Painter and illustrator Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) used his art both to aid the Allied war effort and to promote the rescue of Jews from the Holocaust. In the 1930s, Szyk created a Passover Haggadah which infused the ancient exodus story with anti-Nazi imagery. His Egyptian taskmasters wore swastika armbands, Pharoah’s snakes resembled Nazi officials Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering, and the “wicked son” character sported a Hitler-style mustache. Publishers in his native Poland and in Czechoslovakia turned down the project out of fear that it would offend the Nazis. In 1937, after Szyk moved to London, the Haggadah finally found a publisher, but only after most of the anti-Nazi images were deleted.
Szyk contributed cartoons to the British war effort, then went to the United States in 1940, where he drew anti-Nazi caricatures for Time, Life, and other leading magazines, as well as editorial cartoons for PM and the New York Post. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have remarked, “This is a personal war of Szyk against Hitler, and I do not tink that Mr. Szyk will lose this war!” Syzk was also active in the Bergson Group, which lobbied for rescue of Jews from the Holocaust and creation of a Jewish state. Szyk’s illustrations appeared in the Bergson Group’s full-page newspaper advertisements, brochures, and publications. The group called him “our one-man art department.”
Szyk’s widowed mother, age 70, was murdered in the Nazi death camp of Chelmno in 1942. “With her voluntarily went her faithful servant, the good Christian, Josefa, a Polish peasant,” Szyk later wrote. “Together, hand in hand, they were burned alive.” Szyk’s brother, and many of his wife’s relatives, were also killed by the Nazis.