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Jewish group raises concerns about 'Secret Hitler' board game sold in Montreal

MONTREAL — A Jewish advocacy organization is raising concerns over a board game dubbed "Secret Hitler," after it was spotted over the weekend on store shelves in the Montreal area.

The Quebec regional director for B'nai Brith Canada says what caused a stir among community members is that the game — which is about fighting the rise of fascism — evokes the name of the infamous Nazi leader.

"The main issue was the fact that Hitler was being used in the board game name," Harvey Levine said Tuesday, noting people "reacted to the fact that it was a board game about Hitler — which the Jewish community tends to be very sensitive about, especially with growing anti-Semitism across Canada, the United States and around the world."

The game was first published in 2016 and is described as a "dramatic game of political intrigue and betrayal set in 1930s Germany."

Players are secretly divided into two teams — liberals and fascists. The fascists move to sow distrust and install their leader while the liberals must stop them before it is too late.

Levine said he raised the issue with one west-end Montreal location where the game had been spotted, highlighting the sensitivity issue around the game's name and subject matter.

"I did not insist the game be taken off the shelves," Levine said.

The manager of the toy store "Tour De Jeux" in Montreal's Eaton Centre mall downtown said his store removed the game from shelves after receiving "pressure" to do so.

"Someone put a photo on our Facebook page, saying we were selling it, and that it was unacceptable. We weren't looking for trouble so we removed it," Rach Ok said Tuesday.

First published online in 2016 by Chicago-based publisher Goat, Wolf, & Cabbage, the game has been widely available for a few years and is still sold at other stores and online.

One of the creators, Max Temkin, said in a December 2016 interview with the weekly Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, that the game wasn't for everyone and not appropriate for children.

He explained the developers struggled for months with the name, which ultimately stuck during the testing phase.

Temkin, who is Jewish and has family members who survived the Holocaust, told the paper he's terrified by what he sees as a growing tide of fascism in contemporary society.

Levine said his primary concern is the game is targeted at children 13 and up — many of whom don't have the context or awareness about the Holocaust and the Second World War.

"This was a horrible monster that caused a World War and that exterminated six million Jews in concentration camps," Levine said. "I don't believe most people are going to (explain) that, so there's an education factor as well."

Levine said education — including talking to children about anti-Semitism, diversity and fighting against racism — is key.

"And I really don't feel in my heart-of-hearts that this is the best type of game to educate children to fight fascism," he said.

Levine said his organization can't ask for stores to remove the item from their shelves — it can only underline the impact it has on the Jewish community, promote education and explain the rise of neo-Nazism.

"Anyone can sell whatever they want," Levine said. "All we can really do in a situation like that is to indicate to the owners this is a sensitivity issue."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press




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