The Last of the Just

by André Schwarz-Bart

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 274

“The Last of the Just” is a story by Andre Schwarz-Bart. The story is about Ernie Levy, who is the last just man; he was eventually killed at Auschwitz. The book has many characters, including Ernie Levy, Mordecai Levy, Golda, and Benjamin Levy, among others. Ernie is not only named as a Lamed-Vovnik, but he happens to be the last Lamed-Vovnik from Levy’s family. The term "Lamed-Vovnik" refers to the Lamed-Vov, the thirty-six Just Men (or righteous people) of mystical Jewish belief.

Mordecai Levy is depicted as a staunch believer in Jewish traditions, which he closely observes. His wife is named Judith Levy. He is the grandfather of Ernie Levy, and he vests much interest in establishing the next “just man” from the Levy family. It is through his determination and insight that the spirit of the Lamed-Vovnik is awakened in Ernie’s mind and heart. Later, Ernie requests to be incarcerated in a concentration camp to be with the love of his life, Golda. He has to undergo immense torture, for he is thought to be a spy. Eventually, he is allowed into the camp and reunites with Golda, though for a short period. Later, they are escorted to the gas chambers, where they are both executed together with several children. Even in death, Ernie chooses to be an inspiration to the rest, especially to the children, by reassuring them that soon they will be reunited with their parents in paradise, in a bid to make it bearable for them. Other minor characters who help in the development of the plot include Fraulein Blumenthal and Benjamin Levy, who are Ernie’s parents.

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