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Last Updated on September 14, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 575


The narrator of the entire collection of short stories. Tadek is Polish and therefore a “privileged” prisoner at Auschwitz. He works a variety of jobs at camp, such as unloading the prisoners from the transport trains, working on a farm, and working as an orderly in the camp’s hospital. He is hardened by camp life but still tries to help other prisoners when he can. He is determined to survive Auschwitz so that he can be reunited with his fiance.

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Henri is described as being a fat Frenchman. He works in the Canada kommando, unloading prisoners and their possessions from the trains at Auschwitz.

The rabbi

The rabbi in the bunk directly below Tadek is withered and drenched in his own excrement. His moaning annoys Tadek and Henri.


A Russian prisoner who works in the Canada kommando in “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.” He chokes a woman when she refuses to take her child with her off of the train and is praised by the SS man for his work. In “A Day at Harmenz,” Andrei works on the farm and tries to teach two Greek prisoners how to march. When the Unterscharfuhrer sees that the Greeks cannot march, he tells Andrei to kill them.

The blonde Jewish girl

Tadek describes her as “enchanting” when he sees her get off the train at Auschwitz. She asks Tadek what is going to happen to her, and, when he doesn’t answer, she says that she knows what will happen.

The Greeks

Greek prisoners at Auschwitz. They are starving because they do not receive packages from home with food, but they are infrequently gassed. In the prison hierarchy, they rank below the Poles but above the Jews.

Mrs. Hanezcka

A housekeeper at Harmenz. She is kind and gives the prisoners potatoes and soap.


Becker is described as being an old, fat Jewish prisoner. He was a camp senior at a camp outside of Poznan before being sent to Auschwitz. He admits that he killed his own people, including his son. At the end of “A Day at Harmenz,” he is selected for the gas chambers.

The Kommandofuhrer at Harmenz

The Kommandofuhrer is a “sickly, little SS man” responsible for overseeing a labor gang at Harmenz. When Tadek says he cannot give the Kommandofuhrer his watch, the Kommandofuhrer throws it against a brick wall.

The Kapo at Harmenz

The Kapo is described as having a swollen, red face. He is the camp senior, or trusted prisoner, for Tadek’s labor kommando at Harmenz. The Kapo reminds Tadek that he has the power to have him killed.


A prisoner who helps Tadek clean out a ditch at Harmenz. He forgets to remove his cap and stand at attention before speaking to the Rottenfuhrer and is hit in the face.

The “Slow-witted” guard

The “slow-witted” guard tries to trick Tadek into walking into a “forbidden” zone to get bread for the Jews. Tadek tells the guard that he was arrested for singing out of tune.

The Rottenfuhrer at Harmenz

A low-level commanding officer in the SS. He hits Janek for forgetting to show him proper respect when addressing him.

The Unterscharfuhrer at Harmenz

The boss of Harmenz. He lives in the house on the property with his family.


A prisoner working at Harmenz. He steals a goose from the farm and gives it to one of the Greeks. When the prisoners are searched, he admits to stealing it and is sent to the gas chambers.

Additional Characters

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Last Updated on September 14, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 456


Andrei is a Russian sailor who is a member of the labor gang that unloads the Jews from the cattle cars. He attacks a woman who is trying to deny her child to keep from being sent to the gas chambers. Through his act of attacking the woman, he wins the approval of the SS officers.


The narrator notices an attractive, confident Jewish girl. She calmly asks him what will...

(The entire section contains 1031 words.)

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