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Culture & History

This article was written by Gilberte Jacaret for the Culture Juive 193


Roman Vishniac was a Russian-American photographer, best known for capturing on film
the culture of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe before the Holocaust.


First of all, Happy birthday to our Sister and Brother Leslie Paldon et Lazard Perez !

Reminder ! And do not hesistate to bring your friends and family !

logo european jewish library

7th edition of « Salon des Écrivains »

Sunday, November 16th 2014
from 14 to 18
at the European Jewish Library
109 rue Froissard
1040 Bruxelles

For the benefit of underpriviledged children



Winston S. Churchill: "Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.


John F. Kennedy: Israel was not created in order to disappear- Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.


David Ben Gurion: "In Israel , in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles."


Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: "Energy is the basis of everything. Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal... It is the most perpetual people of the earth..."


John Adams: "I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations... They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews."


Leo Tolstoy: "What is the Jew?...What kind of unique creature is this whom all the rulers of all the nations of the world have disgraced and crushed and expelled and destroyed; persecuted, burned and drowned, and who, despite their anger and their fury, continues to live and to flourish. What is this Jew whom they have never succeeded in enticing with all the enticements in the world, whose oppressors and persecutors only suggested that he deny (and disown) his religion and cast aside the faithfulness of his ancestors?! The Jew - is the symbol of eternity. ... He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity."


Eric Hoffer: "The Jews are a peculiar people: Things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people, and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it. Poland and Czechoslovakia did it.Turkey threw out a million Greeks and Algeria a million Frenchmen. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese--and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel , the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis. Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world."


Mark Twain: "...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world's list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"



Hanukkah is probably one of the best known Jewish holidays because of its proximity to Christmas. It remembers the rededication of the Temple after it was defiled by the Greeks. It lasts eight days and every day we light a candle.
The story begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Under his benevolent rule many Jews assimilated much of the Hellenistic culture. More than a century later, a successor of Alexander, Antiochus IV was in control of the region. He started oppressing the Jews and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar. Two groups opposed Antiochus: a nationalistic group led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee and a religious traditionalist group known as the Chassidim, the forerunners of the Pharisees. They joined forces in a revolt against both the assimilation of the Hellenistic Jews and oppression of the Seleucid Greek government. The revolution succeeded and the Temple was rededicated.
The historical meaning of Hanukkah According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.
Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of faith and courage over military might. It is the classic underdog story.

In the second century B.C.E., the Jews were prohibited from studying sacred texts or celebrating Jewish holidays. The penalty for violation of these rules was death.
In addition, the holy Temple had been defiled with pagan rituals, and they had been ordered to worship other gods. A small group of faithful Jews, known now as the Maccabeus, rose up and defeated the invaders, reclaimed the Temple, cleansed it, removed the idols, and rededicated the space G-d.

Within the temple, there was a huge menorah (seven branched candelabra that burned oil) that had to be lit. This light was supposed to remain always lit within the Temple. But the sacred olive oil needed to burn in the Menorah took eight days to prepare. And there was only a one-day supply of oil on hand.

They decided to light the flame anyway. And, a great miracle occurred. The oil burned continuously for eight days, long enough for new oil to be purified.

Since that time, Hanukkah has been celebrated for eight days to recall the miracle when the menorah burned for eight days with only one day's supply of oil in the Temple.

ANCIENNE HANUKKYA                                                                                                                                                                          An old hanukkya

Every year, it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah, by spinning the dreidel and by eating fried food such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday.

"Alien and Unpleasant".
Anti-Semitic drawings from the Polish press of 1919–1939


The Emanuel Ringelblum
Jewish Historical Institute

The exhibition will present anti-Semitic caricatures accompanying articles. They were one of the methods of stimulating aversion to Jews, affecting the feeling and views on the so-called „Jewish question".


Already on 15th October at the opening of the exhibition „Alien and Unpleasant. Anti-Semitic drawings from the Polish press of 1919–1939" over 300 works published in the Polish press in the years 1919–1939 will be presented. Caricatures — accompanying the anti-Semitic articles — were an important factor in shaping the image of the Jew, and thus influenced the feeling and views on „the Jewish question". The exhibition will be accompanied by a screening of a film about hate speech, which features Prof Jerzy Bralczyk, Prof Michal Glowinski, Prof Irena Kaminska-Szmaj, Piotr Forecki and Bozena Keff. The organizer of the exhibition is the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

Anti-Semitic caricatures surprise in terms of their variety, but they have a common denominator: they all incite to hatred. In a simple and understandable way they show Jews as intruders and enemies. They emphasize, among others, stereotypical Jewish racial traits, both physical and mental.


„The image of the Jew, that emerges from the drawings from the Polish press of 1919–1939 is scary and beyond belief," says Teresa Śmiechowska, Head of the Art Department of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.
Anti-Semitic works showed a symbolic image of the Jew striving for domination over Poland and the Polish. He was supposed to be the perpetrator of all the evil in the country. At the same time they suggested ways to solve „the Jewish question", for example by popularizing the idea of economic struggle, ghetto benches, Aryan paragraph, displacement. There were also works which expressed approval for the anti-Jewish actions in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

„The image of the Jew presented in press illustrations is seen as a creature repulsing by his physicality and mentality, so different, alien and frightening as only a demon, monster, or animal arousing abomination can be. In the presented drawings the Jew is dehumanized, depersonalized, reduced to anonymous, typical representative of „the Jewish race"" says Dariusz Konstantynow, the curator of the exhibition.

Famous and anonymous authors

The exhibited works were published during the interwar period in papers including: „Kurier Poznański", „Dziennik Bydgoski", „ABC-Nowiny Codzienne", „Wieczór Warszawski", „Podbipięta", „Prosto z mostu", „Szczutek", „Szopka", „Mucha", „Żółtea Mucha", „Szarża", „Pokrzywy", „Szabes-Kurier". The authors of the drawings were both well-known professional artists (including Jerzy Zaruba, Kamil Mackiewicz, Włodzimierz Bartoszewicz, Włodzimierz Łukasik, Jerzy Srokowski, Kazimierz Grus i Maja Berezowska) and anonymous ones, hiding behind monograms and pseudonyms.

The satirical image of the Jew in the European press.

Anti-Semitic drawings in the Polish press have their wider European context. An important turning point for Central Europe was the rise of political anti-Semitism in the States of Germany. Anti-Semitic agitation was accompanied by malicious illustration. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, satirical magazine Kikeriki (actually Kikeriki! Wiener humoristisches Volksblatt) was published since 1861. Anti-Jewish prejudices and modern anti-Semitic stereotypes cultivated for centuries found their illustrative comment in French satirical magazines, including Le Mirliton, La Caricature or Le Canard Sauvage. Drawings by Parisian artists were published in the press of francophone countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, and also in the Latin countries, especially in Italy, Romania and Spain. However, in Eastern Europe scathing images of Jews spread with the expansion of the mass press, which took place after the Revolution of 1905. After the First World War the most aggressive satirical anti-Semitic writings started to emerge in Germany, such as „Der Stürmer" of Julius Streicher (published since 1923). Polish anti-Semitic caricature joined the global market of ethnic hatred in the late 1900s.

Hate speech

The language of superiority, contempt, and hatred, which is reflected in the objects at the exhibition „Alien and Unpleasant", takes the floor again today, albeit in a different form. Manifestations of hostile emotions are visible in extreme antagonistic ideologies that seem to be gaining momentum. Therefore it is important to remember that what seemed to be only a joke and a symbolic violence in caricature drawings, reinforced prejudice and racial stereotypes which took a toll.
(research by Gilberte Jacaret^)

Background & Overview
(November 9-10, 1938)
From the Jewish Virtual Library :

Almost immediately upon assuming the Chancellorship of Germany, Hitler began promulgating legal actions against Germany's Jews. In 1933, he proclaimed a one-day boycott against Jewish shops, a law was passed against kosher butchering and Jewish children began experiencing restrictions in public schools. By 1935, the Nuremberg Laws deprived Jews of German citizenship. By 1936, Jews were prohibited from participation in parliamentary elections and signs reading "Jews Not Welcome" appeared in many German cities. (Incidentally, these signs were taken down in the late summer in preparation for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin).
In the first half of 1938, numerous laws were passed restricting Jewish economic activity and occupational opportunities. In July, 1938, a law was passed (effective January 1, 1939) requiring all Jews to carry identification cards. On October 28, 17,000 Jews of Polish citizenship, many of whom had been living in Germany for decades, were arrested and relocated across the Polish border. The Polish government refused to admit them so they were interned in "relocation camps" on the Polish frontier.

Germans pass broken window of Jewish-owned shop

                                                       (USHMM Photo)

Among the deportees was Zindel Grynszpan, who had been born in western Poland and had moved to Hanover, where he established a small store, in 1911. On the night of October 27, Zindel Grynszpan and his family were forced out of their home by German police. His store and the family's possessions were confiscated and they were forced to move over the Polish border.

Zindel Grynszpan's seventeen-year-old son, Herschel, was living with an uncle in Paris. When he received news of his family's expulsion, he went to the German embassy in Paris on November 7, intending to assassinate the German Ambassador to France. Upon discovering that the Ambassador was not in the embassy, he settled for a lesser official, Third Secretary Ernst vom Rath. Rath, was critically wounded and died two days later, on November 9.
The assassination provided Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Chief of Propaganda, with the excuse he needed to launch a pogrom against German Jews. Grynszpan's attack was interpreted by Goebbels as a conspiratorial attack by "International Jewry" against the Reich and, symbolically, against the Fuehrer himself. This pogrom has come to be called Kristallnacht, "the Night of Broken Glass."

On the nights of November 9 and 10, rampaging mobs throughout Germany and the newly acquired territories of Austria and Sudetenland freely attacked Jews in the street, in their homes and at their places of work and worship. At least 96 Jews were killed and hundreds more injured, more than 1,000 synagogues were burned (and possibly as many as 2,000), almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, cemeteries and schools were vandalized, and 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps [added by Mitchell Bard from his book The Complete Idiot's Guide to World War II. NY: MacMillan, 1998, pp. 59-60].

The official German position on these events, which were clearly orchestrated by Goebbels, was that they were spontaneous outbursts. The Fuehrer, Goebbels reported to Party officials in Munich, "has decided that such demonstrations are not to be prepared or organized by the party, but so far as they originate spontaneously, they are not to be discouraged either."

Three days later, on November 12, Hermann Goering called a meeting of the top Nazi leadership to assess the damage done during the night and place responsibility for it. Present at the meeting were Goering, Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Walter Funk and other ranking Nazi officials. The intent of this meeting was two-fold: to make the Jews responsible for Kristallnacht and to use the events of the preceding days as a rationale for promulgating a series of antisemitic laws which would, in effect, remove Jews from the German economy. An interpretive transcript of this meeting is provided by Robert Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, New York: Harper and Row, 1983:164-172):
It was decided at the meeting that, since Jews were to blame for these events, they be held legally and financially responsible for the damages incurred by the pogrom. Accordingly, a "fine of 1 billion marks was levied for the slaying of Vom Rath, and 6 million marks paid by insurance companies for broken windows was to be given to the state coffers. (Snyder, Louis L. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Paragon House, 1989:201).

Kristallnacht turns out to be a crucial turning point in German policy regarding the Jews and may be considered as the actual beginning of what is now called the Holocaust.

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