The Devil’s Arithmetic has been made into a film, which has a UK 12 certificate.  The content is therefore not suitable for primary students.  It is important to note that the unnamed camp, which plays a major part in the story, is not Auschwitz.  The author states that it is 'an amalgam of the camps that did'.

Hannah’s Grandfather is always talking about the importance of remembering the past but Hannah is tired of listening.  She is almost thirteen and wants to enjoy life and hear and tell stories from modern times.  However as the family gather together for a Passover Seder, Hannah is mysteriously pulled back through time.  It is 1942 and although everyone keeps calling her Chaya, she seems to remember her Grandfather’s stories.  However she cannot get anyone to believe her when she tells her 20th century friends and family that they and all Jewish people are in terrible danger.

Discussion Questions

Please note that some of these questions will act as spoilers for the book.

  1. Why do you think Hannah declares that she is 'tired of remembering' and how much truth is there in her statement?
  1. Why is Hannah angry when she is asked to open the door for Elijah?
  1. Once she steps through the door why does Hannah think she has walked onto a film set?
  1. Why does Gitl think that Hannah is upset?
  1. Who do Shumuel and Gitl think that Hannah is?
  1. What does Hannah learn about a) Jewish life before the Holocaust and b) how Jewish people reacted when news about the actions of the Nazis began to reach their communities ?
  1.  After the long journey in the box cars and the induction into camp life what does Hannah mean when she tells herself not to take away the girls’ hope?
  1. What part of camp experience do you think is hardest for Hannah?
  1. Who was Chaya and how will her bravery be remembered by a) Hannah  b) Eva?
  1. What was the Devil’s arithmetic and how does it forge a stronger link between Hannah and her Aunt Eva.
  1. Why do the words 'I remember, oh I remember' remind us of the beginning of the book?
  1. How is Hannah changed by her experience?  

You can use HMDT resources to find out about life in concentration camps