Monday, May 12, 2014

SJP Vassar posts a Nazi World War II propaganda poster UPDATED

Despite their apology for posting material from Neo-Nazis and White Nationalists, the Vassar Students for Justice in Palestine have kept on doing it. Just today, they posted yet another antisemitic image on the Tumblr blog, this time one that is actually a Nazi propaganda poster from WWII (h/t Petra Marquardt-Bigman). Here's the image as posted on their Twitter feed. (It's now been taken down, but as of a few minutes ago it was still on Twitter).

I went and looked up this image to see if I could find out more about it. I found an interesting article that explains its provenance and meaning. It's by Kristen Williams Backer, "Kultur-Terror: The Composite Monster in Nazi Visual Propaganda," in Monsters and the Monstrous: Myths and Metaphors of Enduring Evil, edited by Niall Scott (Rodopi, 2007).

There are many interesting details in the image of the monster - notice especially the moneybag being held in the figure's upper right hand and the star of David flying from the drum that is its lower body.

The poster is from 1944, and targeted the Netherlands. It was made by an artist named Leest Storm.  As Petra Marquardt-B. has pointed out, the artist was actually Harald Damsleth, a Norwegian artist who designed many Nazi propaganda posters. "Leest Storm - SS," at the bottom right of the poster, means in Dutch, "Read Storm-SS," a Nazi publication. (For an image of the front page of "Storm-SS," go to Storm-SS). More examples of Damsleth's posters can be found at: [Matthew Newton, From the Annals of World War II Propaganda, is the source of this information].

"Storm-SS" was the weekly newspaper of the German SS in Holland. (Source: images of the front page from Axis History Forum).

Here are some general remarks about the poster from Williams Backer's article:

The poster draws upon various images of American life and some specific historical events. One of those events was the 1938 heavy-weight boxing fight between an African-American boxer, Joe Louis, and a German boxer, Max Schmeling.

This is a larger version of the moneybag:

So in this one image we see the arm of the Black boxer, holding the moneybag, to which a man with a big nose is clinging - linking boxing, money, and the Jew.

The author of the article suggests that the banner decorated with the star of David "might be a similar suggestion of the pervasiveness of Jewish power in America."

Read the whole article - it says a lot more about the bizarre juxtaposition of the Klansman's hood and the noose, the cage with Black people inside it dancing the jitterbug, the two little female figures, etc.

Back to Vassar SJP:

This is what I wrote when I saw the poster, with their initial reply:

By adding this poster to their Tumblr blog, they are once again displaying their lamentable ignorance of history and lack of judgment. They really do not look at what they are reposting. If it looks vaguely like something they agree with, they will display it. They don't exercise any judgment, or sophistication in analyzing images.

And they also, as David Schraub suggests, are unable to recognize antisemitism (and in this case also anti-Black racism) even in the most blatant form of a Nazi propaganda poster, much less when it presents in a more subtle form. At this point, I can't help but feel that it's because for them (or some of them, at least), their anti-Zionism is really indistinguishable from antisemitism. They simply don't know the difference. Hence, they are not able to figure out that something is antisemitic and not "merely" anti-Zionist. I think they are suffering from the same problem with antisemitism as a lot of white people suffer when they are confronted by someone telling them they have said or done something racist. They (the white people) deny it because for them anti-Black racism is the KKK lynching a Black man. It couldn't possibly be their own good selves who have just made a racist remark. The same thing appears to be happening with some of the members of the Vassar SJP group. Antisemitism for them is the Nazi Holocaust, and since they don't advocate mass murder of Jews, they couldn't possibly say or do antisemitic things. But they are wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, thanks for keeping up with this. It is so disturbing to see this, and the apparent lack of guidance from Vassar.