Number the Stars

Florida Atlantic University - Holocaust Outreach Center

Fifth Grade Unit

Subject: Social Studies, Geography

Grade Levels: Fifth Grade


Sunshine State Standards:

View all Sunshine State Standards

Day One



The map above is also available as an outline map suitable for printing. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Central Europe today as an outline map suitable for printing. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.)


  1. Tell students the story they are about to read takes place in Denmark, a country 16,639 square miles in size; 20th Century Denmark has been a peaceful land whose economy is based on farming and fishing. Its government is a constitutional Monarchy in which there is a ceremonial head of state. During World War II, when the story takes place, Christian X was the king. This is a country of little disharmony because all people can vote, have guaranteed political rights, and are entitled to practice any religion. Anti-semitism (hatred of Jews) has never been a problem here. On April 9, 1940, the German army overran Denmark. The government agreed to surrender provided that among other things there was no discrimination against Jews. Of a population of 4.5 million people, 8,000 were Jews, most of whom lived in Copenhagen and had been fully absorbed into Danish life. The Germans tried to poison Danish minds by producing anti-Semitic newspapers, films, and pamphlets. When they tried to burn down a synagogue, the Danish police stopped them. A resistance movement engaged in sabotage against the Nazi occupiers and harassed soldiers. Angered by their actions in early 1942, the German government ordered Jews to wear a yellow star on their clothes, but the Danish government refused to cooperate with this order. Finally, in August 1942 Germany declared martial law and took direct control of the government. The Germans chose October for mass arrests of Danish Jews.

  2. Give each student a map and have them locate, label, and color Denmark-yellow, Sweden-red, Germany-blue, Norway-green, France-orange, Holland-purple, and Belgium-pink. The North and Baltic Seas should be located and labeled. Locate, label, and place a star at the capital, Copenhagen.

  3. Remind students about the central elements in most literature: character, plot, and setting. Elicit definitions and examples of each. (Characters are the "actors" in the story; plot is what happens in the story; setting is where and when the story takes place.) These should be kept in mind as the story unfolds.

  4. Elicit information about World War II. The class needs to understand that Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany, believed that the German people (excluding Jews and Gypsies) were superior to all others and that they deserved not only to rule all of Europe, but that they needed to eliminate those they considered inferior including the handicapped, gypsies, and Jews. In Germany and throughout German controlled countries, Jews were identified and ordered to wear the yellow star, forced to obey restrictions of their liberties, and removed from their homes to camps where they were eventually killed. Not all people agreed with the Nazi plans, and they defied the Nazis through acts of resistance and rescue.

  5. Ask the group how they might feel if they were stopped on the street by a soldier simply for running. Would it be an unusual experience for soldiers to be patrolling the streets? How might they feel if they lived in a place where there was a military presence at all times?

  6. Have the students read Chapters 1 and 2.

  7. Ask students to compare Ellen and Annemarie

    11 years old 10 years old
    has 1 living sisteronly child
    lives upstairslives downstairs

  8. Annemarie not only resents the soldiers for stopping her from running but for other reasons. What are the reasons and how do Danes in general feel about the German presence? (They hate the Nazis for: (1) occupying Denmark for the past three years, (2) imposing rules on them, (3) not speaking proper Danish, (4) imposing a military presence, and (5) imposing food rationing.)

  9. How have some Danes reacted to the occupation? (They have formed a resistance group which sabotages plants that produce war materials, and railroad lines that bring goods to Germany. An illegal uncensored newspaper, "The Free Danes" - "De Frie Danske", has been founded.) Why would an illegal paper be needed and how could it be useful? (To tell the truth about what is happening and help keep up morale.) How would the Germans feel about those reading this paper? (They are troublemakers.) What might happen to someone caught reading it? (Arrest or possible shipment to a concentration camp.) How do Annemarie's parents regard members of the resistance? (They are brave individuals who should do as much harm to the Nazis as they can.) How would you feel if our country were invaded by another? What freedoms might be at risk? What would you think about the adults you know working secretly to undermine a foreign country that has occupied yours?

  10. Describe the relationship between Mrs. Rosen (Ellen's mother) and Mrs. Johansen (Annemarie's mother.) (They are friends who have coffee together regularly.)

  11. What advice does Mrs. Rosen give to Annemarie regarding walking to school? (Walk another way so the soldiers don't notice and remember you; the important thing is to be one of a crowd.) What is the underlying fear for all Danes? (Not knowing what their fate would be under the Nazis.)

  12. Was surrender to Germany a sensible decision: (Denmark had a very small army, and many people would have died if she had fought.) Would you want our country to surrender? Have students write a brief speech urging their fellow citizens to resist the Germans or one accepting the occupation peacefully.

  13. How had the family changed in the three years since the German occupation? (Lise had died in an accident two weeks before her wedding; father seemed older, tired, and more deflated, Peter was now serious and in a hurry.)

  14. Have students discuss how they might have reacted to life in Nazi-occupied Europe. What surprised, frightened, or angered them?

Day Two



  1. Have students read chapters 3 and 4.
  2. Elicit how conditions for all Danes continued to grow worse. (Not only is there an 8 p.m. curfew, but the only plentiful food is potato; fuel and electricity are rationed resulting in families using candles at night.) Why would the Nazis impose a curfew on the population? (To prevent action by the resistance and to further make Danes bend to their will.)

  3. Why is Mrs. Johansen upset when she learns that the Hirsch family shop has been closed and the sign on the door was in German? (It meant that the Germans were stepping up their anti-Semitic activity by closing Jewish businesses.) What is a swastika that is on the sign? (A symbol used by the Nazi Party.)

  4. How does Mrs. Johansen respond when asked how the Hirsch's would manage? How does this illustrate the underlying values held by the Danes? (She says that friends will take care of them since that's what friends do.)

  5. Elicit how many students have seen TV coverage of when the President or an important entertainment figure arrives at events. Is he alone or does he have an entourage with him? Is it unusual by today's standards for a king or political leader to appear daily, ride without escorts and bodyguards, and speak freely with his subjects? What might this say about the King's character, his leadership, and the times that he moves freely among the Danes? How does Annemarie correlate the concept that all Danes are protectors of the king to the situation of the Jews? (She realizes that as all Danes are the bodyguards of the King, so must all Danes be the bodyguards of Jews.) How does the realization that she is "her brother's keeper" affect her personally? (When told that she must be Ellen's protector, she realizes that she would die to protect Danish Jews.) How might history have been different if all people felt this way?

  6. There were additional hardships in daily life. When Danes couldn't get leather for shoes, what substitutes are used? (Fish skins) Can you understand Kirsti's reaction? Why? Why not? Have you ever reacted in a similar way to something you have been made to wear? Were you able to change anyone's mind about it? Why was Tivoli gardens partially destroyed and then closed? (To punish the Danes and impose Nazi authority.) Would these actions make the Danish people more compliant to Nazi demands or more resentful? Explain.

  7. Why is blowing up their ships an act of defiance by the Danish navy? (This way they couldn't be used by the Germans against the Danes or any other people.) What might you have advised the navy to do? Have students brainstorm other acts of defiance ordinary Danes might have done to harass the Germans? (Give them wrong directions, prepare food with too much pepper, etc.)

  8. How do Kirsti and Annemarie show respect for the Rosen's religious beliefs? (When they are invited to Friday night's lighting of the Sabbath candles, they remain quiet and realize the importance of Judaism to the Rosens.) The teacher should explain the meaning of the candle lighting ceremony on the Sabbath.

  9. How does the situation of Danish Jews worsen? (The Nazis seize membership lists of synagogues that give names and addresses.) How do Danish Jews react? (They go into hiding so they won't be located in their homes.) How do the Johansen's show their friendship for the Rosen's? (Ellen's parents are taken into hiding by Peter, and Ellen stays with the Johansens. What might have happened if the Rosens had been home? (The Nazis would have arrested them and taken them to be "relocated".) Students should be told that in most cases when Jews were removed from their homes, they were sent to transit centers and eventually to concentration camps where young people were worked to death and children and older people were gassed to death.

  10. What does Mr. Johansen say that illustrates how he feels about Nazi actions? (". . . it is wrong, and it is dangerous and we must help.") How does he reassure Ellen? (He says that he's proud to have her as one of his daughters.) What is he saying about Jews? (Jews are members of his family.)

Day Three



  1. Students should read chapters 5-8.

  2. Elicit student reaction if someone were to bang on their front door in the middle of the night. Discuss the Johansen's reaction to this circumstance. How does Mr. Johansen demonstrate he can think quickly under stress? How does he trick the soldiers into believing that Ellen is his child? (He shows baby pictures of his dark-haired daughter Lise with her birth date ripped off the picture; he never reacts to the inference that a dark-haired child was fathered by someone else.) How do the soldiers react? Why? (They're angry and frustrated at not having caught Jews.)

  3. How does Annemarie aid in the deception? (She rips Ellen's Jewish Star from her neck and holds it tightly in her hand.) Why is this crucial? (The soldiers would have known Ellen was Jewish if she had the Star around her neck.) Would you do something dangerous to help your best friend?

  4. Do you agree that it is too risky for the girls to go to school? Why? Why not? (The Johansens are fearful that the Nazis would look for Jewish children at school since they have the names of all Jews from the synagogue records.) Why are the Nazis after children? What threat do they pose? (They are potential avengers against those who killed their parents and will produce future generations of Jews.)

  5. Why is Uncle Henrik's house a better place for Ellen than Copenhagen? (It is possible for Jews to escape by sea to Sweden where the Nazis are not in power.) Why does Mr. Johansen speak to his brother-in-law in code? (So he doesn't alert the Nazis that Ellen is coming to his house.) Try to decipher the code in Number the Stars. As an activity the teacher might have partners invent a code, write a message in it, and exchange their coded messages with other groups.

  6. On the train why does the soldier ask, "Are you visiting your brother for the New Year?" (If someone answers yes, the soldier would know that they are Jewish since only Jews celebrate the Jewish New Year which begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur.) Why is Annemarie fearful of her little sister? (She's afraid that Kirsti might say something to give Ellen away.) Have the students recall incidents in which younger siblings "Spilled the beans." Why does Mrs. Johansen warn the girls about talking to anyone? (Someone might report them to the Nazi authorities who are on watch for Jews.)

  7. What is the mood at Uncle Henrik's house? (It is somber; Ellen is concerned about her parents, Mrs. Johansen and Henrik, who usually laugh together are serious.) What leads Annemarie to further expect something might happen?

Day Four



  1. What seems unusual to Annemarie when people come to her uncle's house to pay their respects to Great-Aunt Birte? (Not only had she never heard of this relative, but none of the visitors speak to each other.) How would you feel if you had been Ellen when her parents appear? (She clung to them relieved that they are all right and is overjoyed to be with them.)

  2. Why do the Nazis come to Uncle Henrik's? (They are suspicious seeing a number of people gathering there.) How does Mrs. Johansen explain the closed coffin? (She says her aunt had died of typhus, a communicable disease.) What might have happened to those present had the soldiers opened it? Would there have been different treatment for Mrs. Johansen and Henrik than for the Jews? (All would have been arrested and either shot or sent to a concentration camp where they most probably would have died.) How does Annemarie continue to exhibit bravery? (She isn't intimidated by the soldiers and tells them that the person who died was her aunt. She helps to maintain the deception.)

  3. What does Annemarie learn that ties all the pieces of the mystery together? (The Rosens and the other Jews are to be taken to Sweden by Uncle Henrik in his boat.) How have strangers contributed to helping Jews escape from the Nazis? (People have contributed warm clothing and blankets for the journey; Mrs. Johansen gives Kirstie's red sweater to provide warmth for the infant; a doctor has provided the sleeping medication so the infant doesn't cry; Henrik will provide his boat and food from his farm; Peter will guide the Jews to the harbor.)

  4. When Annemarie looks at the Rosens, she thinks of happier times; yet, she realizes that they still have their pride. Why do you think she feels this way? What emotions do you think each of the Rosens is feeling? Peter? Mrs. Johansen?

  5. Why do the escapees leave in two separate groups and not have information about the other? (If someone is caught, they wouldn't jeopardize all.)

Day Five



  1. Students should read chapters 12-15.
  2. Discuss how Mrs. Johansen's broken ankle could have put the fate of the Jews in jeopardy. (She was unable to take the packet that had fallen out of Mr. Rosen's pocket to the boat.) Should Mrs. Johansen have allowed her daughter to place her life in danger in order to deliver it? How successful is Mrs. Johansen's method for camouflaging the packet? (She hides it in the basket under the food.) What advice is Annemarie given in case she is stopped by the soldiers with dogs? (Pretend to be an empty-headed girl who simply is taking lunch to her uncle who forgot it.)

  3. How does Annemarie keep herself calm while going through the woods? (She recounts the story of Little Red Riding Hood that she tells to Kirsti.) When she's stopped, how does she act? (She models her behavior after Kirsti; she rambles and is very chatty.) What is found in the basket in addition to food? (A handkerchief.) Does this surprise you? What did you expect them to find?

  4. How does Annemarie feel after her uncle tells her that everything is fine because of her actions? (She feels good about herself for helping Jews and those she loves.)

Day Six



  1. What is the importance of Annemarie's actions? (She brings a handkerchief which contains a chemical that blocks a dog's ability to smell.) Do you agree with Henrik's definition of bravery, "Not thinking about the dangers. Just thinking about what you must do." Why? Why not? Are there any aspects of bravery which you feel are left out of that definition? Would you describe Annemarie as brave? Discuss and give examples to back up your point of view. Is there a difference between bravery and courage? Would you describe the Danes as courageous? Why? Why do you think the Danes acted as they did? What choices did the rescuers have to make?

  2. The teacher should use the USHMM poster of the Danish boat. Have students speculate about the Rosen's life in Sweden.

  3. Why does Mrs. Johansen care for the Rosen's home and possessions? (She expects that they will return home after the war and will resume their former life.) What would you imagine had happened to the possessions of Jews in other countries? (They were seized by local citizens and the Nazi authorities.)

  4. Discuss the last words of a young resistance fighter who was captured and executed by the Nazis; see p.137. What kind of world must be created? (One of human decency, without prejudice and open-minded.) Has the world succeeded? Discuss.

  5. Show the 15 minute video based on the book; have students discuss which they "enjoyed" more? Why?

Day Seven



  1. Discuss why the Nazis aren't successful in changing the way the Danes think about or behave toward Jews.

  2. Discuss the development of the character of Annemarie from the beginning to the end of the novel. How does she change? How does she feel about herself?

  3. Divide the class into small groups. Select a situation in which a character faces a major decision. Brainstorm and list the impact the decision had on the outcome of the novel and the effect it had on the other characters. List other decisions the character could have made in this situation and those results. The entire class should discuss each group's findings.

  4. Place Edmund Burke's words on the board: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Discuss whether this novel proves or disproves it. Use specific situations to back up your position.

  5. Have the class read about other groups or individuals who are involved in rescue. Discuss how heroic acts give man hope even in the darkest of times. The class might view portions of the videos: The Courage to Care, Raol Wallenberg: Between the Lines, The Other side of Faith, They Risked Their Lives, and Weapons of the Spirit. Since these are recommended for older students, they need to be previewed by the teacher to determine if they are appropriate.

  6. If possible, arrangements should be made for a survivor who had been rescued to speak to the class.

Projects/Evaluation Tools

  1. Assign students to research and write a composition on a role model they define as courageous. They should define courage and the nature of heroism and justify their choice. Should morality or ethical behavior be essential in the choice of a hero or can a person be a hero without these standards? (For example, Dennis Rodman or Mike Tyson.) How can ordinary people in everyday life be heroes? How can you be a hero in a small way in your daily life? Have each student make a brief oral presentation of their hero to the class.

  2. In the role of Ellen, have each student write a letter to Annemarie from Sweden or have Annemarie write to Ellen.

  3. Have the class select the aspect of the book that most appealed to them (emotional content, mystery, adventure story, heroism, love story) and write several paragraphs to justify their point of view.

  4. Have students select one character from the book and write a journal entry as that character.

  5. Have students design a medal or create a monument to commemorate the courageous Danes and to let the world honor Danish rescue of Jews.

  6. Have students create their own edition of the newspaper, The Free Danes, for the day following the rescue of Jews.

Submitted by:

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

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