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Play As a Holocaust Conductor

‘Train’ is not only a game

by
Marc Tracy
December 14, 2010
Train.(Courtesy of Brenda Brathwaite/The Daily Beast)
Train.(Courtesy of Brenda Brathwaite/The Daily Beast)

With the Anti-Defamation League attacking Sonderkommando Revolt—a graphically primitive first-person shooter video game set in Auschwitz, in which you kill Nazis but the opening animation depicts bloody, dying Jews—The Daily Beast’s Ben Crair has an excellent and useful article on other games that involve the Holocaust. Specifically, there is Brenda Brathwaite’s fascinating, high-concept Train.

The game is played like this: On top of a piece of shattered glass, you take turns rolling a die and then choosing either to load your boxcar with yellow pawns or to advance your boxcar; various cards you can play can change the boxcar’s speed. When you arrive at the end, you draw a Terminus card, at which point the game’s theme, until now only implicit, becomes obvious: Various cards read “Dachau,” “Chelmno,” and “Bergen-Belsen.”

“Brathwaite’s goal, she says, was to make a game about complicity,” Crair reports, “and so the rules drop the player not in the shoes of a Holocaust victim but a train conductor who helped make the Nazi system run.”

And how do you know who wins? The game’s instructions read: “Train is over when it ends.”

May I suggest a pairing with ghetto Monopoly?

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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