Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MAD Magazine Contributor's WWII POW Caricatures Discovered

The Museum of Jewish Heritage has a series of original sketches of WW2 P.O.W.s drawn by fellow prisoner (and future MAD Magazine contributor) Max Brandel on display in the main lobby thru March 31, 2016.

The New York Times in its article "Poignant Sketches By P.O.W.s in Germany" by Eve M. Kahn describes the situation in which the caricatures were created:

During World War II, the Nazis imprisoned African-American athletes and jazz musicians and European Jews with passports from the United States and Latin America at Tittmoning Castle in Bavaria. The black detainees had been working overseas, partly to escape racism at home, and some had European wives and children who were also taken to interment centers.
The little-known wartime deprivations of foreign nationals imprisoned by the Nazis come to life in a collection of caricatures that were drawn at Tittmoning and are on view through March 31 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. 
Max Brandel, a Jewish artist from Poland, made the sketches in 1943 for a fellow inmate, Jerome Mahrer, a Manhattan-born Jewish schoolboy. Mr. Mahrer, now a retired guidance counselor living in Manhattan, described life at Tittmoning as “mildly civilized.” 
He and his wife, Carolyn, donated the album to the museum in 1999, and information is still being gleaned about its contents. Its cover was made from a Red Cross box, stamped “package for prisoner of war,” by another inmate, Peter Rosenbaum, a German Jewish teenager whose family had acquired Salvadoran passports. (Mr. Mahrer’s son-in-law, Gregory Hiestand, is writing a book about the family’s wartime experiences.) 
... After the war, Mr. Brandel moved to New York with his wife, Lottie, who had been interned in France, and became a contributor to Mad magazine. Their daughter, Eve Brandel, a retired librarian, discovered the existence of the Tittmoning sketches in 2014 when she saw them on the museum’s website. 
Her father, who died in 1975 at 64, “never talked about the past — zero,” Ms. Brandel said. Maybe, she said, the sketching “helped him cope.” Some of the works show African-Americans playing piano or guitar, and guards baring their teeth. 
Sitters for some of the images inscribed the pages. The wrestler Kemal Abdul Rahman Berry, whose professional name was Reginald Siki, wrote, “Let’s keep going!” The pianist Freddy Johnson noted the title of a song, “September in the Rain,” that the young Jerome was trying to master on the accordion. “Squeeze Box Man” was the guitarist and banjoist John Mitchell’s nickname for the boy.

1 comment:

cafiend said...

A lot of strange things happened during the war. We can easily get the impression that it was all pretty clear cut, what happened to whom and why. Then you hear the lesser known stories, like the memoir of musician Otto Ninow,one-quarter Jewish and a German citizen, who was in and out of various work camps, but never either accepted enough to be forced into military service or Jewish enough to be herded off to a death camp. After all that, he and his wife were in more danger from the "liberating" Soviets than they had been from the Nazis and the bombs and battles of the war. They settled in North Conway after the war. He had a music store and taught skiing.

Also heard from my father -- whose family left France ahead of the German army -- that they could have stayed. In that case, I would never have been born.