Saturday, January 2, 2010
Forst's Illustrated Haggadah, 1958
Siegmunt Forst - brother of Reb Yonah Forst - speaks about his post-War encounter with Reb Michoel Ber Weissmandl in New York. From Claude Lanzmann's Shoah Collection, 1985. It's not often that we hear such candid talk about the people and events of the time. From the US Holcaust Memorial Museum Website.
"Siegmund Forst introduces his illustrated Haggadah in the following way: "This . . . old Jewish book . . . speaks of sorrow and hope . . . It appears in contemporary dress, illustrated by one who himself has suffered the flames and escaped them" (1941). The central Jewish cultural conflict in these drawings lies between the Jewish socialist revolutionary and his elderly ultra-orthodox Eastern European forebearers.
In the 1958 version, the wise old man lives by his faith in God and the Torah but his age and his defensive posture reflect his threatened status in a changing world. He looks worriedly to Heaven for salvation. The wicked bespectacled, self-hating intellectual tramples the Torah displaying an adolescent resentment against the old, dying order. The simpleton dressed in a business suit and the child without questions wearing his American baseball cap provide an attentive audience. For Forst, the Jewish revolutionary has displaced the soldier as the representative of the wicked child. Forst did not see the socialists as a legitimate continuation of the Jewish ideal of liberation from bondage that was born in the exodus from Egypt.
In the 1959 version the wicked revolutionary who raises his ax against the Ten commandments resembles Leon Trotsky (Lev Bronshtein), a Marxist leader of the Bolshevik revolution (1917). The simple child is a sports fan who loves gambling and smoking, while the fourth child is a passive worker."