United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

La Grande Tradition, 1939
The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk
wartime caricaturist

historical film
Exhibition tour
Curator's comments curator's
[USHMM #93874/Grosvenor Gallery, London;
Original materials: Pen, ink, and wash on paper;
Original dimensions: 9 13/20" x 6 6/10"]

La Grande Tradition, 1939
The figure of Death as a skeleton has a long lineage in Western art. Even before 1933, when the Nazis took power, Szyk had used this symbol to attack German militarism. During the war, Death frequently appeared in Szyk's work wearing a German uniform or accompanying Nazi leaders. Death, depicted here in the garb of an Imperial German officer, stands alongside Hitler, suggesting militaristic continuity in German history. On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland, triggering World War II. Less than three weeks later, the Soviet army attacked from the east. In October, Poland was defeated and dismembered by the two conquerors.

[Historical film footage:
German forces enter Warsaw

Warsaw, Poland
September 1939


Playing time 0:50

Imperial War Museum - Film Archive]

Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, beginning World War II. German forces swiftly overran Polish border defenses and approached Warsaw, Poland's capital city. Warsaw suffered heavy air attacks and artillery bombardments during the campaign. The city surrendered on September 27. This footage shows German forces entering Warsaw amidst the destruction caused by their bombardment of the city.

[Exhibition tour:
La Grande Tradition

Playing time 1:16

Narration from audio tour produced by Antenna Audio.]

Listen to the description of La Grande Tradition from the audio tour produced to accompany the Museum's exhibition.

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.

Jewish Artist
Action-not Pity
Szyk resources
Action-not Pity