A&R2008: Judenhass

Judenhass (2008) by Dave Sim

You thought the nightmare of this blog series was over after Cerebus #300! Dunn dunn dunn… you’re wrong! I’ve got the post Cerebus Aardvark-Vanaheim books to go, and then some mop up of things I forgot to do the first time around. Sorry! Gotta be complete.


This was Sim’s first “major” work to be published after Cerebus ended, and I’m guessing it took most people by surprise. I mean, probably not the dozens and dozens of people that had read Cerebus until its very end.

As somebody who did suffer through those issues at the time (albeit mostly skimming a lot of the time), I thought it was pretty logical: Sim’s really into Islam and Judaism and stuff, so doing a book about antisemitism seems pretty natural. I also thought it smelled of a cynical move: Sim had been bemoaning for years his inability to get covered in the Proper And Respectable Press, and was mentioning how Art Spiegelman was a darling of New York media because of his book about the Holocaust. So… natural interest or cynical opportunism on Sim’s part? Let’s read the book and perhaps we’ll find out.

OK, Sim doesn’t think the word “anti-Semitism” is technically correct or something.

Oh, there was a web site dedicated to the book? It’s long gone now, but the wayback machine seems to have it. And it has a free PDF you can download of the entire book?

And… there seemed to be a TV component aimed at using this book in the classroom. I wonder if that ever happened, but I’m guessing not.


Well, anyway, Sim went all in on this project, but:

That’s as far as the review round-up went, so it doesn’t look like it got much press coverage — these are all from comics blogs, I think.

Sim ties the book into comics significance by listing the many, many Jewish comic book creators in the US comics business… which… er… just seems odd. I mean, is he saying “you should take the Holocaust seriously because your favourite super-hero characters were created by Jewish people”? It’s a bit odd?

OK, if it seems like I’m procrastinating here, because I am — it’s a pretty unnerving book to read.

Because Sim basically has taken a number of pictures taken at German concentration camps and drawn them. The images are heartbreaking, of course, and some are not fit for posting on a family oriented blog like this (ahem), so I’m not.

Sim’s artwork (unaided by Gerhard for the first time in decades) is super sharp. And I think he’s been looking at Kriegstein?

On top of the gruesome imagery, Sim floats various racist quotations from throughout history.

It’s just a hard book to read.

And I can’t imagine that any school would want to subject their students to this.

And Sim nicely demonstrates that anti-Semitism is still with us.

So — is this book a cynical ploy? Nah, I don’t think so. It feels pretty heart-felt, and Sim would hate reading that, because it’d infer that he has feelings. I mean, imply.

But of course, since this is Dave Sim, he can’t leave well enough alone, but natters on for several pages at the end.

It is a powerful book, but it’s not one that I think anybody would want to read.

The Comics Journal #290, page 25:

Two new projects from Sim
Feb. 25: Dave Sim, who concluded his long-running epic
Cereous four years ago, has two new projects in front ofcom-
ics fans this year. One is the fashion satire Glamourpuss; the
other is Judenhass, a project that Sim plans to release in May
as a 56-page comic book during the 60th anniversary of the
founding of Israel. Judenhass is described in a released state-
ment as “a personal reflection on The Holocaust,” that, due
to its subject matter, the artists Will not be actively promot-
ing. Several comics figures, including Joe Kubert and Neil
Caiman, have given the project high praise as an affecting
work. An excerpt can be viewed online at judenhass.com.

Not everybody is willing to give Sim the benefit of the doubt:

Though effective in some spots–it’s hard not to react to the horrific images of the dead at Auschwitz when placed next to some of the quotes of hatred Dave Sim has dug up–there is a big question mark over the whole of this project. There is a self-importance to the affair, like Sim feels he’s being gutsy by reminding us of something we all already agree on, that the Holocaust/Shoah was a rank, evil happening and one we should never forget; yet, how am I supposed to feel about being reminded to be more sensitive by a man whose own sensitivity toward a whole segment of the human population has tainted his previous work? Is this just a case of an embattled, alleged bigot trying to find armor he feels it’s safe to hide behind and prove he’s really a nice, caring gentleman after all?


Really, Judenhass comes across as a half-assed attempt at a serious minded piece of literature, using specious logic and an audience’s predisposition toward the topic to do most of the heavy lifting.

Not all people follow comics drama:

This is an extremely significant work and goes so far to dispel so many lies and misconceptions about the treatment of Jews that I hope it does become required reading, as Sim hopes, and as I was required to read Elie Wiesel’s Night in High School.


Even when depicting page after page of Holocaust victims stacked like cordwood, Sim’s sober, understated draftsmanship remains amongst the best in the comics field. Though Judenhass has trouble creating a border between public fact and Sim’s personal belief of how this history unfolded, the text makes you respect the breadth and depth of research he must have done.

Damian T. Lloyd, ykg (apparently) says:

Cerebus is largely forgotten; Dave is known, if he is known at all, as an irrelevant, crazy old crank; nobody paid any attention to Judenhass even when it was current. We shouldn’t find ourselves guilty of feeling that any of these is more important than is objectively the case.

Judenhass deserves to be forgotten. It’s poor-quality work that trivializes a serious subject. Keeping it available online for free is the ideal place for it. The few people in the world who are interested can obtain it without cost. It’s an ideal example of how the Web can archive ephemera.

But he had some positive pull quotes:

“This wise, appalled, deeply humane response to an endless shock and sorrow could come only from the profoundly thoughtful Dave Sim.”

– Peter Straub

“Judenhass is endlessly disturbing, often unpleasant and incessantly horrifying in its stark coldness. The quotes should never be forgotten or made light of. It is why all people of good will say, ‘Never again.'”

– Marv Wolfman

So there you go.

This blog post is part of the Renegades and Aardvarks series.

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