The Art of Graphic Slander

Antisemitism did not erupt because of the Nazi’s official racial policies. It plagued Germany, as it did other European countries and the United States, for centuries prior, from biblical times. The blood libel — the rubbish about Jews eating Christian babies — and other myths of Jewish depravity and economic dominance, spread throughout Christendom and influenced the murderous policies that came to the fore in Germany, Russia, Poland, Hungary and elsewhere. Antisemitism is not, sadly, an anomaly.

La Carte Postale Antisémite: de L’Affaire Dreyfus a la Shoah, the catalog from Museum de la Shoah in Paris, reveals the devolution of savage images designed to fuel the flames of hatred. These are not simply rhetorical visuals, but nefariously conceived and widely distributed pictorial barbs from France, Germany, Russia, Spain and the United States, among others, where antisemitism was a sanctioned way of life. Some are more benign than the truly vicious ones, but all make victims out of their objects of ire — Jewish businessmen, wealthy industrialists and everyday people. Here are a few that will doubtless trigger a collective wince yet the important thing to remember is that these were not issued by or sold to the radical fringe, they were entertainments and propaganda for the people as a whole. Read more in my interview with Susan Choi in The Believer from 2006.

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