Summer of My German Soldier: Character Profiles
Anton (Frederick Anton Reiker)
Patty protects this German soldier of the title when he escapes from his prison camp. He is described as learned and is opposed to the Nazi regime. He used to be a medical student and his father was a university professor of history (and was reprimanded for ridiculing Hitler). Anton is extremely grateful to Patty for her friendship and his consideration for her is all the more marked when one sees the little regard paid to her by her parents.
Charlene befriends Patty when she comes to Jenkinsville to report on Anton’s escape. She writes for the Commercial Appeal and encourages Patty to consider being a journalist too.
Freddy is an impoverished child who occasionally plays with Patty. He is also an outcast in society and Patty’s father orders her not to associate with him. Her father beats her when she goes against his wishes.
Grandma and Grandpa Fried
These are Patty’s maternal grandparents and she regards their house in Memphis as her home; her supposed home is where she lives. They are described as kind and are interested in her thoughts and actions. Because of their demonstrations of love, they act as a contrast to her self-absorbed and cruel parents.
Harry is Patty’s father and he owns the local department store. He is characterized as a bully and Patty describes him thrashing her several times. He is a controversial character as he is compared unfavorably to Anton, the German soldier. As a Jewish man, this is, of course, an inflammatory distinction.
Patty (Patricia Ann Bergen)
Patty is the first-person narrator and the novel depends on her 12-year-old point of view. She has few friends of her own age (apart from Freddy) and her isolation is sharpened because she and her sister are the only Jewish girls in the area. Additionally, her parents show little interest in her life and her father beats her at the slightest provocation. She considers Ruth and Anton to be her only close friends.
Pearl is Patty’s mother. She shows little affection for her daughter and does not protect her from Harry’s violence. She is depicted as shallow and selfish and only seems to be interested in Patty’s appearance.
Pierce works for the FBI and questions Patty over her involvement in Anton’s escape.
Ruth is the African-American servant at Patty’s home and Patty regards her as a friend and surrogate mother. She is one of the few characters to show Patty any kindness and is the only one person to visit her at reformatory school.
Sharon is Patty’s five-year-old sister and receives preferential treatment from their parents. Their father thinks she resembles Shirley Temple and it is evident that Patty is jealous of her occasionally. It is also made clear, however, that Patty loves her.