Baron Gaigern (GI-gehrn), one of the guests at Berlin’s Grand Hotel who, while seeming rich, is actually a gambler and a thief. He tries unsuccessfully to steal from the other guests in the hotel and, for various reasons, fails in each case. As a result of trying to steal jewelry from Elisaveta Grusinskaya, a ballerina, he becomes her lover. While he is trying to steal Herr Preysing’s wallet, he is killed, felled by a blow inflicted with a bronze inkstand.
Herr Preysing (PRI-zihng), general manager of the Saxonia Cotton Company and a guest at the hotel. He tries to reestablish his company’s financial position by a merger with another company. He hires Miss Flamm as a stenographer and then offers to make her his mistress. He murders Gaigern when he discovers the baron trying to steal his wallet. Because the baron is unarmed at the time, Preysing is held for murder.
Otto Kringelein (KRIHN-geh-lin), a forty-six-year-old junior clerk in Preysing’s company and a guest at the hotel. Having been told that he is dying, he is out for one last frolic in the world, inasmuch as he has been a meek, downtrodden man all his life. His personality changes when Miss Flamm flees to him for help when Baron Gaigern is killed. Her friendship and interest in him give Kringelein some purpose in life. He decides to go to England with her.
Miss Flamm, nicknamed “Flaemmchen” by Herr Preysing. She is a beautiful stenographer who works as a part-time photographer’s model. When Herr Preysing kills Baron Gaigern, she flees from her employer to ask Kringelein’s help and becomes interested in her protector.
Elisaveta Alexandrovna Grusinskaya
Elisaveta Alexandrovna Grusinskaya (eh-lee-sah-VAY-tah ah-lehks-ahn-DROV-nah groo-SIHNS-kah-yah), an aging ballerina. She finds Baron Gaigern in her room. He denies trying to steal from her and becomes her lover, giving her the admiration and self-confidence she desperately needs.
Dr. Otternschlag (OHT-tehrn-shlahg), a retired doctor staying at the hotel. Having been disfigured in World War I, he has no real interest in life. When he tries to commit suicide, he finds, however, that he really wants to live.
The Grand Duke Sergei
The Grand Duke Sergei (SEHR-gay), an aristocrat who gave expensive pearls to Elisaveta Grusinskaya.
Anna Kringelein, Kringelein’s wife, left at home in Fredersdorf.