This morning I answered an email from a teacher who is about to start using "Number the Stars" with a group of boys and wondered if I had any additional information that would enhance the experience for them.  I suggested that he? she? (can't remember) research Kim Malthe-Bruun, the young resistance fighter who was executed in Denmark by the Nazis, and who was the model for Peter in the book.


I remember first encountering Kim's story in Denmark when i was doing research for the book. When I saw his photograph at age 18, I took a deep breath because he so reminded me of my own son, Grey, at that age.  This morning I looked for the high school graduation photo of Grey that gave me that feeling of recognition, but unfortunately it is on my computer at home...I am using a laptop here in Maine.  Nonetheless, here is a photo of Kim Malthe-Bruun;  and I also found, in my search this morning, some excerpts from letters that Kim wrote from prison, which I will insert here.   

 

(1) Kim Malthe-Bruun, letter to Hanne about his experiences of being tortured by the Gestapo (3rd March, 1945)

However, though I am afraid, though I do not yield ground, my heart beats faster every time someone steps before my door. One strange thing. I felt absolutely no hatred. Somewhat happened to my body; it was only the body of a boy, and reacted as such. But my soul was occupied with something completely different. Of course it noticed the little creatures who were there with my body, but it was filled so with itself that it was not closely concern itself with them.


(2) Kim Malthe-Bruun, letter to his mother, Vibeke Malthe-Bruun (4th April 1945):

 

I know that you are a courageous woman, and that you will bear this, but, hear me, it is not enough to bear it, you must also understand it. I am an insignificant thing, and my person will soon be forgotten, but the thought, the life, the inspiration that filled me will live on. You will meet them everywhere - in the trees at springtime, in people who cross your path, in a loving little smile - that is the great gift for which our country thirsts - something for which every humble peasant can yearn, and which he can joyously feel himself to have a part in and to be working for. Finally, there is a girl whom I call mine. Make her realize that the stars still shine and that I have been only a milestone on her road. Help her on: she can still become very happy.


(3) Kim Malthe-Bruun, letter to his girlfriend Hanne (4th April 1945):

 Today I was put on trial and condemned to death. What terrible news for a little girl only twenty years old; I obtained permission to write this farewell letter. You must not busy yourself in sorrow, for you would become arrested, sunk in a worship of me and yourself, and you would lose what I have loved most in you, your womanliness. One of these days, Hanne, you will meet a man who will become your husband. Will the thought of me disturb you then? Will you perhaps then have a faint feeling that you are being disloyal to me or to what is pure and holy to you? Lift up your head, Hanne, lift up your head once again and look into my laughing blue eyes, and you will understand that the only way in which you can be disloyal to me would be in not completely following your natural instinct. You will meet this man and you will let your heart go out to him - not to numb the pain, but because you love him with all your heart. I should like to breathe into you all the life that is in me, so that thereby it could perpetuate itself and as little as possible of it be lost. Yours, but not for ever.

 


Kim Malte-Bruun