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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Caricatures


Anti-Semitism: Table of Contents | In the Arab Press | In the Syrian Media


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The earliest caricatures of Jews extant are believed to be certain terracotta figurines dating from the last period of the Roman Empire, which have been unearthed in the Rhineland, showing persons with exaggerated Semitic features believed to be intended as representations of Jews. This is, however, open to doubt.

The history of medieval caricature begins with an elaborate caricature drawn by a court scribe in the margin of an English administrative document of 1233. This shows the great Jewish magnate Isaac son of *Jurnet of Norwich with his wife and some of his household, apparently being dragged off to Hell by a number of appropriately labeled demons. A few other caricature portraits of medieval Jews are extant. At the close of the Middle Ages, coarse caricatures of Jews sucking at the udders or anus of a sow became relatively common in Germany both in line and in sculpture. In fact, German wood-cut representations of Jews at this period were so coarse and unsympathetic in conception that most of them border on caricature. In the 17th century, Alessandro Magnasco, the great Genoese painter, and some of his contemporaries painted fantastic representations of the interior of imaginary synagogues with equally fantastic praying figures intended to represent Jews, but only in the remotest fashion.

Caricature in the modern sense began in the 17th–18th centuries. What is believed to be the oldest English caricature portrait (c. 1720) is of an otherwise unknown Nunes, a Jew. At the time of the Jewish Naturalization Bill controversy in England in 1753, a series of anti-Jewish caricatures were published, some quite amusing, such as one showing the state of Judaized England once the bill came into law. The second half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th were the golden age of English caricature and Jews are depicted in a very large number in the famous colored caricatures of Rowlandson, Gilray, Woodward, etc. which were popular at the time. These are for the most part coarse and satirize the alleged Jewish parsimony, uxoriousness, and the occupations – above all moneylending and peddling. The ferociousness and coarseness of these were, however, part of the tradition of English caricature of the period, and no section of society, from the royal family downward, was treated better. It is perhaps significant that the same period saw the inclusion of good-natured portrait-caricatures of many Jews in the famous series of Dighton caricatures – Sir Moses Montefiore, Abraham Goldsmid, and others–forerunners of the mid- and late-century Pellegrini and Spy caricatures in which many Jews were to figure. There was a great difference between these productions and the ugly, pornographic anti-Jewish caricatures which disgraced Germany about the same time. Simultaneously, porcelain figures were produced in various parts of Europe showing Jewish peddlers, bill-brokers, etc., some of which verged on caricature while others were highly romanticized. The conversion of Lord George *Gordon to Judaism occasioned a spate of caricatures, not wholly spiteful, as did also Richard *Brothers ' messianic pretensions and promise to lead "the Jews" back to the Holy Land.

The 19th century saw the caricature transferred from an independent publication, often in color, to a feature in popular journalism. The Jews as a group, and Jews as individuals sometimes satirized as Jews, were in many lands a natural preoccupation of the cartoonists. The English Punch, for example, gave space to many cartoons on Jewish emancipation during the long-drawn struggle in the mid-19th century – at first mainly antagonistic but later favorable. On the continent, satirical periodicals which gave space to antisemitic caricatures included the Fliegende Blaetter of Munich, Puck of Leipzig, Kladderdatsch and Kikeriki of Vienna, and Pluvium of St. Petersburg; and in France, the Libre Parole and the obscene Psst! Punch caricatures illustrating the career of Benjamin *Disraeli , at first violently critical but later patriotically admiring, were so numerous as to constitute a substantial volume in collected form. The *Dreyfus case similarly prompted a very large spate of caricatures in all countries, as did the Czarist persecution of the Jews in Russia.

The earliest caricature satirizing internal Jewish communal affairs is presumably "The Jerusalem Infirmary," published in London in 1749 to accompany a satirical play of the same title, dealing with the deplorable administration of the Sephardi hospital in London. Zechariah Padova in Italy published in 1777 a caricature attacking the communal leaders of Modena, where he had formerly been rabbi. This is probably the earliest caricature with the legend entirely in Hebrew. A London caricature in full English tradition criticizes the indifference of Nathan Mayer *Rothschild to the needs of his indigent coreligionists. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Jewish periodicals began to become important, some of them, such as the Jewish Chronicle, occasionally published caricatures. The New York Puck (from 1894) concentrated on caricatures and satirical drawings.

[Cecil Roth]

After World War I

During World War I, antisemitic cartoons had appeared rarely, since every country at war strove at this time to unite the entire nation for the common war effort. Once the war was over, antisemitic cartoons resumed their appearance. The subjects treated were the same as before, but the attacks upon the Jews became even sharper. After the war, beginning in 1919, illustrated antisemitic posters made their appearance in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Poland. During the election campaigns in these countries, antisemitic posters covered the walls in every town and village. Thus, in 1920, the Christian-Socialist party in Austria used a poster inscribed "Save Austria" which showed a snake with a Jewish face strangling the Austrian eagle. Other posters appearing at this time were inscribed with the swastika and the word "Germany." Antisemitism also played a significant role in the White Russian fight against the Bolshevik revolution and cartoons were used to show the Jews joining the Bolsheviks in the plunder and murder of the people. In Hungary, poisonous anti-Jewish cartoons that appeared in this period were mainly the work of an artist called Manno Miltiades.

At the beginning of the 1930s, antisemitic cartoons appeared in most countries that had taken part in and lost the war. Two journals, Der Goetz and Der Abend, in particular, were notorious for their antisemitic cartoons.

Nazi Cartoons

In his early youth Hitler came under the influence of anti-Jewish hate propaganda and the antisemitic cartoons in the Austrian press inspired by Karl *Lueger and his Christian-Socialist Party. He soon came to recognize the value of antisemitic cartoons for propaganda directed at the masses, and after consultations with Alfred *Rosenberg and Eckart the journalist, put Julius *Streicher in charge of the Nazi Party's antisemitic campaign.

Streicher put out Der Stuermer, an illustrated magazine, which became one of Goebbels' principal propaganda organs. Der Stuermer inaugurated a new phase in the history of anti-Jewish cartoons. Antisemitic cartoons and the captions attached to them were used to indoctrinate all sectors of the German people, and it became the duty of every German to make himself familiar with this material. Every issue of Der Stuermer was full of crude and obscene cartoons. The magazine usually dealt with subjects taken from pre-Nazi antisemitic literature and adapted by the Nazis to their ideology and purposes. In 1934 a special issue was devoted to "Ritual Murder" (Ritualmordnummer), showing infamous cartoons from the Middle Ages in which the Jews were depicted as using human blood in the observance of religious rites. Streicher did not confine himself to the magazine. He also published illustrated books for use in kindergartens and elementary schools. Every page showed a color cartoon depicting the Jew as a frightening creature, a kidnapper etc., and contained lessons for the children on "how to recognize a Jew from afar." Streicher also awarded prizes to children who excelled in drawing caricatures of Jews. As Der Stuermer was compulsory reading, its subject-matter was used as essay material in grades five to eleven, while the cartoons were used in the drawing and art classes. The outstanding compositions and drawings had to be forwarded to the magazine, for publication, and the teachers would point with pride at the achievements of their pupils.

The Nazis also used antisemitic cartoons on posters, publishing them in the hundreds. In the period 1937–1940 they organized a mobile exhibition under the title "Der Ewige Jude" ("The Eternal Jew") which circulated throughout the country. They also put out a documentary film, made up of cartoons, which dealt with the Talmud, the doctrine of race and blood, and many other antisemitic subjects. When World War II broke out, the Nazi propaganda apparatus accompanied the invading forces. In Eastern European countries the cartoons were received with glee by the local antisemites, and some of the local artists in these countries even excelled the Nazis in their zeal. Antisemitic cartoons were also published in other countries belonging to the Axis, especially in Italy.

In the free countries anti-Nazi cartoons were published in the 1930s and during the war, depicting the Jews as victims of the Nazi beast. In Ereẓ Israel, political cartoons also made their appearance, aimed at the Nazis and their allies. In the postwar period, the cartoons took issue with British policy toward the country.

After the Establishment of Israel

In the immediate postwar years, when the memory of the Jewish sufferings was still fresh in the minds of the public, antisemitic cartoons disappeared for a while. They reappeared after Israel gained its independence and achieved victory over the Arabs. Antisemitic propaganda, however, was sometimes disguised as propaganda directed against the Jewish state. This was mainly the work of neo-Nazis who had found refuge in Germany, the Arab states, Spain, and Latin-American countries. They formed their own clubs and published their own papers, as for example the German National- und Soldatenzeitung. The center of these antisemitic activities was now in Cairo and Damascus, where a variety of antisemitic books were put out in Arabic by government publishing houses.

An impressive number of antisemitic cartoons appeared in the Soviet bloc press from the 1950s: during the anti-*cosmopolitan campaign and the *Doctors ' Plot; and during the 1960s, culminating in the famous book by T. Kichko, Judaism Without Embellishment (1963). Especially after the Six-Day War these showed the Israeli (in a Jewish stereotype) as a murderer, financial tycoon, and a snake, but also as a Nazi-like aggressor. Cartoons depicting the Jew as an aggressor supported by American money also appeared in other countries, supporting Arab policy.

In the Arab states, the hatred of Jews is based on the hatred of Israel. This also expressed itself in cartoons. For example, cartoons published in Egypt show the Israel army lying in the dust under the heel of the Egyptian soldier, or a black-bearded Jew dressed in a caftan, whose head is held in an Egyptian vise. After the Six-Day War, more and more cartoons of this kind were published, becoming increasingly crude and obscene. A survey of these cartoons revealed that the Arabs depicted the Jew as he was drawn by the Nazis in their time.

[B. Mordechai Ansbacher]


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

M. Decter (ed.), Israel and the Jews in the Soviet Mirror (1967); E. Fuchs, Die Juden in der Karikatur (1921); G. Kittel, in: Forschungen zur Judenfrage, 4 (1940), 250–9; A. Rubens, Anglo-Jewish Portraits (1935); idem, A Jewish Iconography (1954); C. Roth, Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History (1962),


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

 

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