The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic Character List

Hannah Stern

The protagonist of the story. Hannah is a young Jewish girl who lives with her family in New Rochelle, NY. She is disinterested in, and even embarrassed by, her Jewish heritage and family. During a Seder dinner she is suddenly transported to Poland in 1942 where she inhabits the life of her own distant relative, Chaya Abramowicz, who sacrifices herself to save Rivka. Through this process Hannah comes to appreciate her own history and that of her family.

Aaron Stern

Hannah's younger brother. Aaron is naive and innocent. He struggles with the task of the Four Questions during the Seder dinner but Hannah helps him to the best of her ability.

Grandpa Will

A Holocaust survivor who sometimes causes his family some discomfort when he rants about his experiences. His memories of the Holocaust are deeply rooted in his mind. Hannah comes to be somewhat afraid of and embarrassed by him. After her experiences in Poland in the past, Hannah learns that Grandpa Will is Rivka's brother, Wolfe.

Grandma Belle

Hannah's grandmother and the wife of Grandpa Will. Hannah and her family come to her home for the Passover Seder tradition.

Shmuel Abramowicz

Gitl's sister and the soon-to-be husband of Fayge. He is Chaya's uncle in 1942 Poland. Shmuel is strong and presents a brave face to the Nazi soldiers, leading an escape attempt from the camp. The attempt is thwarted and Shmuel is executed by firing squad along with Fayge.

Gitl Abramowicz

Shmuel's sister and Chaya's aunt. Gitl is practical and headstrong. Though she never marries or has children of her own, she acts as a foster mother to Chaya during their time in the camp. Gitl is one of the few to survive, eventually moving to Israel and starting a charity to help Holocaust survivors reunite with family members. She names the organization CHAYA after her niece.


The butcher who is hoping to marry Gitl, though she has no interest in him. Obviously interested in her, he bends to any of her wishes, hoping to please her. He is the only prisoner who manages to escape during a breakout attempt and joins a resistance movement to fight the Nazis. He eventually moves to Israel and becomes a politician, joining the Knesset, the Israeli Senate.

Aunt Eva

Hannah's father's sister and Hannah's favorite aunt. Hannah learns that she is named after Aunt Eva's dead friend, Chaya. Aunt Eva has a quiet sadness about her. Hannah initially pities her for never having married, though Hannah acknowledges her beauty. It is finally revealed that Aunt Eva and Rivka are the same person.


A girl about Chaya's age who tells Hannah she will be her best friend. Rachel perishes before reaching the camp, resulting in Hannah's great guilt and sorrow.


One of the four girls Hannah (as Chaya) meets before Shmuel's wedding. She perishes in the camp.


One of the four girls Hannah (as Chaya) meets before Shmuel's wedding. She perishes in the camp.


One of the four girls Hannah (as Chaya) meets before Shmuel's wedding. She is nicknamed "the Cossack". She perishes in the camp.

Reb Boruch

Fayge's father and a Rabbi. He acts as a spiritual and community leader when the villagers are rounded up by the Nazis. He implores the villagers not to resist but to place their faith in God. He meets his death in the camp when he is chosen for execution.


A young girl, about ten years old, whom Hannah meets in the concentration camp. Rivka hands out bowls to the newcomers. She is resourceful and intelligent, quickly discerning how she may improve her chances of surviving day to day. Though younger than Hannah, she takes Hannah under her wing and shows her the ways of the camp. Hannah repays this kindness by sacrificing herself to save Rivka. Upon returning to New Rochelle in the present, Hannah learns that Rivka and Aunt Eva are the same person.

Chaya Abramowicz

The girl whose life Hannah enters to experience the horrors of the Holocaust. She learns that Chaya is a relative from her past. Chaya lost both her parents to cholera, a disease that almost claimed her as well. She is taken in by Gitl and Shmuel Abramowicz, her aunt and uncle. Much of what Hannah tries to convey to Gitl and Shmuel is chalked up as nonsense due to the psychological stress Chaya has experienced in losing her family. Hannah learns that she was named after Chaya and that she and Chaya share a striking resemblance.


Rivka's brother in the camp. He has become a Sonderkommando. His job is to transport dead bodies to the ovens, a heinous task which he loathes and which makes him feel terrible about himself, breeding resentment. He grows quiet and withdrawn and he and Rivka have little interaction within the camp. It is later revealed that Wolfe and Grandpa Will are the same person.

Sarah the Lubliner

A girl in the camp who can obtain medicine and first aid supplies for prisoners.

Commandant Breuer

The commanding Nazi officer in the camp. His visits to the camp always bring dread as the prisoners know he may choose some of them for death. Commandant Breuer is cold and calculating, not above sending children to their deaths. He embodies the very inhumanity that the Third Reich's "Final Solution" came to represent.


A woman in the camp whose baby Hannah saves when the Commandant comes to visit. Leye is also in charge of the kitchen crew.


Yitzchak's son, about three or four years old. Reuven's sister is Tziporrah. Both tragically die in the camp. Reuven is discovered and taken by Commandant Breuer, though Hannah risks her own life trying to intervene.


Yitzchak's daughter, about three or four years old. Tziporrah dies shortly after reaching the camp. She is discovered lifeless one morning by Gitl and Hannah.

The Badchan

A comedian or jester initially hired to entertain the attendees at Shmuel's and Fayge's wedding. He correctly predicts that the Nazi officer who escorts the villagers away is not to be trusted. He frequently speaks his mind even when doing so might place his life at risk. He perishes in the camp after being chosen for execution.