secret meeting in a cellar. Unfortunately, the Nazis got wind of the meeting and raided the cellar. The whole group ran away, each in a different direction. Some of the group members were shot in the ensuing commotion. Lise was run down by a military car as she ran away.

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What happened to Annemarie's sister Lise in Number the Stars?

Annemarie Johansen's older sister, named Kirsten Elizabeth and called Lise by her family, died mysteriously one rainy night after having been struck by a vehicle.

In Chapter 5 of Lois Lowry's Number the Stars, little Ellen Rosen, the young Jewish friend of Annemarie, has come to spend the night with the Johansens while the Nazis search for her parents, who have fled their home and hidden. Annemarie's father tells the two girls to put on their nightgowns and get into the bed where they may talk and giggle as sisters would. While in her bedroom, then, Ellen asks Annemarie,

"How did your sister die, Annemarie?"
"She and Peter [her fiancé] were out somewhere together, and then there was a telephone call that there had been an accident....Mama and Papa rushed to the hospital....When my parents came home in the middle of the night....they told me Lise had died."

She was struck by a car, and Annemarie tells Ellen that she believes the cause of the accident was partly due to the rain and slippery conditions.
Not long after this conversation, brutal German officers arrive at the Johansen home, demanding to know where the Rosens are. Calmly, Mrs. Johansen responds that they are probably sleeping in their beds since it is four o'clock in the morning. The harsh officer informs Mr. and Mrs. Johansen that the Rosens are gone, suggesting that the Johansens may be hiding them. Then this officer demands that the children come out of the bedroom. Quickly, Annemarie tells Ellen to remove her Star of David locket from her neck; when Ellen cannot undo it, Annemarie hurriedly rips it off Ellen's neck and clenches it in her own hand.

After the girls come out of the bedroom, an officer suspects that Ellen does not belong to the Johansens because the other girls are blond. Quickly, Mr. Johansen goes to the photo album and tears baby pictures from it. He shows the officer Lise's baby picture in which the girl has dark curls, just as Ellen does.

This poignant scene provides the loss of their beloved daughter Lise some meaning for the Johansens, who remove suspicion from Ellen with the quick thinking of the father.

Further in the narrative, Annemarie's Uncle Henrik is instrumental in smuggling the Rosens to Sweden. Unfortunately, Peter, who is in the Danish Resistance, is captured and executed in the square at Ryvagen in Copenhagen. When the Johansens visit the place near this square where the Resistance fighters have been buried with only numbers above their graves, Mr. Johansen reveals that Lise, Peter's fiancée, also was a member of the Resistance. Annemarie's father tells her,

"She was with Peter in a cellar where they held secret meetings. When the Nazis learned of this place, they held a raid. The members of the Resistance ran in every direction in their efforts to escape."

Some were shot--Mr. Johansen reminds his daughter that Peter's arm was wrapped at the funeral and he kept on his coat and hat in order to hide his distinctive red hair. During the flight of the Resistance members, Lise rushed into the street in order to escape; however, soldiers spotted her, and with their military vehicle, they ran her down.

After learning of the tragic death of her beloved sister, Annemarie returns home, opens the blue trunk and pulls the yellowing dress from the chest. Inside the folds of the dress she finds Ellen's gold locket. She asks her father if he can fix the lock so that she can wear it until Ellen can return.

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What happened to Annemarie's sister Lise in Number the Stars?

Annemarie refers to her older sister, Lise, with a sense of sadness throughout the book Number the Stars.  It soon is revealed to the reader that Lise died, but it is unclear exactly how.  The reader learns that Lise "died in an accident two weeks before her wedding" when she was eighteen.  Lise had looked forward to marrying Peter and starting a family with him.  

As the story goes on, Annemarie reveals to the reader bits and pieces about the circumstances surrounding her sister's death.  In chapter five, Annemarie tells Ellen how her parents went to the hospital on a rainy night when Lise was in the accident.  They came back "in the middle of the night" to inform Anniemarie that "Lise had died."  They told her that a car had hit her, and Annemarie assumed it was because of the rainy weather.

It is not until the end of the book that the reader finds out exactly how Lise died.  It is two years after the events in the book when Annemarie learns these details.  Annemarie discovers from her parents that Lise was part of the Danish Resistance movement with Peter.  She was at a meeting, which was raided by the Nazis.  Lise ran away, but was purposely run over by a military car. 

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