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116 pages 3 hours read

Alan Gratz

Projekt 1065

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2016

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Symbols & Motifs

Bullies

Near the opening of the novel, Michael characterizes Nazi Germany as “the bully who found your most painful wound and poked at it with a stick” (53). Throughout the novel, the author demonstrates how the Nazis rule through intimidation and fear, and transform those who follow them into bullies as well.

The main character of the novel has a hatred for bullying that predates his introduction to the Nazis: as an Irish boy at an English school, Michael knows the feeling of being “helpless” (39) at the hands of bullies. Michael has since taught himself how to fight back, but he still has a natural instinct to stand up to bullies, a drive that leads him to defend and connect with Fritz.

Fritz’s journey illustrates how fighting back against bullies can move beyond empowerment, turning the bullied into another bully—especially within the context of Nazi Germany. Fritz takes the Nazi ideology to “‘think with our blood’” (237) to heart, as he leads ruthless attacks against the Edelweiss Pirates and even his own teacher. Michael realizes that “like little Hitler” (237), Fritz has dealt with his weakness by abandoning all compassion and becoming a bully. In the end, Fritz ends up sacrificing his own life to the dream of Nazi domination.

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