Since the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz in 2005, Dave Sim decided to do what he thought every creative person should do: “Adress the Shoah -- preferred Judaic term for the Holocaust.” Judenhass is Sim’s incredible journey into the truly dark world that would result in the deaths of six million Jews. The book is a historical essay on the term “anti-semitism” and its inadequacy in actually describing the phenomenon it defines. It uses quotations and illustrations drawn from photographs of the Holocaust to expose the deceptively harsh reality that is “Jew Hatred” and how the Nazis weren’t only group who ever felt this way.
Sim has uncovered, through enormous research, surprisingly callous and vitriolic quotations from some of the most prestigious minds of the Western world: Protestant theologian Martin Luther, playwright and philosopher Voltaire, Prussian liberalist Johann Friedrich Benzenberg, American satirist Mark Twain, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The excerpts range from racial slights to calls for the all out eradication of the Jews. And these aren’t even the ones from Hitler, Himmler, and Hess!
While the quotations serve as jarring revelations into what famous figures had anti-semitic feelings, and just how pervasive the sentiment is, Sim does not take their words out of context.
In the appendix, Sim explains this quotation from Martin Luther: “…that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country.” The selection refers to Luther’s “advocating that the Jews be made to live off the soil, unwittingly proposing a return to condition of the early Middle Ages when the Jews had been in agriculture. Forced off the land, they had gone into commerce and, having been expelled from commerce, into money lending.” He explains further that many Lutheran churches, such as the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, have outright rejected Luther’s anti-semitic teachings. But the Land Synod of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria released a declaration in 1995 stating to take, “seriously also his [Luther’s] anti-Jewish utterance, to acknowledge their theological function, and to reflect on their consequences.” Sim has thoroughly researched this material and was smart enough to include how those who are directly affiliated with these figures, such as Lutherans, respond these “utterances”.
As for the art, other comics review websites have commented that Judenhass may not qualify as a comic book because purportedly there is no linear narrative. On the contrary, Sim utilizes the illustrations to pace the succession of prose and quotations, thus forming a narrative structure. For instance, the reproduction of a photograph from The Holocaust Chronicle is segmented and repeated, slowly revealing the subject of the picture. The effect is builds tension to the eventual reveal of the horrific picture in full, while creating a narrative of the picture itself.
On page 15, a man appears in three panels as the focus slowly scrolls downward to his hand. The next panel shows the man’s hand and another’s holding a metal apparatus of some sort. The next panel reveals the apparatus to have a scissor-like mechanism. On Page 16, the men are revealed to be holding the apparatus around a dead Jew’s neck. There is no text until this panel, which reads: “Judenrein [German: Cleansed of Jews].”
Another example is Sim’s use of the repetition of a single image as background to quotations; many of which are eschewed pictures that have already appeared or will actually appear later. Behind the citations from Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler, is the repetition of two images side-by-side, one of a dead man’s face and another just above a dead man’s head. The next page shows these images in full, one was a concentration camp victim with his mouth agape stretching out his arms and the other was the Jesus on John Paul II crucifix. Sim uses then uses the juxtaposed images to cite Non-Jewish abhorrence to the Nazis, the Shoah and Anti-Semitism, which then leads to the citations of John Paul II. In doing this, Sim provides a linear narrative that is held together by his thesis and transitioned from point to point by illustration (which the last time I checked is pretty consistent in all comics).
Judenhass is an important book and four dollars for this amount of information and insight should be considered stealing. As Sim says, this “age of diminishing attention spans” needs to know about the Shoah more than ever and with Judenhass's 25 minute reading span even the slowest reader keep up.
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