United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Arthur Szyk

Satan Leads the Ball
[USHMM #93833/Location of original artwork unknown, photo courtesy of Irvin Ungar through the Arthur Szyk Society ]
Satan Leads the Ball, 1942 Detail

Satan's book

Wagner, 1942
Valhalla, 1942
interview curator's
Satan’s book
In his arm, Satan clutches a swastika-covered copy of Richard Wagner’s musical score for Der Ring des Nibelungen (shortened here to Nibelungenring), a monumental four-part opera cycle drawn from Germanic mythology and the medieval heroic epic, The Song of the Nibelungs. The Nazis glorified composer Wagner for his music, antisemitism, and national mythmaking. Here, Szyk pairs him with both Satan and the Nazis, suggesting the evil ingrained in his ideas and its consequences for German society and the world.

Wagner, 1942
[USHMM #93810/In Memory of Clarence H. Low, California;
Original materials: Watercolor, gouache, pastel, graphite, and ink on paper;
Original framed dimensions: 29 3/4" x 25 3/8"
Wagner, 1942
Detail showing Wagner at the piano
In 1942, Szyk created the Niebelungen, a series of works that alluded to nineteenth-century German composer Richard Wagner and his four-opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen (the Ring of the Nibelungs). Here, Wagner at the piano unleashes Wotan (the one-eyed Germanic god), militarism, and Nazism. During the Third Reich, the composer was revered as an ideological precursor to the Nazis because of his nationalism and antisemitism.

Valhalla, 1942

[USHMM #93871/Rinjiro Sodei, Japan;
Original materials: Gouache, graphite, and ink on board;
Original framed dimensions: 16 1/2" x 19"
Valhalla, 1942
Szyk caricatures Wotan’s palace, Valhalla, as a German beer hall, where the one-eyed divinity drinks with “heroes” of Germany’s imperial past, while Hitler, Mussolini, Goering, and Goebbels bring in food and libations. In the background, opposite bodies hanging from the gallows in a cemetery, is the aged French collaborator Petain preparing a meal for the guests. On the wall is a quote often cited by Szyk and attributed to Hitler: “Conscience is a Jewish invention.” To emphasize the antisemitic tradition in German history, the god Wotan sits with one foot on the body of a Jew and the other on a volume of poetry by nineteenth-century German Jewish author Heinrich Heine. Each of the “heroes” wears a swastika to suggest a continuity of German anitsemitism throughout the ages.

Exhibition tour
Steve Luckert

United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

Playing time 1:11]

Dr. Steve Luckert, curator of The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk, speaks about Arthur Szyk's portrayals of Adolf Hitler and the Axis leaders. Dr. Luckert also describes how Szyk emphasized what he saw as the embedded nature of militarism and antisemitism in German society.

[Exhibition tour with video illustration:

Playing time 1:11

Narration from audio tour produced by Antanna Audio.]

Listen to the description of Valhalla from the audio tour produced to accompany the Museum's exhibition. The video clip highlights features described in the narration.

Satan Leads the Ball

Jewish Artist
Wartime Caricaturist
Action - Not Pity
Szyk resources
Jewish Artist