Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

by

Ruta Sepetys

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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 does not like Emilia or accept her into her family because of her Polish identity. Even after Emilia has lived with the Kleists for several years, Erna still has not allowed her to fully integrate. Erna eventually allows Emilia to the be raped by the invading Soviet Army, saving her own daughter, Else, whose life and safety she values more.

Erna Kleist Quotes in Salt to the Sea

The Salt to the Sea quotes below are all either spoken by Erna Kleist or refer to Erna Kleist. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Salt to the Sea published in 2016.
62. Emilia Quotes

Father constantly worried about me. He cried when he told me that he was sending me away to the Kleists’ farm in East Prussia for safety. I wanted to cry too. I wanted to scream and refuse. But it hurt so much to see him sad, losing all that he loved. So I assured him that he was right, it was for the best, and that I was not upset. I told him that we would see each other in a couple of year, when the war of winter turned to spring.

I became good at pretending. I became so good that after a while the lines blurred between my truth and fiction. And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself.

Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
103. Emilia Quotes

Everything hurt. My strength dissolved into exhaustion.

Wasn’t a person supposed to feel better after telling the truth? Perhaps there was no peace because Joana hadn’t understood or hadn’t heard me. Was it enough to admit the lie to yourself and the heavens, or did you have to tell someone who listened?
For months I had done so well. Most days I actually believed my own story. Yes, August Kleist existed. He visited the farm for a while during my stay. He carried wood for me, climbed the ladder so I didn’t have to, shared his plums, and defended me in front of his mother. He did it all because he was a kind person. But I didn’t exist for him the way he existed for me. He left before it happened.

Related Characters: Emilia Stozek (speaker), Joana Vilkas, Eva, August Kleist, Erna Kleist
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Salt to the Sea LitChart as a printable PDF.
Salt to the Sea PDF

Erna Kleist Character Timeline in Salt to the Sea

The timeline below shows where the character Erna Kleist appears in Salt to the Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
77. Emilia
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
...your own.” In the end, Emilia remembers, Else, August, and Martin all welcomed her, but Mrs. Kleist did not.  (full context)
93. Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
...being inside the ship. She is caught up in a memory for a moment, remembering Mrs. Kleist who, like Hitler, believed in a master race, and who, like Hitler, believed the Polish... (full context)
103. Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
...day Russian soldiers arrived at the Kleist family farm. They tried to take Else, but Mrs. Kleist told them “we have one who is much prettier,” and traded Emilia for her own... (full context)
119. Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
Emilia is taken back to living on the farm with the Kleists. She remembers Mrs. Kleist complaining about how much it cost to take care of Emilia over the past four... (full context)
125. Emilia
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
...time with the Kleist family. She worked hard but nothing she did was enough for Frau Kleist .  Still, Else and August were kind to her. She doesn’t blame Else for her... (full context)