Academic journal article Shofar

Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards

Academic journal article Shofar

Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards

Article excerpt

HATEMAIL: ANTI-SEMITISM ON PICTURE POSTCARDS Salo Aizenbereg. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013. viii + 238 pp.

There is something paradoxical in admiring an oversized book with high-quality color illustrations when these images carry the most violent mitic Hatemail: Anti-Semitism on Picture Postcards elicits such ambiguous sentiments. Nevertheless, Salo Aizenberg has made excellent choices in selecting and curating hundreds of postcards from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, mostly from Germany, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The layout and quality of the reproductions are outstanding, and match the diversity and the richness of the material. It is unfortunate, however, that such a large sample of picture postcards does not receive deeper analysis, from production to usage to collection. Indeed, the picture postcard was first published in the second half of the nineteenth century; it became immediately popular as a quick and cheap communications means, as a visible platform for caricaturists and other artists, and as worthy ephemera from a collector's perspective. Aizenberg sometimes provides detailed information about a publisher, an artist, or the specific historical context, but his treatment and depth of analysis are uneven. The main problem with this book is that it tries to do too many things, and ends up all over the place, tackling issues superficially. The author provides a lot of historical context that is not always necessary, and takes up space at the detriment of a deeper analysis of postcards as an artistic creation, new media, and political commentary. For example, he invokes Daniel Goldhagen's book Hitler's Willing Executioners to make sweeping statements that are neither convincing nor informative: "I don't believe that it is a coincidence that German anti-Semitic postcards outclassed other nations in the virulence of their hatred. It makes sense based on the acts committed against Jews that were so easily accepted in the 1930s and 1940s. In contrast, American and British anti-Semitic postcards were significantly significantly more benign, usually depicting 'humorous' images of greedy, large-nosed Jews, but not Jews as demonic or Jews being expelled and persecuted" (12). Unfortunately, a more refined analysis would have shown that during the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906), an extraordinary number of pro-Dreyfus postcards were designed and published in Germany, as a means to mock the French authorities for their relentlessness against the Jewish captain. Another angle worth pursuing would be to follow a specific artist over the course of a decade or two, and note any change in message, tone, or political affiliation, as was the case with the Frenchman Orens, among others. …

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