[HEROES TURNED ENEMIES] Jews Have Always Fought for Freedom
New York: Joseph Brainin; Jewish assistance Committee, . Item #1640
24 pp.: ill. 30,2x22,8 cm. In original illustrated publisher’s wrappers. Tear of the spine. Otherwise very good.
Extremely scarce. Compiled by Cyrus Porter. Edited by Joseph Brainin.
Illustrated wrappers by Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), a Polish-Jewish artist who worked primarily as a book illustrator and political artist. From 1921, an acculturated Polish Jew, Szyk lived and worked mainly in France and Poland. In 1940, he settled permanently in the United States and was granted American citizenship in 1948. Szyk became a renowned artist and book illustrator as early as the interwar. His works were exhibited and published in Poland, France, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the United States. The artist gained broad popularity primarily through his political caricatures, in which, after the outbreak of World War II, he savaged the policies and personalities of the leaders of the Axis powers. The edition features artwork by Arthur Szyk and the U.S. cartoonist William Gropper (1897-1977) and numerous photomontages and photographic illustrations primarily depicting atrocities committed against Jews, the Red Army soldiers, civilians, etc.
This unique document of the Soviet fight against anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany was published by the National Reception Committee to the Delegation from the U.S.S.R. The edition was issued to welcome Solomon Mikhoels (1890-1948) and Itsik Feffer (1900-1952), representatives of the Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, during their visit to the United States in 1943. In less than ten years, Mikhoels (the Chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee) and Feffer fell victim to the Great Purge. The former was allegedly assassinated on Stalin’s order in 1948. Itsik and other J.A.C. members were accused of treason and executed four years later.
The edition opens with Mikhoels’ and Feffer’s statement calling upon unity in the fight against anti-Semitism spread by Nazi Germany. The statement reads: ‘We come from a country, where anti-Semitism, as Joseph Stalin described, is a crime against the State’. Ironically, in less than five years, the Soviet Union launched a massive campaign against Jews. From the late 1940s, books in Yiddish and about Jews were banned from printing, and the anti-Semitic line became the official policy of the Soviet government. The edition also includes a declaration by the United Nations condemning ‘Germany’s bestial policy of extermination of Jews’, brief biographies of Mikhoels and Feffer, articles on German atrocities against Jews, a tribute to Russia, to ‘a land where anti-Semitism is a crime’, by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Jewish Council for Russian War Relief James Rosenberg (1874-1970), and Albert Einstein’s (Honorary Chairman of the National Reception Committee) greeting words to the Soviet delegation. The edition also features words of praise for the Red Army and the USSR by the following American authorities: Philip Murray (President of the Congress of Industrial Organizations), William Green (President of the American Federation of Labor), Senator Claude Pepper, etc. Sheet music for ‘Ivan and John’ composed by the Canadian poet and songwriter Kenneth Leslie (1892-1974) to celebrate friendship among nations is also present.
The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee was created in the Soviet Union in 1941 and was intended to influence international public opinion and organize political and material support for the Soviet fight against Nazi Germany. On August 24, 1941, two dozen Jewish cultural figures, led by the Yiddish actor and theater director Solomon Mikhoels, issued an international radio appeal to Jews worldwide to unite against the common enemy. The members of the Committee included Yiddish writers such as Dovid Bergelson (1884–1952), Perets Markish (1895–1952), and Itsik Fefer, along with the journalists Ilya Ehrenburg (1891–1967) and Vasilii Grossman (1905–1964).
The Committee’s most famous undertaking was a seven-month tour by Mikhoels and Fefer to the United States in 1943, with stops in Mexico, Canada, and England. They appeared in many cities and raised millions for the Soviet war effort. Mikhoels and Feffer were received with enthusiasm by figures ranging from Rabbi Stephen Wise (1874–1949), Albert Einstein (1879–1955), and Fiorello La Guardia (1882–1947; mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945) to the leaders of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the World Jewish Congress.
Overall, a curious insight into the short-lived Soviet policy of international friendship.
Worldcat shows copies of the edition in Yivo Institute for Jewish Research and Washington University in St. Louis.
Price: $1,500.00Status: On Hold