Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

by

Ruta Sepetys

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Salt to the Sea Characters

Joana Vilkas

One of the four principal characters and narrators. From the first chapter, Sepetys notes that Joana is primarily motivated by guilt. Joana is a young Lithuanian woman, who repatriated to Germany from Lithuania in 1941… read analysis of Joana Vilkas

Florian Beck

One of the four principal characters and narrators. From the first chapter, Sepetys notes that Florian is driven forward by a sense of his own predetermined fate. Florian is a Prussian artist, who for many… read analysis of Florian Beck

Emilia Stozek

One of the four principal characters and narrators. From the first chapter Sepetys notes that Emilia’s driving emotion is shame. Emilia is Polish, but has spent the past several years in the German village of… read analysis of Emilia Stozek

Alfred Frick

One of the four principal characters and narrators. From the first chapter Sepetys notes that Alfred’s driving emotion is fear: fear of being inferior, fear of rejection. Alfred begins the book as a pompous, if… read analysis of Alfred Frick

Hannelore Jäger

A German girl who lived next door to Alfred Frick. She never appears during the novel; instead, Alfred composes numerous letters to her, and often revisits his memories of her. In the final chapters… read analysis of Hannelore Jäger
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Eva

A German refugee in her fifties who travels with Joana, the Poet, Ingrid, Klaus, and others. She is exceptionally tall, and exceptionally rude, often making offensive statements and attempting to mitigate… read analysis of Eva

Ingrid

A blind German refugee traveling with Joana, Eva, the Poet, and others. Although she cannot see, Ingrid has preternatural extrasensory abilities, and is able to tell when it will snow, or when… read analysis of Ingrid

Heinz, “The Shoe Poet”

The Poet is an older German man who is fleeing East Prussia along with Joana, Ingrid, Eva, and Klaus. A former shoemaker, he pays close attention to everyone’s footwear, and believes… read analysis of Heinz, “The Shoe Poet”

Gauleiter Erich Koch

A high-ranking Nazi official tasked with overlooking East Prussia. A real person, in the book he collaborates with Florian and Dr. Lange to repair and consolidate European art and artifacts stolen by the Nazis… read analysis of Gauleiter Erich Koch

Anni Beck

Florian’s little sister. She escaped East Prussia and is living with their Aunt in Denmark. Emilia reminds Florian of Anni, which initially motivates him to help the Polish girl instead of abandoning her as… read analysis of Anni Beck

Dr. Lange

A German art restorer with whom Florian apprentices. Although Florian’s father is skeptical of Lange, Florian is initially enthralled by his mentor, unquestioningly assisting him with the restoration of hundreds of stolen European paintings and… read analysis of Dr. Lange

Mrs. Frick, or “Mutter”

Alfred’s mother. She never appears in the novel, and is instead present only in her letter to Alfred and in his memories of her. Unlike Alfred’s father, she was more sympathetic and caring… read analysis of Mrs. Frick, or “Mutter”

Erna Kleist

The matriarch of the Kleist family, the family that takes in Emilia after the invasion of Poland. Erna Kleist is ethnically German, and has internalized the doctrine of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. She… read analysis of Erna Kleist

Else Kleist

The German daughter of Michael and Erna Kleist, the sister of August. She and Emilia always got along during the years Emilia lived on her family’s farm. Although Else doesn’t think less of Emilia… read analysis of Else Kleist

Mr. Stozek

Emilia’s father. A Polish academic and mathematician opposed to the Nazi’s treatment of Polish people, especially Polish children, whom they intended to deprive of an education. During the invasion of Poland by Soviet forces… read analysis of Mr. Stozek

Mr. Beck

Florian’s father. He was killed by Nazis after helping create maps for a failed assassination attempt on Hitler. A thoughtful and principled man, who always encouraged Florian to think and create for himself… read analysis of Mr. Beck
Minor Characters
Klaus “The Wandering Boy”
A young refugee who joins with Joana, the Poet, Ingrid and Eva as they flee the advancing Soviet forces. Orphaned before the book begins, Klaus forms a close relationship with the Poet, whom he begins to call Opi, or grandfather.
Lina Vilkas
Joana’s cousin, who, along with her family, was sent to a Siberian labor camp. Lina was an artist, and Joana carries one of her drawings in her suitcase. Joana blames herself for Lina’s imprisonment. Lina never appears in the novel, but Joana thinks of her frequently.
August Kleist
A member of the Kleist family. His sister is Else, his mother is Erna, and his father is Michael. August appears only in Emilia’s memories, and her fantasies of the future. Although August always treated Emilia with kindness he is not, as she claims, the father of her child.
Josef Stalin
The leader of the Soviet Union.
Zarah Leander
A Swedish singer, exceptionally popular in Nazi Germany.
Dr. Richter
A German doctor tasked with looking over the injured and pregnant on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Joana works under him during her brief time on the vessel.
Michael Kleist
The patriarch of the Kleist family, the family that takes in Emilia after the invasion of Poland.
Halina Stozek
Emilia’s mother, who died giving birth to Emilia’s little brother.
Halinka
Emilia’s daughter, born aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff. Named after her mother, whose name was Halina, but whose nickname was Halinka. Halinka is the product of Emilia’s brutal rape by Soviet soldiers during the war.
The Blonde Nazi
A soldier and inspector who checks the paperwork of Florian, Klaus, and the Poet when they are boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff. He is suspicious of Florian especially, and makes trouble for him aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Rachel
Emilia’s childhood friend. She was Polish and Jewish, and was killed by the Nazis.
Helen
Emilia’s childhood friend. She was Polish and Jewish, and was killed by the Nazis.
Clara Christensen
A Danish woman who discovers Emilia’s body on the shore weeks after the Wilhelm Gustloff disaster. She writes to Florian when she hears about Halinka in the news and puts together the pieces of Emilia’s identity.
Dr. Wendt
A doctor on the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Adolf Hitler
The Leader of the Nazi party and the author of Mein Kampf. A real historical figure, Hitler does not appear in the novel, but his specter, and his ideas about the Aryan master race, loom large.