Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ernie Levy

Ernie Levy, a furrier’s apprentice and one of the thirty-six Just Men. Born in Germany, this second son of Benjamin and Leah Levy studied secular subjects as well as Hebrew and the Talmud. He is intelligent, sensitive, and loving, so he quickly understands, though at first rejects, the need for martyrdom that pervades the history of the Levys and the Just Men. At the end of 1938, after Nazi persecution erupts, Ernie and his family emigrate to Paris, and he soon enlists in the French army. Following France’s defeat and his demobilization, he leads a hidden existence until he is recognized as Jewish. He returns to Paris at the age of twenty, an Unknown Just, an Inconsolable. There, he falls in love with Golda Engelbaum. After she is taken in a Nazi raid, he joins her in the internment camp. In October, 1943, he volunteers to accompany her and a group of children to Auschwitz to console them in their fear and death. In the gas chamber, while comforting them, he addresses a final prayer.

Mordecai Levy

Mordecai Levy, a retired itinerant peddler. He is Ernie’s grandfather and the keeper of Levy tradition. In his young adulthood in Poland, he was tall, handsome, full of cheer and humor, and eager to conquer new worlds. After his marriage to Judith Ackerman, whom he dearly loves, he became henpecked, except in matters concerning Ernie’s Jewish education.

Judith Levy

Judith Levy, a housewife. As a young woman, she was the beautiful daughter of a well-to-do baker, strong-willed, impatient, sensible, and smart. In Germany, she is able to adapt to her new life as she...

(The entire section is 675 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Kirkup, James. “Obituaries: André Schwarz-Bart, Author of The Last of the Just.” Independent, October 5, 2006, p. 41.

Lazarus, Joyce Block. Strangers and Sojourners: Jewish Identity in Contemporary Francophone Fiction. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Menton, Seymour. “The Last of the Just: Between Borges and García Márquez.” World Literature Today 59 (Fall, 1985): 517-524.

Popkin, Henry. “Around a Prize-Winner, a Paris Literary Storm.” The New York Times Book Review, December 20, 1959, p. 1.

Raider, Mark A. “Questioning the Meaning of Martyrdom: A Classic Novel of the Holocaust Returns to Print.” Forward 104 (June 2, 2000): 11.

Scharfman, Ronnie. “Significantly Other: Simone and André Schwarz-Bart.” In Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership, edited by Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993.