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Apocalyptic City Versus Apocalyptic Shtetl:

The Experience of Catastrophe in the Work

of the Jewish Expressionists

M ałg orz ata Stol arska-F ronia

Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń

It is not we who are to blame that the Jewish town has destroyed it and created it anew. And when neither this sec-
spat us out with the blood of its throat and flung us, ond world found approval in God’s eyes, he created it again
quaking, into the depths of angst: cities of electricity, but, unsatisfied, destroyed it once more. And so he created
bridges, heights, innumerable storeys, cafés, cham- and destroyed the world twelve times, and the thirteenth
pagne, disgrace, and opium! time a smile lit up his face.”9 In philosophy and literature,
—Uri Tsevi Grinberg the idea of apocalypse was closely bound up with the messi-
Manifesto to the Opponents of New Poetry1 anic idea. According to Gershom Scholem: “Jewish messian-
ism is by its origin and its nature—this cannot be stressed
The generation of artists born in the 1890s, who came enough—a theory of catastrophe. This theory stresses the
of age in the first two decades of the twentieth century, revolutionary and cataclysm element in the transition from
experienced a profound spiritual and ideological transfor- the historical present to the messianic future.”10 At the same
mation rooted in their participation in World War I. The time, as Löwy and Larrier point out, Scholem draws a sharp
experience of war, described as apocalyptic, gave these art- distinction between Jewish and Christian messianism and
ists a “mystical, utopian impulse.”2 It was precisely at this “considers redemption as a necessary event that takes place
time, as Stephan von Wiese points out, that Expression- on the stage of history, ‘publicly,’ so to speak, in the visible
ism ceased to be shaped by and associated with German- . . . .”11 Developing this idea, one might argue that the open,
speaking circles of artists and became a universal, “complex visual aspect of catastrophe is of significance when it comes
movement of cultural protest.”3 The literature exploring to the messianic ideal. Destruction—its physical, sensual
this phenomenon from the social and cultural perspec- character: color, texture, fragrance—is testament to the
tive has evolved the term “Generation of 1914.”4 Various experience of catastrophe; it is thanks to tangible evidence
publications have also striven to bring out the Jewish face of destruction that one can begin a messianic renewal of the
of this phenomenon. According to Anson Rabinbach, the world. The inseparableness of the experience of catastrophe
Jewish generation of 1914 was characterized by a messi- and the messianic ideal, coupled with a radical attitude, was
anic drive one could describe as a modern form of Jewish characteristic of the “new Jewish spirit”12 which, accord-
thought, both in the secular and theological sense; a tradi- ing to Rabinbach, was the product of a “post-assimilatory
tion as removed from secular rationalism as from “norma- Renaissance.” The modern Jewish messianism of the gen-
tive Judaism.”5 Rabinbach considers the main proponents of eration of 1914 was “radical, uncompromising, and com-
this current in philosophy to be Walter Benjamin and Ernst prised of an esoteric intellectualism that is as uncomfortable
Bloch, who infused it with a radical, apocalyptic character.6 with the Enlightenment as it is enamoured of apocalyptic
They see war as a crisis of culture; citing Bloch: “apocalypse visions—whether revolutionary or purely redemptive in the
was the a-priori of all politics and culture.”7 As Rabinbach spiritual sense.”13
concludes: “Only in the cataclysm of the old order could the It follows from the above interpretations that the
promise of culture be realised in ‘an anarchist-expressionist notion of apocalypse, as that part of Jewish experience
determined world.’”8 whose expression has been particularly clear in art, has been
In art, the apocalyptic fate of the modern human and, expounded at length not only in sources but also in sub-
of the modern Jew, determined by the recurrent cycle of sequent critical analyses. The latter, however, are mostly
creation and destruction, achieves its most radical expres- devoted to literature and philosophy.14 The same theme
sion in the writings of avant-garde Yiddish poets: “God was meanwhile appears in a similar context in the visual arts,
not pleased with the world he created the first time. So he while both media—word and image—form an Expres-

sionist Gesamtkunstwerk, expressing the fears, hopes and revolution), i.e. how art captures the moment history enters
radical declarations of the young generation of Jews born the city or shtetl; and (3) the city/shtetl vis-à-vis myths and
in the 1890s. The Jewish catastrophe occurred in two tem- popular conceptions of apocalypse.
poral realms—in the mythical, perpetuated by legends
and handed-down stories of pogroms, and in real, historic
time. To exist in both it needed a space capable of being The Apocalyptic Portrait
destroyed. This space was—on the one hand, and for the In 1913 Ludwig Meidner, an artist born in the small town
entire generation of 1914—the big city: modern, dynamic, of Bernstadt (now Bierutów), near Oels (Oleśnica), painted
frenetic, and dangerous. It is in this space that the identity I and the City, a self-portrait against the background of a
of the “post-assimilatory Renaissance”15 of Jewish artists city stricken by catastrophe. Surrounding the painter’s
evolved and attained a developed form. On the other hand, sad and confused face are twisted shapes of houses visible
the idea of Jewish renaissance comprised a hidden need to in the background. This is Meidner’s canonical work, fre-
re-establish a connection with traditional Jewish life, asso- quently interpreted18 in conjunction with citations from the
ciated with shtetl culture. The generation of Jewish artists, artist’s writings on how to render big city landscapes and
nearly every one of whom had served at the front during vividly express individual moods related to the turmoil of
World War I, had come into contact with the shtetl when its the times.19 The artist himself coined the term “apocalyptic
condition was already that of advancing decadence. Fasci- landscape,” earning the reputation of an oft-read Expres-
nated with the spiritual authenticity of shtetl dwellers, they sionist, in the vanguard of the movement, depicting big city
at once witnessed the devastation left behind by pogroms, themes in uncertain times before and after World War I.
war and poverty.16 It is worth noting that apocalyptic moods Meidner’s work and identity as an Expressionist is
associated with increasing tension and conflicts ongoing in bound up with the big city of Berlin—at that time the cen-
Europe—the war in the Balkans, and especially, in the case ter of avant-garde bohemia. It is there that he was active
of Jews, the fears raised in Europe by the Beilis trial and and exhibited his works among those associated with the
the Pogroms—have been present and vivid already before gallery Der Sturm, presenting his equally prolific literary
World War I as represented by such artists like Jakob Stein- writings in the Expressionist literary groups Neuen Club
hardt or Ludwig Meidner.17 and Neopathetischer Cabaret. It was also in Berlin in 1912
In this article, which only provides an outline of this that he founded the group Die Pathetiker, most of whose
vast subject matter, I would like to identify and explore members had Jewish origins, and created the magazine Das
some of the key questions related to Jewish artists’ por- Neue Pathos. It is only recently that scholars have begun to
trayal of catastrophe. I would like to show how the ideas explore in more detail his links to Silesia, Bernstadt,20 and
of apocalypse and Jewish messianism developed in Yiddish Dresden,21 where he spent the first years of the war—signif-
philosophy and literature were translated into visual form, icant when it came to the evolution of his artistic language
and what the characteristic features of this form were. My as an Expressionist and his identity as a Jewish artist.
analysis will start from the fact that that in the visual arts War was for Meidner a tragic event which significantly
the Jewish catastrophe occurred in two cultural spheres— radicalized his views on art. The narrative of his paintings
the European city and the East European shtetl. On the referring to the events of World War I usually unfolds in
surface this dichotomy implies that these are two distinct, the big city where the war most painfully struck his per-
opposite visual constructs, both in the cultural, social and sonal life. From 1913 to 1915 Meidner was in Dresden. In
urban sense. Are the catastrophe of the metropolis and the the first year of World War I he lost a close friend, Ernst
catastrophe of the shtetl two different types of apocalypse Wilhelm Lotz, who had been called up to the front; that
to the Jewish artist, or are they merely different aspects of same year he made the ink drawing The End of the World (or
the same experience? This is the basic question behind my War) (Fig. 1). In its foreground one can see the artist’s bust
analyses and reflections in this article. For an in-depth anal- floating in mid-air, a skeleton lying before it, and low houses
ysis of these issues I propose to focus on three approaches to reminiscent of small town architecture in the background.
the apocalyptic city and shtetl in the work of Jewish Expres- Between the self-portrait and the apocalyptic town a space
sionists, namely: (1) the city/shtetl and the Jewish artist, i.e. is strewn with human remains. The division into three areas
how Jewish artists defined their role vis-à-vis urban apoca- is a characteristic motif of Meidner’s apocalyptic landscapes.
lypse, as well as artists’ individual relationships to the city/ The first, and closest, area represents the artist himself and
shtetl, largely expressed in their self-portraits; (2) the city/ his personal experience of war; the remains scattered behind
shtetl and the apocalypse as an historic event (war, pogroms, him convey the destruction of the whole of society, while

a p ocaly p tic city versus a p ocaly p tic s h tetl 243

a shop. Many years after the war, in 1930, he wrote a sum-
marizing statement on his attitude toward the big city and
the small town of his childhood: “Let the penetration of all
things technical grab further areas, de-spiritualization be
more lethal in the crushing storm of metropolis where we
have to abide—the idea that you’re still there, homeland,
that is not yet destroyed, not repelled, still intact in your
soul, this purifies our weekdays, and makes the remote-
ness easy . . . .”23 The calm of the Silesian town echoed his
pacifist views, which became more pronounced as the war
continued and which he developed in opposition to the fast-
paced, destructive life of the city. Wanting to preserve his
native landscape intact, he portrayed it during his visits in
1922 in a realist style—rare for his work in that period. One
looks in vain for traces of big city nervousness or speed in
these drawings. The flame ignited by mortar explosions had
not engulfed the Arcadia of his youth.
Although Bernstadt was not a typical shtetl and
Meidner’s artistic repertoire did not include apocalyptic
shtetl landscapes, his way of depicting urban apocalyptic
themes exerted a considerable influence on the way other
Jewish Expressionists rendered catastrophe in the context
of the shtetl.
1 Pencil, ink, feather, and brush. “The end of the world (War).” 1914.
(Ludwig Meidner. (Courtesy: Kupferstichkabinett. Staatliche Museen zu The apocalyptic city was one of the main points in the
Berlin. Inv. no. SZ Meidner 6). program of the group Die Pathetiker, established in 1912,
which Meidner created, along with Jacob Steinhardt and
others. The artists met circa 1909 in the Berlin studio of the
Jewish graphic artist Hermann Struck.24 The war left deep
the city in the background is the actual battleground—the furrows in Steinhardt’s life and psyche. He spent the years
source and nexus of war. The additional element in the 1914–1917 on the eastern front of Lithuania. Photographs
form of the skeleton in the foreground is a reference to the preserved in the artist’s archive testify to his lively interest
Baroque tradition of Dance macabre paintings echoing the in the Jewish communities of small Lithuanian towns. He
maxim Memento mori. Before death, brought by war, all are photographed their inhabitants, but also Jewish cemeteries
equal, even the artist, whose originally superior position vis- and synagogue interiors. His impressions of his encounter
à-vis society is exemplified by his “monumental” cast bust. with East European Jews were a typical example of the shift
Yet even this monument to the “big city Expressionist,” as occurring in the attitude of many German Jews toward the
he called himself, has been swept off its pedestal and flung formerly despised Ostjuden. Mimi Steinhardt described the
into the whirlpool of war. fascination of her husband as: “impressions that should
In Meidner’s works presenting city landscapes, as in never blur in his life, the discovery of his Jewish brothers in
the self-portrait I and the City (1913), the big city is usually Lithuania.”25 And she quoted Jakob’s own words: “There I
shown in the distance, as if to signal a feeling of remote- learned at first, that we are a nation and that we finally must
ness and alienation from big city life. In his essay stating do everything possible to end our centuries-old ordeal.”26
his views on the technique and style of big city painting, This encounter was a veritable cultural awakening—there
Meidner describes the metropolis/city as his homeland.22 In he was, face to face with Jews like himself, and yet differing
this he echoes the universal voice of his generation. Yet his in their traditions, dress and everyday language—­Yiddish.
identification with the frenetic lifestyle of wartime Dresden “Next to me is running a little boy and calls to all the people
and cosmopolitan Berlin co-existed with an attachment to pointing at me: ‘Ot a Yid! Ot a Yid.’ And I nod to them,
his native Bernstadt and to Silesia. Opposite the nervous frighten people behind the window and the groups at the
energy of the big city, Meidner idealized the Silesian town doors, and they all nod back, like old friends. And I feel:
of Bernstadt, in which marketplace his parents had owned not the comrades with which I am marching are my real

244 centro pa 1 5 . 3 : se p tember 2 0 1 5

comrades, but these poor, frightened people behind the margins of urban culture. Germany’s defeat in World War I
windows, the doors . . . to them I belong.”27 He also recalled and the ensuing economic crisis were the main driving force
his departure with the army from one of the Lithuanian vil- behind anti-Semitic outbursts, which caused Jews increas-
lages. He himself had been born in a small town—Zerkow ingly to perceive themselves as parvenus in Germany.32 In
(Żerków), currently in Greater Poland, whose calm land- addition, reports in the German-Jewish press of mount-
scape he preserved in his memory, and where he returned to ing pogroms in Eastern Europe led to an awakening and
briefly after the war to solace his wartime traumas and scars. reinstitution of the old topos of Jewish plight. There was
Although Steinhardt did not combine his self-por- an increasing iconographic prevalence of dramatic scenes
traits with apocalyptic landscapes as overtly as Meidner, of flight from pogroms, images of the wandering Jew and
one may note an aspect of his work in which he exposed, scenes of the mass murder of Jews, in which the latter are
through apocalyptic themes, a universal content regard- depicted as martyrs, often drawing on themes referring to
ing the position and role of the artist in the face of catas- the life and martyrdom of Christ.
trophe, as well as changes occurring in European Jewish With Steinhardt, the Jewish narrative, in combina-
society. His famous painting Prophet, of 1913, the same tion with modern, apocalyptic events, enters the shtetl. As
year as Meidner’s I and the City, along with a whole series I have already mentioned, for Steinhardt, his native town
of depictions of prophetic figures against the background of of Zerkow was the model of a small Jewish community
ruined cities and apocalyptic visions, which until 1922 were with its characteristic town planning and social structure.
the most frequent motifs in his art, symbolizing the artist’s Sketches preserved in the artist’s private collection as well
connection to Biblical—and therefore Jewish—topics of the as characteristic views of a descending street in his home
prophet mourning the destruction of the Jerusalem Tem- town, published in the Jewish press (Aus meiner Heimat),33
ple. Going deeper, the prophet was not just relevant to the were used in allegorical and Expressionist portrayals of the
ancient history of the Jews, but held a place in the modern Jewish town. Steinhardt’s personal relationship with his
context: Jewish artists, including Steinhardt, identified with home town fused with the artist’s equally emotional attitude
the figure of the prophet, considering themselves media- toward Lithuanian towns and villages he had visited dur-
tors of social change, ushering in new cultural and artis- ing the war, particularly the Lithuanian town of Raseiniai
tic values in a messianic spirit. As Inka Bertz notes, “The where his company had been stationed. These two experi-
self-presentation as a prophet belonged in 1900 to the usual ences—the personal and familial, and the cultural, forced
habit of the cultural-critical intellectuals, Lagarde liked it the artist to define himself as a Jew when faced with the
and so did Buber; Poets such as Rilke saw themselves as Lithuanian shtetl dwellers34 led to an equivocal image of
­Jeremias . . . .”28 And in the case of Steinhardt, an Expres- the shtetl in Steinhardt’s work. On the one hand, he por-
sionist, “Not only was the prophet an artist, but the artist trays the shtetl as an enclave of sacred Jewish tradition; on
was a prophet. ”29 The original individuation representing the other hand, its appearance testifies to that tradition’s
the personality of the solitary, romantic, big city artist, visi- decadence and destruction. As Ziva Amishai-Maisels writes,
ble in Meidner’s self-portrait, undergoes a certain evolution Steinhardt turned to Jewish subjects because of pogroms. It
in the work of Steinhardt, engaged in an attempt to show is at that point that the narrative of his works entered the
original Jewish communities—embodying an age-long tra- shtetl, where Jewish fate was personified by figures such as
dition, and thereby also to reconstruct them.30 In doing so, Jeremiah, Cain and Abel, and Job.35
Steinhardt is the first to introduce the Jewish narrative into In World War I, rising pogroms and revolution in Rus-
the metropolis, while the Jews’ ancient history becomes a sia disrupted the harmonious, imagined bond that modern
contextual reference for the broader history of Europe, with Jewish artists had attempted to re-establish with traditional
which the fate of Jews, particularly in the modern period, shtetl culture, depriving them of a source of spiritual, mys-
was most closely intertwined. tical inspiration: “the Jewish town has spat us out with
In the same year, 1913, when the famous Prophet blood from its throat and flung us quaking into the depths
appears in Steinhardt’s art, the artist depicted also scenes of angst: cities of electricity, bridges, heights, innumerable
from a pogrom (Pogrom, 1913). The engraving presents storeys, cafés, champagne, disgrace and opium!”36
frightened figures escaping from a big city, silhouetted by Moishe Broderzon, born in Moscow, was in fact a child
high buildings behind them. In Steinhardt’s work the anon- of industrial Łódź. It was there, in 1919, that he founded the
ymous escapee from the city31 is a wandering Jew (Escapee, avant-garde group “Yung-yidish” together with Yitskhok
published in Ost und West 1921, nos. 1–2, 1919; “Outcast” Brauner, Yankel Adler and Marek Szwarc.37 The apocalyp-
[Gehtzte]), and expresses the Jews’ fate as a people on the tic motif occupied an important place in his literary work,

a p ocaly p tic city versus a p ocaly p tic s h tetl 245

the young Jewish artists from Yung-yidish. The naturally
occurring interpretation of this picture as a graphic poem is
confirmed by the letter ‫ ש‬woven into the image and, placed
above it, the Roman letter M, painted at a 90-degree angle
on the factory building with the two chimneys. The code of
these two letters reflects Broderzon’s complex personality.
The letter ‫ ש‬may refer to the first consonant of the word
‫( שווַארץ‬Shvarts) and ‫( שבס‬shabes)—the title of his composi-
tion. The same letter also begins the word ‫( שטעטל‬shtetl,
or town), where the poetic narrative unfolds. Applying the
same rule one can read the large, modern-style letter M as
standing for “metropolis,” “miasto” (city), or even Manches-
ter, as Łódź was often called. It is also, significantly, the first
Roman letter of the artist’s name—Moishe. We are thus
faced with a complicated program of symbols and visual
semantic figures which project the figure of the artist and
poet, as grown into the very tissue of the young, developing
city. At the same time the Hebrew letter signals his connec-
tion to the movement to revitalize Yiddish literature and
culture and the traditions of the shtetl, which was a recur-
rent motif both in Broderzon’s work and in that of the other
2 Woodcut. Portrait of Moyshe Broderzon. 1921. Jankiel Adler. Shvarts- members of the Yung-yidish group.
shabes 1921. (Coll. National Library, Warsaw)

The Destructive Force of History—the

Apocalypse of War in the Shtetl and the City
In the artistic visions of artists belonging to the generation
which ran parallel with his painting and graphic output, of 1914, the catastrophe of World War I usually unfolds in
most notably expounded in pieces such as Shvarts Shabes, a city—a metropolis. It is there that it is at its most spec-
Dos naye yor,38 Der royter rayter,39 or A Khesenke.40 tacular, bringing an end to civilization and the achievements
On the pages of Shvarts Shabes (1920), illustrated by of recent years, such as industrialization. As I have already
Broderzon’s colleague from “Yung-yidish,” Yankel Adler, is stated, such a vision of the city already appears in the lead-
an Expressionist, woodcut portrait of the poet (Fig. 2). His up to World War I. In 1913, Ludwig Meidner painted a
characteristic face looks like a mask, and the large, slanted number of canvases depicting a city in a state of catastrophe
eyes with their piercing pupils lend it an animal expression. (Apocalyptic City, 1913; Burning City, 1913).
Circling around the artist’s bust, with its distinctive face and The first of these displays42 reverses the proportions
a hand holding a book. Animating the background is a scat- between elements: the city, with characteristic big city tene-
tered collection of attributes. These seemingly haphazard ments, seen from above, takes up a relatively small space in
items, which are all part of the narrative, are reminiscent the back of the painting; daubed in monochromatic ochres,
of the individualistic, fragmented41 language of Broderzon’s it bends under the pressure of falling red, orange, green and
poetry, and are its graphic equivalent. They are a semantic black-streaked meteors of light, whose explosion tears the
rebus which, once read, forms a coherent artistic manifesto, grid of the streets apart. On the other hand, the Burning
echoing the ideas this Jewish Expressionist that are articu- City, shaken by explosions, is shown in the background,
lated in his writings. with a crowded tangle of people in the foreground. The
To the left of the poet’s likeness are a clock and a lan- subject of the first painting is the city as such—a soulless
tern—symbols of the city of Łódź, where life buzzed to the organism subjected to a cataclysm. In the second painting
rhythm of factory clocks. To the right, in the background, the tragedy of the city is compounded by the emotions of
is a building with two chimneys, and rectangular, deformed the people fleeing it. They emerge from its space into a
shapes of buildings. These are yet more semantic clues dimensionless and expressionless void. Among the bodies it
pointing to Łódź—a frenzied and dynamic organism, like is hard to make out any features or facial expressions. The

246 centro pa 1 5 . 3 : se p tember 2 0 1 5

formal device underscoring the emotional, radical aura of Destruction of the Ghetto Kiev, 1919 (Fig. 4). The typical low
the painting is the pathetic, Baroque gesture of twisted bod- and irregular architecture of small Jewish towns attains the
ies and gnarled members. density of mass proper to the metropolis in which bodies of
Representations of this type in Meidner’s work have victims are anonymous organic forms hemmed in by endless
elicited a large number of studies and analyses,43 while the and soulless walls (as in Lasar Segall’s Russian Village I and
artist himself is considered to be the main representative After the Pogrom, 1912 (Fig. 5). The shtetl is thus “metropo-
of apocalyptic themes in Expressionist art: his method of lized” as the center of the Jewish catastrophe—that is, the
capturing the city also has been recognized as model, by his mounting pogroms in the Russian Empire after 1903 (such
contemporaries. In 1923, ten years after Meidner painted as the Kishinev pogrom), which did not cease after 1919.
his first apocalyptic cityscape, Heinrich Edouard Jacob44 The cascade of houses shown as a triangle (Ryback) with,
claimed he was the only artist with an “apocalyptic sense at its vertex, a giant synagogue made up of descending bro-
of form.”45 At the same time, no longer solely referring to ken outlines of roofs and walls, fills up the whole universe.48
Meidner’s work, but trying to define “artistic forms of the In these representations of the shtetl we will not find the
apocalypse”46 in the introduction to his essay, Jacob first of contrast, suggested by Georg Simmel, between the dynamic
all described the emotions of modern man with regard to metropolis and the idyllic life of the countryside.49 The
the apocalyptic cityscape: “This broken house, in the mid- small, peripheral space of the Jewish town supplies scenes as
dle of Berlin, in the middle of a circle of bands that had been dramatic as those that unfold in the industrial city, only this
leading from the Zoologischer Garten to Treptow, seemed drama is expressed differently. Sometimes, as in the paint-
to me the real truth, the thoughtless expression of Berlin, ings of Ryback and Manievich, it is not just exemplified by
“yes to be the world. Something very German—if you will, the exaggerated proportions of shtetl buildings, but also by
at the same time very Jewish . . . .”47 The author posited the void of a post-pogrom town. That, in essence, is the
equality between the Germanness, or rather Berlinness, of principal difference between these portrayals of the Jewish
the “sense of apocalypse,” and its Jewishness, introducing, town and Meidner’s works in which the cataclysm is situated
by the same token, the latter notion into the discourse on in the big city. It is not exploding grenades that shake the
Expressionist art, at the same time implying that apocalypse shtetl, as they do the metropolis, but growing pogroms. It
is deeply rooted in the Jewish experience, which entails spe- is similar to what David G. Roskies writes: “. . . the locus of
cific visual and iconographic forms. Jewish suffering was not the battlefield but the cities and
The “apocalyptic landscape”—the title Meidner gave to market towns in Eastern Europe . . . the Jewish tragedy was
his paintings—is therefore characterized by unnatural pro- kept separate from world events . . . .”50 Jewish soldiers at
portions between the human figure and city architecture, the front, including many artists such as Jakob Steinhardt,
deformed buildings, and the hyperbolization of certain ele- Henrich Tischler, and Ludwig Meidner saw the impact of
ments of the city, to underscore chaos and the enormity of world history on the breakdown of shtetl culture. In their
destruction. A characteristic device is to show the apocalyptic visions of the shtetl their individual experience as soldiers
moment in motion, at its explosive climax. This is achieved on the eastern front is in concert with their fascination with
through, among other things, architectural elements painted the spirituality of Eastern European Jews. There is a dra-
using zigzagging, coiled lines or colorful stains, to simulate matic quality and melancholy similar to elegiac poetry in
buildings falling in a cascade. Such cascades are a prominent these visual accounts. Instead of Baroque, twisted bodies,
feature of the paintings of Jacob Steinhardt, where they are explosions and intense colors, there appears the image of
not limited to big cityscape compositions but seem to be the a still town, monochromatic and in cool tones. Victims, if
artist’s way of building tension and introducing a surreal and they appear, are organically integrated into the wounded
mythical quality to his work. His figure of the prophet in Der tissue of the shtetl, as in Segall’s painting Russian Village
Prophet (1913) appears as a gigantic, triangular mass tower- (1913), in which two female figures are the same size as the
ing over a crowd of people below. The buildings behind the buildings drawn in the background, while the lines framing
prophet’s back rise chaotically toward an invisible pinnacle their silhouettes cross with the lines of the houses.
from which lightning rays shoot out in single zigzags. His The difference, presented above, between the apoca-
hands are raised to this source. lyptic metropolis and the apocalyptic shtetl reflects the
This compositional technique also spread to represen- dichotomy of sacred and profane. The shtetl is an enclave
tations of the shtetl. It is evident in Issachar Ryback’s paint- of the old, traditional ways of life, and Jewish Expression-
ing The Old Synagogue, 1917 (Fig. 3), and Small Town after ists often portrayed it as a sacred realm. This is signaled
the Pogrom, as well as by a work of Abraham Manievich, by Shabbat candles lighting up windows, figures making

a p ocaly p tic city versus a p ocaly p tic s h tetl 247

3 Oil on canvas. “The Old Synagogue.”
1917. 97 x 146 cm. Issachar Ryback. Tel Aviv
(Collection: Museum of Art Collection.
Acquisition, 1951. Photo: Avraham Hai)

4 Oil on canvas. “Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev.” 1919. 179.4 x 183.2

cm. Abraham Manievich. (Collection: Jewish Museum, New York: Gift of
Deana Bezark in memory of her husband, Leslie Bezark, 1991-30)

5 Lithograph. “After the pogrom.” ca. 1912 (?). 46 x 36.5 cm. Lasar
Segall, 1891 Vilna - 1957 São Paulo. (Collection: Lasar Segall Museum
Collection IBRAM/MinC. Photo: Luiz Hossaka)

248 centro pa 1 5 . 3 : se p tember 2 0 1 5

religious gestures, or a synagogue towering over the sur- And of a babe beside its mother flung
roundings. In this space the idea of apocalypse is strictly Its mother speared, the poor chick finding rest
bound up with messianism; the downfall of one order Upon its mother’s cold and milkless breast;52
and religious system brings hopes of a mystical rebirth.
As in literature, it is a quasi-mythical place, possessed of Vita Susak points out another possible literal source of
its own inner narrative. The decadence of the metropolis Ryback series—the testimony of the pogrom in Lysyanka
reflects the failure of profane culture: streets filled with village written by Joseph Tolchinski and published by
ambling prostitutes, drunks, somnambulants, pimps, and Tcher­ikower in his book on pogroms.53 Aside from obvious
morphine addicts (Jakob Steinhardt, The City (Die Stadt), references to Christian art (in the above scene, to images
1913; Ludwig Meidner, The Bar, Wilmersdorf, 1915). The of the Madonna) what is most striking about this painting
shtetl’s decadence is the disappearing world of spirituality is the relation between the primitive, hieratic style chosen
and tradition, ravaged by the demons of the modern age. by Ryback and seventeenth-century paintings of Khmel-
The Jewish artist is thus trapped between two catastro- nytsky’s Cossack troops, which in 1648 carried out a bloody
phes—the catastrophe of the big city, which expresses his pogrom, without precedent in the modern period, of the
modern identity, and the catastrophe of the shtetl, which Jews of northeastern Ukraine. Right until the pogroms of
represents his connection to Jewish spirituality and consti- the beginning of the twentieth century, this event was the
tutes a source of mystical inspiration. most powerful topos of Jewish catastrophe in the history
In his cycle of thirty lithographs produced between of the shtetl. This parallel is as obvious as the fact that the
1917 and 1921 titled Shtetl, My Destroyed Home, Issachar Khmelnytsky pogroms were recalled in collective memory
Ryback introduced the sacred sphere of the shtetl for the both at the time of the Kishinev pogrom in 190354 and dur-
last time. These prints, made in a Cubist-Expressionist ing the 1918–191955 civil war in Ukraine, which Ryback’s
style, yet displaying the profound influence of Ukrainian cycle illustrates.
and Russian folk art, illustrate various scenes from shtetl Ziva Amishai-Maisels was the first to point to the liter-
life—the Jewish life cycle, festivals, Jews at their daily occu- ary inspiration of pogrom scenes depicted in art. The afore-
pations. For Ryback, arresting this world in art had both an mentioned Bialik’s poem was a model for the developing of
artistic and a personal dimension—in 1921 his father had a new pogrom iconography by Jakob Steinhardt.56 As Amis-
been murdered by Symon Petlura’s Ukrainian troops. hai-Maisels argues, Steinhardt had never witnessed pogrom
And yet, as early as 1919, Ryback made the cycle himself therefore poetic depictions of massacres on Jewish
Pogrom,51 in which the dramaturgy and literal rendition community in Kishiniev had a strong impact on his way of
of massacres and rapes can only be likened to the songs of expressing these tragic events in his art to the extent that
pogroms composed contemporaneously by Yiddish poets, some scenes seem to be a plastic vision of Bialik’s poems.57
including Peretz Markish (Di Kupe, 1921) and Chaim Pogroms, war, art, and poetry, all inspired artists’ inten-
Nachman Bialik. It is likely that the latter’s poem In the sified efforts to develop a new national language of Jewish
City of Slaughter, written after the Kishinev pogrom, was culture and art in the face of the desecration of the shtetl. In
one of the poetic inspirations for Ryback’s cycle. Individual this spirit, programs and manifestos were elaborated in avant-
scenes presenting victims of the pogrom and the violence garde Yiddish literary and poetic circles, heralding the dawn
of the Ukrainian soldiers—desecrating holy books and of a new, post-apocalyptic reality. Their authors included Per-
synagogues, raping and murdering, all of it shown on paral- etz Markish (The Aesthetics of Struggle in Modern Poetry),58 Uri
lel planes, with an emphasis on the most important attri- Tsevi Grinberg (Proclamation59 or Manifesto to the Opponents of
butes: martyred faces, splashing blood, the crescent-shaped New Poetry),60 Moishe Broderzon, and Henryk Berlewi, who in
Cossack saber, flames rising from wooden buildings—is a his 1922 manifesto Struggle for a New Form, called for the cre-
­literal reflection of Bialik’s poem. One of the scenes shows ation of a new post-apocalyptic artistic language: “Our Times
a woman lying lifeless on the ground. She is dead, but there are devoid of style; it is a period of anarchy in art. . . . We are left
is a baby sucking greedily at her breast. The red hue of her as if after an earthquake, or a violent storm, and we are forced
tousled hair confirms that she has been murdered, her torn to take up building anew, a new which so far has not existed . . .
and incomplete clothing a sign that she was probably also .”61 But while Berlewi postulated creation without the “limita-
raped. Behind her is the small figure of her assassin in Cos- tions of tradition” there was still the need to restore the sacred
sack garb: at the bottom of the picture is a town engulfed by that Yankel Adler had articulated in his manifesto a year previ-
red flames. The scene is a literal rendition of a verse from ously, writing in the introduction, “We are the children of the
Bialik’s In the City of Slaughter: twentieth century. Our lullabies were drowned by the noise of

a p ocaly p tic city versus a p ocaly p tic s h tetl 249

the city, the night is, above all, synonymous with the night-
life of cafés, theatres, and brothels. The night of the shtetl is
a night of lit candles, sorrowful figures trailing home from
the synagogue, home interiors animated by prayer, religious
ecstasy or tableside conversations.
Shtetl night is suffused with apocalyptic images rooted
in symbolic thought and folk beliefs. Darkness is associated
with impure forces and, as the opposite of light—made on
the first day of creation—with destruction. In the sacred-
ness of the shtetl, in the dark, demons prowl and impure
instincts are roused. In Vincent Brauner’s linocut Dancing
Devil (Fig. 6) a naked woman, personifying Lilith, dances
on a rope stretched over the heads of Jews dressed in tradi-
tional gabardines, with the outline of a town visible in the
background. This graphic depiction was probably inspired
by Jacob Steinhardt’s linocut dated nine years earlier, The
Burning of the Witches, which introduced the demonological
motif into the repertoire of Jewish Expressionists.
Lilith dances ecstatically in the glow of an inner light
pouring out from beyond her silhouette. Her mouth dis-
gorges shafts of light. This scene reflects the vision of an
apocalyptic town from the depths of the cultural imagina-
tion of Jewish orthodoxy, extracted and exposed by Yiddish-
language literature and poetry, which the avant-garde poets
endowed with a new significance. In his short drama The
Poet and the Female Demon, Moishe Broderzon, Brauner’s
friend from the “Yung-yidish” group, showcased the motif
6 Linocut. “Dancing devil.” 1919. Wincenty Brauner. Yung Yidish. 1919. of a female demon’s marriage to a man—a poet.64 Out of
Issue 2–3. 16. (Collection of The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical
two candidates competing for her hand in marriage—a
Institute, Warsaw).
classical Chinese poet and a shtetl bard (likely Broderzon’s
alter ego), the demoness Lilith chooses the latter—a choice
in favor of the avant-garde art.65 At the same time, the
the street. We spent our childhood in the brick houses of the poet—according to Rozier’s interpretation—is the one who
great city similar to army barracks,”62 to conclude, in the end, “proves stronger than the ‘representative of hell’.”66 A post-
that Expressionist art was the best way of restoring the sacred: apocalyptic, messianic theme thus appears here, as in Ber-
“We, the young, have quite lost the relationship to God of our lewi’s manifesto. The figure of Lilith in Brauner’s print may
fathers; we have lost everything possessed by those satisfied thus symbolize an unbounded, primordial creative power
with themselves—half sin, half virtue; our trust in people was which enables the artist establish a new world order. Even
poisoned when we were still young, and in our hearts we are if he must join forces with the forces of evil, he is the one
weighed down with the burden of a great, great longing for to bring back holiness, turning the profane into the sacred.
God and eternity, for the power that made Creation happen, The above example demonstrates that the shtetl night
for Logos. The art of the twentieth century, Expressionist art, can also have the power to purify, to eradicate evil and to
was born from this longing and it is the seventh day and the create life anew. In Vincent Brauner’s woodcut Tekiah
week of the commonplace is over.”63 Gedola (Fig. 7), an ecstatically elongated male figure rises
up. Its body is lit up by a lantern on the side, beyond which
a lane, with typical Expressionist curves and breaks, climbs
When the Shtetl and the City Sleep, Demons uphill. Beneath its feet lies an unfolded scroll, and in the
Are Roused very corner of the picture tiny figures resembling Adam and
Night is the setting for the majority of apocalyptic paint- Eve in their flight from paradise have been rendered. Tekiah
ings, both those set in the city and those set in the shtetl. In Gedola is the third, long sound of the shofar on Yom Kip-
pur, a call to battle, symbolizing the force that infuses a man

250 centro pa 1 5 . 3 : se p tember 2 0 1 5

once he is cleansed of sin. The scroll is probably the Book
of Life. People’s fates are determined on the first day of
the Jewish New Year. Weighing their actions, God decides
whether their names should be inscribed in the Book of
Life, confirming thereby that they have been righteous. In
case of doubt, the decision can be postponed—the sinner
then has ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip-
pur to repent. It is a time of atonement and it is then that
services at the synagogue are accompanied by the sound of
the shofar. In case of this woodcut the sacred and profane
are mixed again. Also, the naked figure of a man brings a
notion of a primeval, sexual male power aroused in ecstasy.
The double meaning of this work can also have a Christian
connotation—in the title of this woodcut, inscribed by the
artist, Brauner spells Tekiah wrong, omitting the ‫ע‬ in ‫העיקת‬,
so that the word can also be read as ‫היחת‬, resurrection.67 It is
highly possible, that it is not a mere spelling mistake but a
conscious hint of the messianic message in this work.
Brauner’s print and the linocut Dancing Devil, described
above, represent the comprehensive program of an avant-
garde group of artists who have chosen the apocalyptic
shtetl as the backdrop for the changes occurring in Jewish
society and the birth of a new artistic language. As in the
works of I. L. Peretz,68 the shtetl has descended into deca-
dence, riven by old customs and habits and impure forces;
it is a locus of mystical experience, but also the home of
ordinary people, their grievances and tragedies.
To complete the picture, however, one must also look 7 Linocut. “Tekiah Gedola.” 1919. Wincenty Brauner. Yung Yidish.
Issue 4–6. 13. (Collection of The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical
at the way Jewish demons enter the space of the Euro-
Institute, Warsaw)
pean metropolis. In his illustrations to Gustav Meyrink’s
Golem,69 Hugo Steiner-Prag drew a clear, stylistic distinc-
tion between the urbane, calm moments in the narrative
and those in which irrational and catastrophic elements
come to the fore. Prior to the appearance of the golem the for many a day.”71 The golem is an urban phantom; it is the
ghetto is a calm, urbane Prague street with elegant people city, the Jewish quarter, that unleashes its power—it thus
promenading among tall tenements (In the Ghetto). But has the power to transform, and the action that unfolds in
where mystical (The Alchemist’s Street, ill. 21), mysterious it combines the past and mythological tense with the con-
(The Appearance of the Golem, ill. 6), or dark and tragic (Per- temporary moment.
secuted, ill. 14, Branded, ill. 16, Murder, ill. 23, The End of the The Jewish quarter, as a gloomy, bleak peripheral out-
Ghetto, ill. 24)70 elements appear, the action moves inward. skirt of the big city, also appears in the work of a Jewish
The narrow lanes of the Jewish quarter become darker and Expressionist from Breslau (currently Wrocław)—Heinrich
darker, revealing collapsing houses with glassless windows, Tischler. Tischler made his debut in galleries in Breslau and
torn walls and gaping, deserted interiors. The modern Jew- Berlin during and right after World War I. Like many other
ish district on the outskirts of the big city is also the site of Jewish artists sent to the front,72 he was partial to the fate of
the catastrophe announced by the golem. A myth, a phan- Eastern European Jews, which affected his work. In 1915,
tom, is thus transformed into a physical history comprising he finished a series of woodcuts entitled Kriegsbilder. Also
pogroms, war, and persecution. As the author of the novel preserved are his prints of Eastern European Jews, includ-
wrote, “Who can say he knows anything about the Golem? ing pogrom escapees.73
. . . Always they treat it as a legend, till something happens Two of Tischler’s paintings, with similar titles—Die
and turns it into actuality again. After which it’s talked of Gasse (The Lane), 1920; and another with an added subtitle,

a p ocaly p tic city versus a p ocaly p tic s h tetl 251

The Suburbs of Breslau (1920),74 are representative of a cur- pogroms of East European shtetls were events comparable
rent in his work that uses a seemingly universal theme— to this topos, shaping Jewish historical imagination. The
urban landscape—to send a deeper message. Both paintings vision of catastrophe, of the collapse of the old order, and
employ a gloomy, dark palette of ochre, umber and sienna. the need to develop new living conditions, to redefine one’s
In the first, figures with elongated faces and almond eyes identity, expressing the fears of the generation of 1914, as
drift down an oneiric street that gives the impression of a well as attempts to find for these experiences an innova-
gorge lined by tall houses bereft of details and with tiny tive means of expression, was a distinguishing feature of the
windows, dissolving into fog. They move along walls that work of Jewish Expressionists, including Ludwig Meidner,
separate them from the rest of the city. The city appears Jacob Steinhardt, Lasar Segall, Issachar Ryback, Abraham
anonymous, just like the people walking toward the viewer Manievich, and Heinrich Tischler. I have tried to define
in a grim exodus, sharing nothing but an expression of how their experience of catastrophe permeated their rep-
deep melancholy in their faces, amplified by their hunched resentations of big cities, with which they identified as
postures. A woman pushing a pram in the foreground, her avant-garde, modern artists, and how it impacted their
Venetian pink garment making her stand out from the sur- vision of the apocalyptic shtetl—a theme they introduced
roundings, looks directly at the viewer, while a number of into the Expressionist repertoire. I have also analyzed both
the human figures behind her, half-blended into the mono- the visual language and ideas that might have influenced
chromatic background, turn around to catch a glimpse of a their work: the apocalyptic and messianic notions current
figure in the back—a bearded man dressed in a long, black in the philosophy of the day, folk beliefs, and the aesthetics
coat. Is this a tramp, a bohemian, or a Jew? of Yiddish-language literature, which flourished at the time.
In the second painting, very similar in expression,
we also see ovoid human figures against the backdrop of This article was translated by Dominika Gajewska.
a city—phantom, fortress. Behind them, horses pull car-
riages, and in the rear, a stooping woman sits on a bench The background research for this article was financed by the National Sci-
ence Center through a post-doctoral intership “Fuga 2,” decision no. DEC-
next to a man reading a newspaper—probably the artist
2013/08/S/HS2/00535. Project title: “Jewish expressionism—a quest for
himself. Both the monochromatic quality of the two paint-
cultural space.” I would like to thank Prof. Jerzy Malinowski, Prof. Ziva
ings, which heightens their melancholy air, and the man- Amishai-Maisels, and Dr. Evyatar Marienberg for carefully reading this
ner of portraying human figures, particularly faces, exhibits article and for their valuable comments and suggestions. M. S.-F.
something of Munch’s tendency to show human figures
against the background of a deserted landscape or city view.
Unlike Meidner’s work, the expressive dynamic here has
not been achieved through bright colors, clear-cut forms
1. Translated from Yiddish to Polish by Aleksandra Geller in: Warszawska
or deformed facial grimaces. To Tischler, the apocalypse is, Awangarda jidysz. Antologia tekstów (Warsaw Yiddish Avant-garde. Anthol-
rather, an expression of still sadness, the monotone archi- ogy of texts). Edited by Karolina Szymaniak. Słowo/Obraz Terytoria.
tecture of the Jewish quarter, characterized by gloom and Gdańsk 2005. 81. English translation by Dominika Gajewska.
desolation. Rather than writing of the Munch-like quality of 2. German Expressionism 1915–1925: The Second Generation (ed: Stepha-
nie Barron, Peter W. Guenther and Friedrich Heckmanns, Fritz Loffler,
these Jewish suburbs in Tischler’s paintings, Jewish review-
Eberhard Roters, and Stephan Von Wiese). Prestel, Munich, London, New
ers described their atmosphere as “Kafkaesque.” Applied to York. 1988. 117.
Tischler’s urban landscapes, of which there are relatively 3. Ibid., 118.
few, this is code for a reality created by the artist, standing 4. Robert Wohl. The Generation of 1914. Harvard University Press, Cam-
at the juncture of illusion and reality, dreaming and waking; bridge, Mass. 1979.
situated at the periphery and permeated by grief, as a part of 5. Anson Rabinbach. “Between Enlightenment and Apocalypse: Benjamin,
Bloch and Modern German Messianism,” New German Critique. no. 34.
the Jewish experience.
Winter 1996. 78–91.
6. Ibid., 103–4.
7. Ibid., 110. Original source of the quotation: Ernst Bloch. Geist der Uto-
Conclusion pie (The Spirit of Utopia). Duncker und Humblot, München und Leipzig.
The apocalypse is a trans-generational phenomenon in 1918. 433.
8. A. Rabinbach, article cited in the note 5 above. 110. The same sentence
the Jewish world. The image of a ruined city is anchored
also in: A. Rabinbach. In the Shadow of Catastrophe: German Intellectuals between
in Jewish collective memory and has accompanied the Apocalypse and Enlightenment. University of California Press. 2001. 53. Inter-
Jews since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. The estingly, in the latter book, the word “war” is used rather than the “old order.”
destruction of European cities during the War and the 9. Perec Markisz. “Przechodząc mimo” (Despite Passing). Translated by

252 centro pa 1 5 . 3 : se p tember 2 0 1 5

Aleksandra Geller. Warszawska awangarda jidysz cited in the note 1. 38. Eng- 28. Inka Bertz. “Propheten und Ostjuden,” Jakob Steinhardt. Der Prophet.
lish translation Dominika Gajewska. Jüdisches Museum Berlin. 1995. 76.
10. Quotation from Michael Löwy and Renée B. Larrier. “Jewish Messian- 29. See note 28 above.
ism and Libertinian Utopia in Central Europe (1900–1933),” New German 30. See note 28 above. 86.
Critique. no. 20. Special Issue 2: “German and Jews.” Spring–Summer 1980. 31. This motif is also present in art of other Jewish artists such as Wilhelm
101. Original source: Gershom Scholem. “Zum Verständnis der messian- Wachtel, Samuel Hirszenberg, and Leopold Pilichowski.
ischen Ideen im Judentum.” Judaica I. Frankfurt am Main. 1963. 20. 32. Hannah Arendt. The Jew As Pariah: Jewish Identity and Politics in the
11. Article cited in note 10 above. 107. Modern Age. New York. 1978. 67–90.
12. Article cited in note 5 above. 80. 33. Menorah. No. 10. 1924.
13. Article cited in note 5 above. 80. 34. See citations on page 5.
14. David G. Roskies. Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Mod- 35. See: Ziva Amishai—Maisels. “Die drei Gesichter des Jakob Steinhardt”
ern Jewish Culture. Syracuse University Press. 1999. (Three faces of Jakob Steinhardt). Also, see note 28, above, pp. 25–26.
15. Article cited in note 5 above. 80. 36. Uri Tsevi Grinberg. “Manifest. Przeciwnikom nowej poezji” (Mani-
16. More on this issue can be found in: Krieg! 1914–1914. Juden zwischen festo. To opponents of the new poetry). Warszawska awangarda jidysz cited
den Fronten (ed: Ulrike Heikaus and Julia B. Köhne). Jüdisches Museum in note 1 above. 85. Translated from Yiddish to Polish by: Aleksandra
München. 2014; G.L. Mosse. The Jews and the German War Experience. New Geller. English translation: Dominika Gajewska.
York. 1977; Henry Abramson. A Prayer for the Government: Ukrainians and 37. For more on the Yung-Yidish group, see Jerzy Malinowski. Grupa “Jung
Jews in Revolutionary Times, 1917–1920. Cambridge, Mass. 1999; Egmont Idysz” i żydowskie środowisko “Nowej Sztuki” w Polsce: 1918–1923 (“Yung
Zechlin. Die deutsche Politik und die Juden im Ersten Weltkrieg. Göttingen. Yidish” group and Jewish environment of “New Art” in Poland: 1918–
1969. Konrad Zieliński. Stosunki polsko-żydowskie na ziemiach Królestwa 1923). Warszawa. Polska Akademia Nauk. Instytut Sztuki. 1987; Jerzy
Polskiego w czasie pierwszej wojny światowej [Polish-Jewish relations in the Malinowski. Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydów Polskich w XIX i XX wieku (Painting
territories of the Polish Kingdom at the time of the First World War]. and sculpture of Polish Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries).
Wydawnictwo UMCS, Lublin. 2005. Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, Warszawa. 2000. 145–226.
17. The idea of the apocalypse, as anticipated and expressed in arts well 38. A more detailed study of both these texts can be found in: Gilles Rozier.
before World War I, had been introduced by Ziva Amishai-Maisels in her Mojżesz Broderson. Od Jung Jidysz do Araratu (Mojżesz Broderson. From
two important publications: an article, “The Jewish Jesus.” Journal of Jewish Yung-Yidish to Ararat). Hamal. Łódź 1999. 67–69.
Art. vol. 9. 1982. 100; and a book, Jakob Steinhardt: Etchings and Lithographs. 39. See note 38 above. 80.
Dvir, Jerusalem. 1981. 10. I am very grateful to Prof. Ziva Amishai-Maisels 40. See note 38 above. 81.
for carefully reading my article and for her valuable comments. 41. See note 38 above. 12.
18. Martina Padberg. “Upojenie światem” (Intoxication by the world). 42. Oil on canvas. “Apocalyptic Landscape.” 1913. Ludwig Meidner. West-
Ekspresjonista Ludwig Meidner. Muzeum Miejskie Wrocławia, Wrocław. fälische Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster.
2005. 27–29; Martina Padberg. “Weltentaumel—Anmerkungen zu Ludwig 43. Martina Padberg. “Upojenie światem.” See note 18 above. 12–45; Georg
Meidners expressionistischer Werkphase,” Ludwig Meidner—Weltentaumel Heuberger. “’Verzückung, Inbrunst, Angst, Demut und Todesnot’. Ludwig
(ed: Verein August Macke Haus e.V.). Bonn. 2004. 12–45; Erik Riedel. Meidner als jüdischer Künstler,” Apokalypse und Offenbarung. Religiöse Themen
“‘Vor dem Grimassierenden Spiegel,’ Ludwig Meidner in Selbstzeugnissen im Werk von Ludwig Meidner (eds: Ljuba Berankova and Erik Riedel). Jüdisches
und –Bildnisssen),” Das Jahr 1914. Ludwig Meidner in Dresden (eds: Gis- Museum Frankfurt a. Main. 1996. 9–36; Das Jahr 1914. Ludwig Meidner in
bert Porstmann und Johannes Schmidt). Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Dresden (eds: Gisbert Porstmann and Johannes Schmidt). Städtische Galerie.
König, Dresden. 2013. 33; Eberhard Roters. “The Painter’s Night.” The Dresden. 2013. The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner (ed: Carol S.
Apocalyptic Landscapes of Ludwig Meidner (ed: Carol S. Eliel). Los Angeles Eliel). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Prestel. 1989.
County Museum of Art, Prestel. 1989. 80. 44. Edouard Heinrich Jacob was a journalist and writer. He came from a
19. See note 18 above. middle-class Jewish family in Berlin. He was associated with the circle of
20. Martina Padeberg. See note 18 above. See also: Małgorzata Stolarska- Berlin Expressionists.
Fronia. Udział Żydów wrocławskich w kulturalnym i artystycznym życiu mia- 45. Heinrich Eduard Jacob. „Notitzen zur Apokalyptischen Kunstform,”
sta od emancypacji do 1933 r. (The participation of Breslasu Jews in artistic Der Feuerreiter. Blätter für Dichtung, Kritik, Graphik. V. 2. 1923. 28.
and cultural life of the city from the Emancipation until 1933). Neriton, 46. See note 45 above. 26–30.
Warszawa. 2008. 159–176. 47. See note 45 above. 26.
21. Das Jahr 1914. Ludwig Meidner in Dresden (ed: Gisbert Porstmann and 48. The triangular composition is a distinctive mark of the works of art-
Johannes Schmidt). Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Dresden. 2013. ists associated with the Poznań artistic group Bunt, which certainly had an
22. Ludwig Meidner. “Anleitung zum Malen von Grosstadtbildern.” Kunst impact on the beliefs and artistic language of members of the Yung Yiddish
und Künstler. no. 12. 1914. 312–14. group. I especially have in mind the George Hulewicz’s graphic “Tower of
23. Ludwig Meidner. “Gruss an Schlesien,” Schlesische Monatshefte. Year- Babel” from 1919. Stanisław Kubicki made composition of the same title.
book 7. no. 9. 1930. 370. See: Jerzy Malinowski. Sztuka i nowa wspólnota. Zrzeszenie artystów Bunt
24. Jakob Steinhardt. Der Prophet. Jüdisches Museum Berlin. 1995. 13. 1917–1922 (Art and the new community . Association of artists Bunt 1917–
25. Sammlung Jakob und Minni Steinhardt. Jüdisches Museum Berlin. 1922). Wiedza o kulturze. Wrocław 1991 and also J. Malinowski. Malarstwo
DOK95/522/7-12. i rzeźba Żydów polskich. 191. Clearly inspired by “Tower of Babel “ Kubicki
26. For Minni Steinhardt, see note 25 above. is a woodcut Henryk Barciński’s “Landscape with windmills” (1919).
27. Jakob Steinhardt. Kürzer Lebenslauf. Sammlung Jacob und Minni 49. Georg Simmel. “From ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’” (ed: Timothy
Steinhardt Documents of life and Memoirs. Jüdisches Museum Berlin. O. Benson), Expressionists Utopias. Paradise, Metropolis, Architectural Fantasy.
DOK95/522/7-12. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 2001. 266.

a p ocaly p tic city versus a p ocaly p tic s h tetl 253

50. David G. Roskies. Against the Apocalypse. Responses to Catastrophe in Mod- Press. Cambridge, Mass., and London. 2002. 182.
ern Jewish Culture. Syracuse University Press. 1999. 92. 62. Jankiel Adler. “Expressionism (Fragments from a lecture).” Originally pub-
51. Image available online: lished as “Ekspresjonizm (fragment z prelekcji),” Nasz Kurier, no. 292 (Decem-
picUrl= ber 5, 1920). Translated by: Wanda Kemp-Welch. Between worlds: a sourcebook
Path=prdPics/302_bigPic.jpg of central European avant-gardes 1910–1930 (eds: Timothy O. Benson and Éva
52. Haim Nachman Bialik. “The City of Slaughter.” Complete Poetic Works Forgács). The MIT Press. Cambridge, Mass., and London. 2002. 181.
of Hayyim Nahman Bialik (ed: Israel Efros). New York. 1948. 129–43. Trans- 63. See note 62 above. 182.
lated by Abraham M. Klein. 64. Rozier. Mojżesz Broderson. Od Jung Jidysz do Araratu. See also note 50
53. Vita Susak. “Laocoon: or, the ‘Limits’ of Pogrom’s Representation in above. 87.
Visual Arts (First third of the XXth ct.).” Manuscript of the article to be 65. Idem.
published in the volume: Art in Jewish Society. Warsaw, 2015. Quoted here 66. Idem.
with permission of the author. 67. I am extremely grateful to Prof. Ziva Amishai-Maisels for noticing this
54. See Roskies. Against the Apocalypse. Responses to Catastrophe in Modern very important detail on Brauner’s woodcut, and for identifying it for me as
Jewish Culture, note 50 above, 98. essential to the interpretation of this work.
55. Ibid., 101, 102. 68. Salomon Belis-Legis. “Icchok Lejbusz Perec—Niespokojny duch
56. Ziva Amishai—Maisels. „Steinhardt and Bialik,” Jewish Book Annual. żydowskiej literatury” (Yitskok Leybush Peretz—A restless spirit of Jewish
Vol. 42. 1984–85. 137–49. literaturę). Yitskok Leybush Peretz. Hasidic and Folk Tales. Translation from
57. Ibid. Yiddish to Polish: Michał Friedman. Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie. Wrocław.
58. Perec Markisz. “Estetyka walki w nowoczesnej poezji” (Aesthetics strug- 1997. 21–23.
gle in modern poetry), Warszawska awangarda jidysz. See also note 1 above. 69. Gustav Meyrink. Der Golem. Mit 8 Litographien von Hugo Steiner-Prag.
47–69. Translated from Yiddish into Polish by Karolina Szymaniak. Kurt Wolff Verlag. Leipzig. 1915–1916.
59. Uri Tsevi Grinberg. „Proklamacja” (Proclamation). Warszawska awan- 70. All illustrations available on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
garda jidysz. See note 1 above. 73–79. Translated from Yiddish to Polish by webpage:
Karolina Szymaniak. 71. Meyrink. Der Golem (see note 69 above).
60. Uri Tsevi Grinberg. “Manifest. Przeciwnikom nowej poezji” (Mani- 72. Heinrich probably served in the cavalry.
festo. Opponents of the new poetry), see note 1 above. 81–87. 73. See Małgorzata Stolarska-Fronia. Udział Żydów wrocławskich w kultural-
61. Henrych (Henoch) Berlewi. “The struggle for a new form.” Originally nym i artystycznym życiu miasta od emancypacji do 1933 r. (The participation of
published as “W walce o nową formę,” Ringen, no. 1. 1921. Translated by Breslau Jews in artistic and cultural life of the city from the Emancipation
Wanda Kemp-Welch. Between worlds: a sourcebook of central European avant- until 1933). Neriton. Warsaw. 2008. 189–209.
gardes 1910–1930 (Eds: Timothy O. Benson and Éva Forgács). The MIT 74. Collection of Schlesisches Museum Görlitz.

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