Alphonse: Alphonse is a German Jew in the Buna camp. The Germans have appointed him head of the block in which Eliezer lives, and he is devoted to the welfare of the other prisoners.
Akiba Drumer: Akiba Drumer is one of the Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz and Buna. At first, he has strong religious faith, seeing the camps as a way in which God tests His people. But eventually, he loses his faith. He is killed by the Nazis at Buna.
Rabbi Eliahou: Rabbi Eliahou was the rabbi of a small Polish community before he and his son were sent to the concentration camp. Eliezer meets him at Buna. Rabbi Eliahou is a good man, well loved by everyone in the camp. Everyone still calls him “Rabbi.” He has been in the camps for three years with his son, and they have endured everything together, but they are separated on the final march to Gleiwitz.
Eliezer: Eliezer is the narrator of the story. In 1941, he is twelve years old, and lives happily in the Jewish community in Sighet. He shows great interest in religion, studies Talmud and also seeks out instruction in the mysteries of the Cabbala, the Jewish mystical tradition. In 1944, Eliezer is deported, along with the rest of his family. He is sent first to Auschwitz concentration camp, then to Buna, and finally to Gleiwitz and Buchenwald, where he is liberated by American forces in April, 1945. Throughout his ordeal, Eliezer tries to stick close to his father and look after him. They are not separated until Chlomo’s death in January, 1945. As a result of his experiences in the camps, Eliezer loses his faith in God.
Eliezer’s father: Eliezer’s father, Chlomo, is, according to Eliezer’s description of him, a cultured, rather unsentimental man. He is held in high esteem in the Jewish community in Sighet. He and his wife are shopkeepers. Chlomo and Eliezer stick together throughout their ordeal in the camps and do their best to protect each other. But Chlomo is too weak to survive the final train journey to Buchenwald. He contracts dysentery and dies at the end of January, 1945, only two and a half months before the liberation.
Franek: Franek is a Jewish former student from Warsaw who is the foreman of the warehouse for electrical equipment where Eliezer works. At first he behaves kindly to Eliezer, but his attitude changes when he sees the gold crown in Eliezer’s tooth. He bullies Eliezer and his father until Eliezer agrees to let him have the gold crown.
Idek: Idek is one of the Kapos at Buna. He is a cruel man who has fits of rage in which he beats the prisoners, including Idek. When Eliezer discovers him forcing himself on a young Polish girl, Idek retaliates by giving Eliezer a whipping.
Meir Katz: Meir Katz is a friend of Eliezer’s father. He is a robust man who works as a gardener at Buna. But even he breaks down during the last, terrible journey to Buchenwald, saying he cannot endure it any longer. Unable to get out of the cattle wagon when it arrives at the camp, he is left to die.
Juliek: Juliek, a friend of Eliezer, is a young Polish man who plays the violin in the military band at Buna. He dies one night on the march to Gleiwitz. Eliezer hears him playing a piece by Beethoven on his violin in the pitch dark the night he dies.
Dr. Josef Mengele: Dr. Josef Mengele is the notorious Nazi doctor who supervised the selection of new arrivals of prisoners at Auschwitz, sending thousands to the gas chambers. He also undertook horrific medical experiments on children as well as adults. Eliezer encounters him when he arrives at Auschwitz, and again at Buna.
Moshe the Beadle: Moshe the Beadle is a poor but well-liked man in Sighet, whom Eliezer chooses as his guide to the Cabbala. Moshe is a foreign Jew and is expelled from Sighet before the others. He witnesses the slaughter of Jewish prisoners by the Germans, is wounded in the leg, but manages to escape and return to Sighet, where he tries to warn others of their impending fate. But no one listens to him.
Madame Schachter: Madame Schachter is a fifty-year-old Jewish woman who is deported from Sighet with her ten-year-old son. While on the cattle wagon on the way to Auschwitz, she repeatedly screams about seeing fire and flames and a furnace. Everyone thinks she is mad, but when they arrive at the camp, this is exactly what they see.
Stein: Stein is a relative of Eliezer’s father who comes from Antwerp. He seeks out Eliezer’s father at Auschwitz, wanting to know if there is any news of his family.
Tibi and Yossi: Tibi and Yossi are two young brothers who become good friends with Eliezer at Buna. They are from Czechoslovakia, and their parents were killed at Birkenau.
Zalman: Zalman is a young man from Poland who worked in the electrical warehouse at Buna. He dies on the march to Gleiwitz.