55 pages 1 hour read

Chaim Potok

The Chosen

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1967

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Historical Context: World War II, the Holocaust, and Israel

The Chosen begins in the mid-1940s, situating it near the conclusion of World War II. As Malter tells Reuven, “It is the beginning of the end for Hitler and his madmen” (91). “Hitler” is Adolf Hitler, and “his madmen” are Nazis (members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Hitler was the totalitarian leader of the Nazis and, eventually, Germany. After annexing countries like Austria and Czechoslovakia without force, he invaded Poland in 1939, launching World War II. Hitler took advantage of a world still recovering from the deadly World War I, and Nazi Germany quickly occupied other European countries, including France. Hitler wanted to conquer much of the world and create an empire that would last a thousand years. Hitler failed, and Reuven follows the Allies as they push back Hitler’s overextended, mismanaged army.

In addition to starting another world war, the Nazis launched several genocides, systematically killing political opponents, Roma, people with physical and mental conditions, and Jews. The Nazis labeled these groups subhuman, and Hitler didn’t want them contaminating the superior race of humans (Aryans) he hoped to build. Mass executions, inhumane ghettos, and horrid concentration camps with gas chambers enabled the genocides. In the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz, Reb Saunders’s nonobservant brother dies in a gas chamber.