Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Page 45 Review: Judenhass

Page 45 in Nottingham is one of the best comics shops in the UK, and has been a strong supporter of Cerebus since it opened its doors in 1994. In the following review, Page 45 co-founder, Stephen L. Holland, details his reaction to reading Dave Sim's Judenhass. Buy your copy of Judenhass now from Page 45.
"The only thing to me more horrific than those final expressions was the all-too-human urge to look away. How dare I? How dare any of us?"

Fifty-six of the most important and affecting pages you will ever read for just £2-75/$4.00.

Never in my life have I read anything in any medium that has set my heart pounding so violently in my chest. It was a physical reaction to a mental stimulation without any sensationalist emotions, as I was concentrated (not concentrating) on every single panel of individual human beings reduced to husks. It will halt you to an extent that cinematic record, most certainly awful, actually doesn't.

It's a documentation and exploration of Judenhass: literally, a "Hatred of Jews", because as Dave Sim points out, the word "Anti-Semitism" is wholly inadequate to describe what the Jewish people and Jewish individuals have been subjected to over the past two millennia, in the form of an unremitting barrage of hatred, disdain, prejudice, smear campaigns, impediment and very real violence including wholesale slaughter -- and not just the once.

Within Sim contends that the Holocaust was not an unthinkable act, as we like to comfort ourselves, which came about because of a "one-in-a-million happenstance which could only have happened in Germany and only under the Nazi regime" but - given the historical proliferation, vehemence and tolerance of Anti-Semitism - it was, at some point, wholly inevitable. He makes his compelling case by presenting a series of quotations throughout history, some from otherwise respected quarters. President Harry Truman's pronouncements in particular had me aghast.
It begins inside the bleak barracks of Auschwitz in their full, freezing horror, and the gaunt faces of their skeletal occupants crammed onto stacks of hard, wooden racks, as Dave Sim, with calm and considered words, explains why he believes that every creative spirit should attempt such a work in their life-time, particularly in the US comicbook field built by so many Jewish creators who, but for a "geographical happenstance" might have been abused then slaughtered in concentration camps themselves. Also, why it's important that non-Jews like himself join the Jewish voices in remembering and recognising the horrors of Jew hatred across the years.

So this is where I'd beg teachers - particularly those educating students in history, religious or cultural studies - to please take a look at this book and consider not just stocking it in your school library, but using it as a set text during lessons. If pupils' attention spans are a concern, there are rarely more than a few sentences per page which inclines one to focus on each single defamation all the harder.

For our part, Page 45 will be sending a free copy out to each school library we've ever dealt with, in the hope that those librarians who've already recognised the merits then seen the benefits of comics to their literacy rates, can persuade the relevant teachers for us. I want this taught as a set text in as many schools as possible. My very grateful thanks to Pat Sullivan and co. at Diamond UK for helping me with this.

Parental warning: this website created for the comic by Jeff Tundis is harrowing. 

Buy your copy of Judenhass now from Page 45.

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