The Devil's Arithmetic

3. What immediately happens as they arrive at the camp? What are they told?

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Upon their arrival at the camp, they are unceremoniously ordered out of the boxcar and down a hill toward the camp. Shmuel tells the soldiers there are still dead bodies on board. The soldiers order him to leave them there. A sign above the camp entrance reads, "Arbeit Macht Frei": work will make you free.

The prisoners are taken to their respective barracks. Hannah and the other women meet a woman in a blue dress who tells them that they are the newcomers and therefore the lowest of the low. The woman is a prisoner there, too, but is not a Jew. The woman leads them to an auditorium to shed their clothes so they can be showered. The women are not comfortable changing in front of each other. The woman in the blue dress tells them to think of it as a mikvah, a ritual bath.

Hannah implores them to listen to her. There are no showers, she says, only gas chambers. The women beg her not to frighten them more than they already are. Hannah decides that what she knows will only extinguish any hope they have left. She also decides that there is nothing she can do but cooperate. She has no weapons or means to free them. She reluctantly begins to undress as well.

A male Nazi officer orders them into another room, where they wait, shivering in the cold. Hannah sees some of the other girls and asks about Rachel. Rachel did not survive the trip, she learns. Hannah is overcome with guilt for not telling Rachel that she was her best friend. Hannah is relieved that the showers are real, but with only cold water. Still, she stands underneath for as long as she can and drinks in as much water as possible. Next, a male prisoner comes with scissors and a razor and cuts off the women's hair. They all look identical without it. Hannah tries to remember her history lessons but is shocked when she cannot remember anything. Her memory is gone, too. She cries out for Gitl, who comforts her and tells Hannah to promise her she will not cry in front of the Nazis. Hannah promises she never will.