In The Chocolate War (1974), Robert Cormier encourages readers to view the events at Trinity high school as analogous to Nazi Germany. He embeds references to the hydrogen bomb,2 concentration camp dogs,3 prisoners4 ‘resigned to execution’,5 survivors,6 and World War II movies.7 The reference to movies calls attention to the highly mediated relationship between the 1960s and the Holocaust, a relationship pressed in this essay to specify why The Chocolate War foregrounds male characters who take pleasure in brutalising others. In a particularly disturbing classroom scene, the acting head teacher Brother Leon humiliates student Gregory Bailey, after which he encourages the class to view its participation in the student’s humiliation as simulating Nazi Germany.8 Hardly a benign lesson, Brother Leon’s perverse classroom ‘game’ inspires the students’ ‘horrible fascination’.9 When Leon’s pointer strikes Bailey, the resulting mark becomes an ‘evil stain’, making Bailey appear as if he ‘had committed an error… and caused his own misfortune’.10 The novel draws many similarities between Trinity and the German Männerbund, which, as Dagmar Herzog analyses, scapegoated European Jewry for all sorts of sexual and moral transgressions.
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