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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
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Jewish Art In Poland

Jewish art in Poland, as in other places throughout the world, comes from two sources: art by Jews or art by gentiles about Jews.


Jews in Poland today produce art that is very heavily influenced by the Holocaust, either reflecting the horrors of the past or memorializing the victims.  Lately there has been a revival of postcards and calendars that include collectable art. These items are available mostly at Jewish venues throughout Poland, such as synagogues, community centers and even cemeteries.

 


Clay figurine of rabbi, holding a coin, bought at the Warsaw airport.

 


The art produced by non-Jews falls into two categories. There are traditional portraits, which are copies of older art, predating the Shoah. One can find the typical rabbi studying, with a book in his hand, his head on his hand. It has been said that it looks as if the rabbi is contemplating the fate of his people more then being in deep study. 


Also popular are the kitschy souvenirs, sold all over from kiosks to fancy gift shops, in old town squares and the airports. These invariably show a rabbi or the Polish concept of a rabbi. Full beard, hat, peyot, sometimes even a tallit is included. The one common feature to all these characters is a large “Jewish” nose. Another frequent feature is the placing of a one-gruz coin in the palm of the figure. Many people see this as a sign of the latent anti-Semitism that still exists in Poland.

 

 


Print of an old Jew holding a moneybag.


Younger artists are producing the other form of gentile art. You find very nice pieces coming out of the high school art classes that show a deepening respect and understanding of Judaism. In Czestochowa the local school has produced much material of “art based on Jewish ideas” and have sent a portion of its best work on tour.

 


Hand-carved wooden depiction of a rabbi, bought at a street fair in Wroclaw.

 

 

The material has been on exhibit throughout the U.S. and Israel and won numerous awards. The Krakow Jewish Festival is also a major source of Jewish Poster Art. The annual contest, to create the festival poster, has produced some amazing results of Jewish-related art. The posters are very well accepted throughout the art world and sold around the world.

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More Articles from Shmuel Ben Eliezer
Arnold Fine 2008

I REMEMBER WHEN I first started working at the Jewish Press 18 years ago, Arnie who was in charge of the newsroom, took me under his wing…

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

Growing up in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century, I, along with most people, know very little about the First World War. The little that I did know was about the trench warfare in France and Belgium. The Eastern Front was barely, if ever, mentioned and usually stated that it ended with the Russian Revolution and overthrowing the Czar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/jewish-art-in-poland/2008/08/20/

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