| | | |

Projekt 1065 Summary, Characters and Themes

Projekt 1065 is a young adult historical fiction novel by Alan Gratz, set during World War II. It follows Michael O’Shaunessey, an Irish boy living in Nazi Germany with his family, who are all undercover spies. 

Michael, posing as a member of the Hitler Youth, is tasked with uncovering the secrets of “Projekt 1065,” a clandestine Nazi mission. The novel explores themes of espionage, loyalty, and survival in the face of danger, as Michael navigates the complexities of a divided world and risks everything to sabotage the Nazi war effort.


In Nazi Germany during World War II, 13-year-old Michael O’Shaunessey leads a double life. On the surface, he’s a member of the Hitler Youth, participating in their activities and feigning allegiance to the Nazi cause. In secret, he and his parents, the Irish ambassador and an intelligence operative, work as spies for the Allies.

Michael’s life takes a turn when he befriends two individuals from vastly different worlds: Fritz Brendler, a fellow Hitler Youth member, and Simon Cohen, a Jewish-British pilot shot down near Berlin. Michael and his family shelter Simon, who reveals he was photographing a secret Nazi project—Projekt 1065—aimed at developing a jet-powered plane. Coincidentally, Fritz’s father happens to be working on the project, providing Michael a unique opportunity to access the blueprints.

Driven by the desire to help the Allies, Michael and Fritz train to join the SRD, an elite Hitler Youth group. Michael faces a challenge due to his fear of heights, which is required for the initiation test. However, with Simon’s support, he overcomes his phobia and both boys are accepted into the SRD.

While Michael secretly relays information about Projekt 1065 to Simon, Fritz becomes increasingly radicalized by the Nazi ideology. Their friendship is strained as Fritz embraces violence and participates in attacks on dissidents. Michael’s concerns deepen when Fritz is selected for a secret mission, the details of which he refuses to share.

During an air raid, Michael discovers the horrifying truth about Fritz’s mission: a group of boys, including Fritz, are tasked with assassinating a Jewish scientist named Hendrik Goldsmit in Switzerland. Michael realizes that Goldsmit is crucial to the Allies’ efforts to develop the atomic bomb and resolves to stop the assassination.

Desperate to join the mission and thwart the Nazis’ plans, Michael makes the agonizing decision to betray Simon, turning him over to the Gestapo. Simon sacrifices himself to protect Michael and the valuable information he carries. Grief-stricken but determined, Michael secures a spot on the assassination team.

In Switzerland, Michael attempts to warn the authorities about the impending attack on Goldsmit. He encounters the scientist and tries to escape with him, but Fritz, armed with a bomb, pursues them. A tense confrontation ensues on a cable car, where Michael ultimately defeats Fritz and disposes of the bomb, saving Goldsmit’s life.

The novel concludes with Michael and his parents leaving Germany for the United States, where they will continue their fight for the Allied cause. Michael carries the weight of Simon’s sacrifice and the loss of his friendship with Fritz, a victim of Nazi indoctrination. Despite the pain, he remains resolute in his commitment to freedom, recognizing the sacrifices he and his family have made for a greater cause.

projekt 1065 summary


Michael O’Shaunessey

The novel’s protagonist, Michael, is a complex and courageous 13-year-old boy navigating a dangerous world of espionage and deception. Despite his youth, he exhibits remarkable maturity and resilience as he grapples with the moral complexities of his undercover work. 

Michael’s deep-seated hatred for the Nazis and his unwavering loyalty to the Allied cause drive him to take extraordinary risks, including infiltrating the Hitler Youth and befriending the son of a Nazi scientist. 

However, he also struggles with the emotional toll of his actions, particularly the loss of his friend Simon and the moral corruption of Fritz. 

Michael’s journey of self-discovery and his unwavering determination to fight for freedom make him a compelling and inspiring character.

Simon Cohen

Simon, a Jewish and British air force pilot, serves as a mentor and friend to Michael. His courage and unwavering spirit in the face of adversity deeply inspire Michael. 

Simon’s willingness to sacrifice his own safety to help Michael overcome his fear of heights and his ultimate sacrifice to protect valuable information highlight his selfless nature. 

His presence in the novel underscores the devastating consequences of the war and the importance of fighting against injustice.

Fritz Brendler

Fritz, initially a victim of bullying, undergoes a significant transformation throughout the novel. 

His friendship with Michael provides him with a sense of belonging and acceptance, but it also exposes him to the corrupting influence of the Nazi ideology. Fritz’s gradual descent into cruelty and his unwavering loyalty to the Hitler Youth ultimately lead to his tragic demise. 

His character serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of indoctrination and the vulnerability of young minds to manipulation.

Michael’s Parents

Michael’s parents, both undercover spies for the Allies, play a crucial role in shaping his values and beliefs. Their unwavering commitment to fighting the Nazis and their willingness to involve Michael in their dangerous missions demonstrate their trust in his abilities and their deep love for their son. 

While they grapple with the moral complexities of their work, their unwavering dedication to the cause of freedom serves as a guiding light for Michael throughout his journey.


The Complexity of Moral Choices

Projekt 1065 delves into the intricate nature of moral decision-making, particularly in the context of war and espionage. 

Michael, the young protagonist, grapples with the ethical implications of his actions throughout the novel. He is forced to lie, deceive, and even participate in activities he abhors, such as book burning and Hitler Youth rituals, in order to maintain his cover as a Nazi and gather intelligence for the Allies. 

The novel questions the extent to which compromising one’s values is justifiable for the greater good. 

Michael’s internal struggle highlights the difficult choices individuals face when confronted with conflicting loyalties and the need to balance personal morality with the demands of a larger cause.

The Manipulation and Corruption of Youth

The novel also explores the insidious ways in which totalitarian regimes manipulate and corrupt young minds. 

The Nazis’ indoctrination of children through the Hitler Youth is portrayed as a chillingly effective tool for fostering blind obedience and loyalty to the regime. 

Michael witnesses firsthand how the ideology of hate and violence can warp the perspectives of his peers, transforming them into bullies and potential killers. The tragic fate of Fritz, who succumbs to the Nazis’ brainwashing and becomes a willing instrument of their violence, serves as a stark warning about the dangers of unchecked propaganda and the vulnerability of youth to manipulation. 

The novel underscores the importance of critical thinking and moral autonomy in resisting the allure of extremist ideologies.

The Importance of Friendship and Loyalty

Friendship serves as a powerful force in the novel, both as a source of comfort and a catalyst for action. 

Michael’s bonds with Fritz and Simon offer him solace in the midst of the war’s chaos and danger. His friendship with Fritz, despite their differing backgrounds and loyalties, demonstrates the potential for human connection to transcend ideological barriers. 

Michael’s unwavering loyalty to Simon, even at great personal risk, exemplifies the selfless sacrifices that true friendship can inspire. The novel celebrates the importance of these connections in navigating difficult times and finding meaning in the face of adversity.

The Power of Resistance and Individual Agency

Even in the face of overwhelming oppression, the novel highlights the power of individual resistance and agency. 

Michael, despite his young age and vulnerable position, actively works to undermine the Nazi regime. He gathers intelligence, sabotages Nazi plans, and ultimately plays a crucial role in preventing a devastating attack. His actions demonstrate that even small acts of defiance can have a significant impact. 

The Edelweiss Pirates, a group of rebellious teenagers who resist Nazi conformity, further emphasize the importance of standing up against injustice, even when the odds seem insurmountable. 

The novel empowers readers with the message that individuals can make a difference, even in the darkest of times.

Final Thoughts

“Projekt 1065” is a novel that immerses readers in the harrowing reality of World War II through the eyes of a young spy. 

Gratz masterfully balances suspenseful espionage with nuanced explorations of friendship, loyalty, and the ethical dilemmas of war. The novel’s fast-paced plot and relatable characters make it a compelling read for young adults, while its deeper themes offer ample food for thought for readers of all ages.