500 Years of Antisemitic Propaganda: The Katz Ehrenthal Collection
Anti-Jewish hatred has pervaded Western art, politics, and popular culture for centuries. Perceptions and understandings of Jews throughout history were manifested in objects—from fine arts and crafts for the elite to everyday toys and knickknacks and household items. Many of these objects promoted negative attitudes and stereotypes about Jews.
The Katz Ehrenthal Collection—acquired through the generosity of the Katz family—consists of over 900 individual objects depicting Jews and antisemitic and anti-Jewish propaganda from the Medieval to the modern era, created and distributed throughout Europe, Russia, and the United States. The same hateful stereotypes reappear throughout the collection, spanning centuries and continents. Not all of the objects are antisemitic, however, a small portion of the collection documents or combats specific antisemitic episodes.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Nazi propagandists used these same stereotypes with deadly consequences. For example, feature films, newsreels, toys, and games helped intensify negative stereotypes of Jews. Already portrayed as second-class citizens, they were increasingly characterized as “degenerates, criminals, and racially inferior corrupters of German society.” Some of the same beliefs are still prevalent in Western countries today.
Peter Ehrenthal, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, amassed the collection to document the pervasive history of anti-Jewish hatred in Western art, politics, and popular culture. Ehrenthal wrote that, through this collection, he tried to illuminate the root causes of why the public saw the Jew as “the incarnation of all evil, and why ... [the public] accepted the Hitlerian and even earlier persecutions and destruction of Jewish life.”