Annemarie is the protagonist, or main character in the novel, and can be seen as the heroine. She is a tall, blonde, ten-year-old Christian girl living in Copenhagen, Denmark during World War II. Annemarie is a dynamic character. She changes during the course of the novel due to her experiences and actions. We are aware of Annemarie's changes because Lowry narrates Number the Stars in the third person limited omniscient viewpoint in order to reveal Annemarie's thoughts and feelings.
When the novel begins, Annemarie is a relatively innocent child. She runs races with her best friend, Ellen Rosen, and plays paper dolls. She is annoyed because there are Nazi soldiers at every corner. She is aware of the changes that her family has had to adapt to, such as food and fuel shortages. Annemarie understands that she mustn't draw attention to herself, that she needs "to be one of the crowd." Everything has changed for Annemarie. The only constants in her life are fairy tales.
Annemarie begins to lose her innocence when she realizes that Ellen's life is in danger. She proves her friendship with Ellen many times by protecting her from the Nazis. At her house, she pulls Ellen's Star of David necklace off her neck to keep the Nazis from knowing that Ellen is Jewish. She later realizes that she must lie to protect Ellen and other Jews, so she pretends that she is mourning a great-aunt that doesn't exist. Finally, Annemarie faces the Nazis alone in the woods, and, relying on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale for courage, she bravely stands up to the Nazis.
Annemarie learns the meaning of bravery. She understands from her experience that ordinary people are called upon to be courageous. She also realizes that it is much easier to be courageous if you don't know the extent of the danger. Annemarie knows that bravery is the result of standing up for what you believe in, regardless of the dangers.
At the end of the novel, the war is over and Annemarie is hopeful that Ellen and her parents will return. As a symbol of her friendship with Ellen, she puts on Ellen's Star of David Necklace to wear until she can personally return it to Ellen.
Ellen Rosen is a short, stocky, dark-haired, ten-year-old Jewish girl. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark with her parents in the apartment above Annemarie's apartment. Ellen is Annemarie's best friend. Although we do not know Ellen's thoughts and feelings, we do know from Annemarie's observations that Ellen did change during the course of the novel.
Ellen is terrified when she is separated from her parents. She stays with the Johansens and when the Nazis come to the door demanding to know who she is, she courageously pretends to be Lise, Annemarie's older sister who is dead. Ellen goes with Annemarie, Kirsti, and Mrs. Johansen to Uncle Henrik's where she is soon reunited with her parents. At her parents side, "it was as if Ellen had moved . . . into a different world, the world of her own family and whatever lay ahead for them."
Ellen and her parents make it safely to neutral Sweden. After the war, Lowry does not reveal whether they return to Copenhagen, however the tone is hopeful that they will return.
Mr. and Mrs. Johansen and Henrik
Mr. and Mrs. Johansen are Annemarie's parents, and Henrik is her uncle. Mr. and Mrs. Johansen and Henrik are loving and wise people who have a positive influence on Annemarie. Mr. and Mrs. Johansen exhibit their bravery by protecting Ellen from the Nazis when the Nazis search their apartment, again on the train when the Nazis question their destination, and later at Uncle Henrik's house when the Jews are "paying their final respects" to Great-aunt Birte.
Uncle Henrik is also courageous. He is a fisherman. He risks his life, hiding Jews in the hollowed out area in the bottom of his boat, by taking them to neutral Sweden. All three people know what it means to be brave and to stand up for what you believe is right.
Peter Neilsen was a redheaded young Danish man who had been engaged to Annemarie's sister, Lise. Peter had been like an older fun-loving brother to Annemarie and her sister, but after Lise's death, he changed. He rarely stopped by their apartment to visit, and when he did, he was rushed and serious. Sometimes he brought Annemarie's parents the De Frie Danske, an illegal newspaper backed by the Danish Resistance. The Danish Resistance was a group of courageous young people who secretly organized operations to bring harm to the Nazis and lead the Jewish people to safety.
Peter was instrumental in organizing the plan to help the Rosen family and the other Jews escape Nazi-occupied Denmark. While Ellen spent the night at the Johansens, Mr. and Mrs. Rosen were in hiding with Peter.
At the end of the novel, we learn that Peter was captured by the Germans and executed in the public square in Copenhagen. Peter died for what he believed — "he was proud to have done what he could for his country and for the sake of all free people."