The Arty Semite

Hitler Reacts to Google Reader Shutdown

By Forward Staff

Users of Google’s RSS application, Google Reader, responded with a mixture of fury and indifference this morning when the company announced that it will end the service on July 1.

Naturally, the occasion couldn’t pass without a “Downfall” parody, with Hitler responding to the unsettling news. Needless to say, the Fuhrer was less than pleased.

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Johannes Heesters, Hitler’s Favorite Singer, at 107

By Raphael Mostel

Getty Images

It seems evil people can live a really long time.

Now 107(!) years old and still singing, Hitler’s favorite singer Johannes Heesters recently discovered his native Netherlands still regards him as a traitor. German chancellor Angela Merkel was recently hosting a formal state dinner for the visiting Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and invited Heesters, one of the most prominent Dutch residents in Germany and most famous entertainers there. However, when the Dutch officials noticed his name on the guest list they insisted he be disinvited.

Heesters’s career was made when Hitler fell in love with his performance as the male lead of Franz Lehar’s operetta “The Merry Widow,” going to every performance. Hitler even took to imitating his idol, kissing his hands, showering him with money, automobile, house, food and other goods, mostly appropriated from Jews, and even benefiting from personal cut in his taxes. Heesters claimed to know nothing, for example, about Dachau — until photos surfaced of him there, while his opera company was entertaining the SS to help them relax. He then claimed he might have been there but he was not one of the people who sang for the SS. On a recent television appearance, he actually referred to Hitler as a “really great guy” [ein netter Kerl].

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Slideshow: The Pen That Satirized the Sword

By Joel Schechter

Louvre Studio
Arthur Szyk in Paris.

To see the splendid new exhibit of caricatures and miniature drawings by Polish-born Jewish illustrator Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), on view until March 27 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, you first have to walk through several galleries of religious paintings devoted to Christian saints, Madonnas with child, and Christ on the cross. Szyk’s pictures also introduce religious themes, but his portraits of martyrs and Jewish heroes are often less reverential than those in the museum’s adjoining rooms.

Szyk has no respect for the tyrants who oppress Jews. In a drawing titled “Valhalla” he satirically portrays Hitler and Mussolini as beer hall waiters serving rowdy Nazi soldiers, one of whom tramples a prostrate Jew. “De profundis,” a more startling 1943 pen and ink response to Nazi cruelty, depicts Christ holding the Ten Commandments atop a pile of war victims, many of them Jewish. A Torah and yarmulkes on bearded heads can be seen among the fallen. Ornately lettered words above the tumbled mass of men, women and children ask: “Cain, where is Abel thy brother?”

View a slideshow of images by Arthur Szyk:

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Making a Mess of Comedy

By Matthew Rovner

Wiki Commons

Comedy, explained Aristotle, has a vague history, because at first no one took it seriously. We cannot know for certain if Aristotle was deadpanning, but his observation would amuse Saul Austerlitz. According to Austerlitz, American film comedy has not been taken seriously, either. In fact, the author quips, it is American film’s “bastard stepchild.” With his latest book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” Austerlitz gives us a broad survey of the genre, hoping to spark debate.

There were few Jewish comedians in Aristotle’s day, but in American comedy, Austerlitz notes, Jews are “the only minority group overrepresented.” The title of his book is taken from a catch phrase by the gentile comic geniuses Laurel and Hardy, but on the cover of the book, it is Jewish comedians, The Marx Brothers, who are making a mess. For Austerlitz, the Marx Brothers are the embodiment of Jewish humor — “anarchic, absurdist, and ebullient” — existing in the face of a hostile or dismissive power structure.

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Berlin Displays 'Degenerate' Art Banned By Nazis

By Daniel Rauchwerger

Crossposted from Haaretz

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
The sculptures ‘Womanbust’ by Naum Slutzky, ‘Temple servant’ by an unidentified artist and ‘Standing figur’ by Gustav Heinrich Wolff.

Eleven sculptures classified as “degenerate art” by Hitler’s Nazis more than 70 years ago went on display at Berlin’s New Museum yesterday after being unearthed at a building site in the city center. Among the surprise finds, which date from the early 20th century, are bronzes by Otto Baum, Marg Moll, Edwin Scharff, Gustav Heinrich Wolff, Naum Slutzky and Karl Knappe; remnants of ceramics by Otto Freundlich and Emy Roeder; and three unidentified sculptures.

They are just some of the 15,000 works the Nazis confiscated from museums and private collections because they were considered “degenerate” — a term Hitler’s regime used to classify most modern art. Some of this art was sold abroad, but much of it was destroyed. Two of the works discovered — Marg Moll’s sculpture entitled “Female Dancer” and Otto Freundlich’s terra-cotta “Head” were featured in the 1941 Nazi propaganda film “Venus on Trial,” in which they served as an example of the kind of “degenerate art” Jewish art dealers sold.

Read more at Haaretz.com

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A Thrilling Escape 'From Somewhere in the Bavarian Alps'

By Matthew Rovner

Norma Shearer, the leading actress in ‘Escape.’

“Escape,” an exciting World War II-era anti-isolationist thriller and romance, was released to great acclaim nearly 70 years ago, but for years has been difficult to get a hold of. Fortunately, the film, which anticipated “Casablanca,” snuck quietly onto DVD last April.

In “Escape,” a naive American (Robert Taylor) travels to a country — never explicitly named as Germany — in search of his mother (Alla Nazimova), who has mysteriously disappeared. He soon learns that she is in a concentration camp awaiting execution. To rescue her, he enlists the help of an American-born countess (Norma Shearer). A frantic race against the clock in an atmosphere of indifference, hostility and dread ensues.

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Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot vs. Hitler

By Benjamin Ivry

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot

Agatha Christie (1890–1976), has long been underestimated by readers and fellow writers alike, despite her 80 novels which have sold a reported four billion copies. For example, the astute mystery writer P. D. James, in her newly published “Talking About Detective Fiction,” complains that Christie, with her “pasteboard characters,” has not had a “profound influence on the later development of the detective story.”

Furthermore, in-depth studies like Charles Osborne’s “Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie” admit that Christie’s early works, featuring the detectives Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, reflect casual British antisemitism of the 1920s and ’30s; for instance, the 1930 short story “The Soul of the Croupier,” in which “Hebraic men with hook-noses wearing rather flamboyant jewelry” appear.

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Funny Nazis? The Return (In Bulk) of Hogan’s Heroes

By Benjamin Ivry

The CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Release of a 28 DVD-set, “Hogan’s Heroes: The Komplete Series, Kommandant’s Kollection” reminds us of this early effort to find belated humor in Hitler’s war machine. Writer/director Billy Wilder’s much-admired 1953 film “Stalag 17,” was adapted from a play of the same name by two former POWs, and subtitled: “a comedy melodrama in three acts.” Deleting the melodrama, TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes,” which ran on CBS for 168 episodes from 1965 to 1971, went for outright laughs, successfully or not.

Ambiguously, “Hogan’s Heroes” cast all the principal roles of Nazi soldiers with Jewish actors, notably two Austrian Jews who were refugees from Hitler, Leon Askin (General Burkhalter) and John Banner (Sergeant Schultz). Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), son of the eminent German-Jewish symphony conductor Otto Klemperer, had also fled the Nazis, arriving in Los Angeles in 1935. Was it somehow better to have buffoonish Nazis played by Jewish actors?

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