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The Devil's Arithmetic (1999)

Not Rated | | Drama, Fantasy, War | TV Movie 28 March 1999
A 16-year-old American girl with an apathetic view towards her Jewish family history finds herself pulled through time into 1941 to a small Polish village where the Nazi have just began their genocidal propaganda.


Donna Deitch


Jane Yolen (novel), Robert J. Avrech (teleplay)
3,671 ( 511)

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3 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kirsten Dunst ... Hannah Stern
Brittany Murphy ... Rivkah
Paul Freeman ... Rabbi
Mimi Rogers ... Leonore Stern
Louise Fletcher ... Aunt Eva
Lilo Baur Lilo Baur ... Mina
Nitzan Sharron Nitzan Sharron ... Ariel
Shelly Skandrani ... Leah
Daniel Brocklebank ... Shmuel
Kirsty McFarland Kirsty McFarland ... Yetta
Rachel Roddy Rachel Roddy ... Esther
Ieva Jackeviciute Ieva Jackeviciute ... Miriam
Philip Rham Philip Rham ... Commandant Krieger
Daniel Rausch Daniel Rausch ... Officer Steinbach
Polina Soloveicik Polina Soloveicik ... Sarah (as Paulina Soloveicik)


This is another telling of the holocaust, but this time from the perspective of a modern teenage girl who only grudgingly accepts the Jewish traditions, but when she is asked to "open the front door" as part of the Seder feast finds herself, not unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, to have entered the 1940's and has stepped into the life of a prisoner in one of the German death camps where she experiences all of its horrors firsthand. Written by BOB STEBBINS <stebinsbob@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Live to tell


Drama | Fantasy | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

28 March 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Arithmetic See more »

Filming Locations:

Ontario, Canada See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


By far the most famous and successful movie in which actor Paul Freeman has appeared in his career is Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), in which he plays a French archaeologist who collaborates with the Nazis. In this film, he plays an Orthodox rabbi who is imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis. See more »


Hannah Stern: I was thinking about how much help I could be to all of us.
Rivkah: What do you mean?
Hannah Stern: I had a history teacher who spent a whole semester talking about the Jews during the war, you know what I was doing? I was writing notes to my friends. I have no idea what my teacher said. The only thing I remember is that no one paid any attention to all of this.
Rivkah: You have a very vivid imagination, and it is causing you much needless pain.
Hannah Stern: I wish that was true.
See more »


References The Wizard of Oz (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

The Holocaust For Dummies or: How I Learned to Pay Attention and Care About the Prosecution of Jews
19 September 2004 | by TBJCSKCNRRQTreviewsSee all my reviews

This film is *very* basic stuff; the dream/time-travel theme, the typical war-drama clichés, etc. The whole film is just so bland and and the way it handles the serious subject... I don't know, it's just like a... Schindler's List Light; you get the important subject and a few well-known actors, but without any shred of anything else worth watching a movie for. The plot is lame, just a rehash of the dream/time-travel formula, in which the main character travels through time because he/she must learn an important lesson(like, say, Christmas is important, caring is important, and in this one, the Holocaust was and is important; bear in mind, I'm not saying it's untrue... I'm merely saying that it's an overly tongue in cheek way of telling us that), and wanders about, constantly talking about things that don't exist in that time period, instead of wising up and keeping her mouth shut; how many of these movies have been made, anyway? They should have stopped making them back in whatever decade they started. It's too bad the important subject has to be dumbed down to a childish "adventure" just to make teens and kids aware of what went on during the Holocaust(which the film arguably does a somewhat half-bad job of, since it's made into a PG-movie). Come on, I'd have rather sat through an informational but dull retelling of the story, instead of sitting through this tripe. The plot is tame and cliché-ridden, badly paced and not very interesting. Once again, too bad for a film with such an important a subject. The acting is decent at best; not surprising for a TV-movie cast, but come on... Brittany Murphy and Kirsten Dunst can do better than this. They may not be the best teen actresses out there, but they're better than this. The characters are mostly clichés and stereotypes. The cinematography is unimaginative. One of the biggest problems apart from everything I've written up to this point was that it focused very much on the Jewish religion and their customs, which seem strange and ridiculous, at least to me. That made them all the more unappealing to me, along with their one-dimensional personalities and poorly written and even more poorly delivered dialog. But, maybe I'm just too anti-religious and atheistic. Meh. My point is; you don't really care about these people, since their personalities are paper-thin and you know from the very moment they are introduced exactly what is going to happen to them, at least if you have any experience with the genre. Basically, the movie has a good point, but it's poorly presented and too much of the film is just poorly executed and ends up making you smirk or even laugh at what you're supposed to start crying at. I recommend this movie only to kids and other easily impressible people. I suppose if you *must* see every movie about the Holocaust, this isn't the worst either. You could do a lot worse, but you certainly could do a hell of a lot better, too. 5/10

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