Propaganda: Judenhass by Dave Sim

Published On August 2, 2008 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews


by Dave Sim

Dave Sim Judenhass cover.jpg

Judenhass, the title of Dave Sims first work since Cerebus, has a literal translation as “Jew Hatred”. When it was first revealed we all assumed this was to be a look at the Holocaust during WWII. But Sim takes the Holocaust and the inhumanity found in Germany as a mere starting point. Judenhass is more concerned with looking back into history, the ideas go far back in time to attempt to properly look at the ancient problem of Judenhass.

Artistically it is, for want of a more appropriate word, beautiful. In the initial few pages,, when Sim slowly advances into Auschwitz along the same railway tracks the victims entered, there is a stillness and silence in the page that is quite magnificent:


(The chilling yet beautiful pages leading into Auscwitz. From Judenhass by Dave Sim. Readable pages at the Judenhass website preview section)

Sim’s artwork in Judenhass is an exercise in photo-realism, and as such he’s used photographic records extensively. But the strength of his art is such that the emotion remains, and is even increased in his artwork. However the high point artistically occurs in the first third of the book where Sim uses all of his skills first to bring us into the camp and then to shock us, to horrify us with a view of the inmates practically entombed in their bunks:

Dave Sim Judenhass.jpg

But although the artwork throughout the book remains focused upon the horrors of the Holocaust, the writing does not. Sim is determined to go back into ancient history for evidence to prove that Judenhass has always existed. And here’s where the problems start. Because although Sim perfectly communicates the true horror of the Holocaust and the utterly abhorrent nature of Judenhass as a concept, he seems determined to root through history picking out only the evidence to back up his contention that Judenhass is so deep rooted in world culture, so ingrained, that there is a huge risk of it manifesting in anyone non-Jewish. And this sweeping statement, this determination to damn one and all just damages his message and the overall worth of the book.

He spends the majority of the book providing quotes from historical figures that are shocking and appalling in their hatred and intolerance. But surely, with a book this size and the tiny quotes involved it would be possible to go through history and make a similar case for anyone, race, creed or culture?

So I just feel Sim has gone into Judenhass with a singularity of purpose and a decision to find the worst in all men, pulling often tiny quotes without situating them in the context of the times. It smacks rather of a journalist accumulating evidence to simply support the editorial stance previously decided upon.

But, even with this problem with the book, there is still much to praise here. It was never going to be entertaining and was always going to be profoundly moving, but the beauty of parts of it surprised me. His message may be flawed, but it’s undeniably powerful and certainly warrants reading. If only so you can make up your own mind.

The Judenhass website has much more information, including an informative look at both the process of completing the book and the research involved.

Richard Bruton.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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