Number the Stars

Number the Stars Themes


At the beginning of Number the Stars, Annemarie loves Denmark but does not yet understand the true meaning of patriotism. As she matures over the course of the novel, however, she begins witness the harm the Germans are inflicting on her country. She realizes that it is vital for everyone, including young people like herself, to make certain sacrifices to keep their fellow Danes safe. Papa has taught Annemarie about patriotism and national pride since her early childhood. She recalls his statement that every Dane would die for King Christian X. When Annemarie sees the Gestapo terrorizing the Jewish families she knows, she realizes that she is willing to sacrifice her personal safety in order to help her community.


Annemarie is an exceptionally observant child. Although the adults in her life expect girls her age to focus on dolls and giggling with their friends, Annemarie is very aware of what is going on around her. She notices when her parents use code language to cover up their Resistance activities. For example, she realizes that when Papa is talking to Uncle Henrik about a carton of cigarettes, he is actually talking about Ellen, a Jewish refugee. Annemarie also knows immediately that Uncle Henrik is lying when he announces Great-Aunt Birte's death. Annemarie's powers of observation save her life at the end of the novel, when she escapes the German soldiers by behaving like Kirsti would in the same situation.


Pride appears in many forms throughout Number the Stars. Annemarie and her family are proud of King Christian and Denmark. The Rosens are proud of their Jewish identity and culture. When Annemarie sees the Rosens preparing to leave for Sweden, Annemarie learns an important lesson about pride. Although the Rosens have lost their jobs, their possessions, and even the physical markers of their Jewish identity, they still carry themselves with dignity. From their example, Annemarie learns that pride comes from within, and not from external objects or achievements.


Annemarie enjoys a very close bond with her parents, her Uncle Henrik, and her younger sister, Kirsti. However, her parents also encourage family-like relationships with close friends, including Peter Neilsen and the Rosens. The Johansens have maintained strong ties with Peter, even after Lise died, because they know how important Peter was to Lise. Annemarie learns that family is about more than blood when she and her parents risk their lives to help the Rosens escape to Sweden. Although they are not related, the Rosens have lived next to the Johansens for years and are like family to them.


Early in the novel, Annemarie watches in awe as Peter, Mama, and Papa courageously stand up to hostile German soldiers. She feels that she could never live up to their example and is grateful that she will never have to. However, when Mama injures her ankle, Annemarie is the only one who will be able to ensure that the rescue mission succeeds. In this desperate moment, Annemarie calls upon her own reserves of strength and courage. Although she is afraid, she keeps herself calm by telling herself fairy tales. Ultimately, she successfully delivers the packet to Uncle Henrik. Later, Uncle Henrik explains to Annemarie that courage is not about being fearless––it is about doing what you have to do even if you are scared.


By the end of Number the Stars, every character has had to make a sacrifice for the greater good. The Rosens must give up their belongings and move to a foreign country in order to protect themselves and their young daughter, Ellen. Mama and Papa put their children's lives at risk by helping Danish Jews to escape to Sweden. Even little Annemarie loses her childlike innocence when she risks her life to help her friend. Uncle Henrik and Peter put themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of the country's Jews––even those they don't know personally. They are fighting for a cause that is more important to them than their lives. Ultimately, Lise and Peter die for the Resistance - and remain a symbol for Danish solidarity and courage after the war is over.


Growing up in occupied Denmark forces Annemarie to mature faster than she would have to in more peaceful times. She starts to feel a sense of responsibility for the people around her. She displays her protective instincts early in the novel when she, Kirsti, and Ellen face off against the German soldiers. Throughout the novel, Annemarie does her best to preserve Kirsti's innocence by telling her stories and sheltering her from the harsh realities of the war. As time goes by, Annemarie's sense of responsibility expands to include Ellen and Mama. Annemarie helps protect Ellen from the Germans and takes her Star of David necklace for safekeeping during the war. After Mama breaks her ankle, Annemarie helps her to safety and even makes a dangerous delivery to ensure the success of the rescue.