Saturday, 29 November 2014

Judenhass: "It Made Neil Gaiman Cry..."

Judenhass (2008)
by Dave Sim, with technical assistance by Lou Copeland
Free download at (PDF and CBZ) and (iPad App)
(Click image to enlarge)
(from The Beat, 26 November 2014)
Holiday Reading -- Okay not maybe the most chipper reading, but you’ll be thankful for life after you read it. Dave Sim's Judenhass (literally "Jew hate") a harrowing, sensitive look at anti-Semitism and its horrific result in the Holocaust is now being offered for free at the website and via the Sequential app for iPad. Sim may be one of our more controversial comic masters, but no one has ever denied that he's a comics master, or that he's a master of emotion and composition, both evident in Judenhass, along with his historical research... 

(from the Panel Works! blog, 28 November 2014)
...Dave Sim's Judenhass, a short comic about the Nazi Holocaust, and the history of the hatred of the Jews leading up to it, has been released, for free. You can get it as a PDF from the link above, or for free from Sequential's app for Apple devices. Judenhass is a remarkable work, and packs a powerful punch. It made Neil Gaiman cry, apparently, and I did too. I urge you to read it, and have a hanky to hand.

The remarkable thing about Judenhass is that it places the events of the Holocaust (or, to use the Hebrew term he prefers, the Shoah) in historical context, with many quotes from a range of public figures in and around the time of the Shoah, painting an absolutely clear picture of the ambivalence and tacit support of the majority for the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and the indifference to the plight of the refugees. He also traces the roots back further, to Martin Luther and others, and there's a good set of notes at the back discussing which quotes were and weren't chosen. (Interestingly, Shakespeare, author of "The Merchant of Venice", doesn't get a mention in the comic or the notes.)

As a good illustration of "evil", this is superbly done, and important. The evil of the Shoah was not carried in isolation by a separate group of Nazis, while we looked on in horror, but was carried by many, many small evils - apathy, unwillingness, indifference - by all of us.

Sim is careful in his use of words. He rejects "Holocaust" for "Shoah", and "anti-semitism" for "Jew Hatred" (the "Judenhass" of the book's title). This clarity is vital in dispelling the many little evils around the events of the Shoah, just as it is now, in the half-truths about immigration, trickle-down of wealth, etc. etc. that permeate the news today. And he uses the comic form splendidly to reinforce his point, letting the streams of words and pictures rub up against each other uncomfortably, with the words (and a few "foreground" portraits) being overlaid over images of the prisoners in the camps, often panning out in a gruesome tease, such as the hands grasped around an instrument being revealed to be calipers dragging an emaciated body by the head towards a furnace. In themselves, the images are shocking (I'm crying again now as I type) - set against the words and portraits of the great and good, the effect is incredible... [Read the full article here...]


Jeff Seiler said...

See, Dave? I told you several years ago not to be so pessimistic about the impact Judenhass would/will have.

I still firmly believe that it won't take until "fifty years after (your) death" for that impact to happen.

This is a very good step forward.

Anonymous said...

I fear, Jeff, that a post on some guy's comics-fan blog is a smaller step forward than the announcement on AMOC that Judenhass is in the public domain.

I say this not to rain on your parade, but to remind those of us who read and post here -- and thus have a pre-existing interest in Cerebus, Dave Sim, and Dave's other work -- that most of the comics audience (never mind the real world) isn't even aware of those things. Cerebus is largely forgotten; Dave is known, if he is known at all, as an irrelevant, crazy old crank; nobody paid any attention to Judenhass even when it was current. We shouldn't find ourselves guilty of feeling that any of these is more important than is objectively the case.

Judenhass deserves to be forgotten. It's poor-quality work that trivializes a serious subject. Keeping it available online for free is the ideal place for it. The few people in the world who are interested can obtain it without cost. It's an ideal example of how the Web can archive ephemera.

What we should keep an eye on is the eventual sales-figures on the republished Cerebus phone-books. As Dave himself said, the likeliest outcome is that he will die in obscurity, the work itself forgotten. We seem to be embarked down that trail. Can we alter course? If the sell-through on the phone-books is solid, it suggests that we can.

I think it would be a shame for Cerebus to be forgotten. Is it one of the greatest works of art ever produced? Of course not. But it is worthy of study by those interested in comics as a medium -- both the comic itself, and Dave's writings about comics as an artform and a business.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, ykg

Eddie said...

"Judenhass deserves to be forgotten. It's poor-quality work that trivializes a serious subject"

That is certainly an opinion. Here are some others:

"Judenhass is an astonishing piece of work. Painful and real and unflinching. I don't remember the last comic I read that made me cry, but this did."

- Neil Gaiman

"To apply the term ‘beautiful’ to this book may be a misnomer considering the subject matter, but its impact cannot be denied."

- Joe Kubert

"This wise, appalled, deeply humane response to an endless shock and sorrow could come only from the profoundly thoughtful Dave Sim."

- Peter Straub

"Dave Sim's "Judenhass" is a noble enterprise, reminding us of a painful and shameful part of human history. His writing and artwork are dramatic"

- Jean Shuster Peavy
Sister of Joe Shuster
Artist-Creator of SUPERMAN

"Judenhass is endlessly disturbing, often unpleasant and incessantly horrifying in its stark coldness. The quotes should never be forgotten or made light of. It is why all people of good will say, 'Never again.'"

- Marv Wolfman

As usual, trailblazing Dave Sim is way out in front. Look what he has accomplished in Judenhass. He begins at the beginning, defining his terms, as he looks at an ancient and world-wide problem from a fresh perspective.

- Robin Snyder
Editor/Publisher - The Comics

Anonymous said...

Yep, those are other opinions all right; I recognized them right away. Some of them are from people whose own work I enjoy and respect. The evidence suggests that the public agrees more with me. As I said, as long as Judenhass is available online, people who want it can obtain it. And, while my opinion of Judenhass does not rise, I think its availability is a net good.

-- Damian T. Lloyd, pto