The Langerman Collection

The visual antisemitica collection that Arthur Langerman amassed over nearly 60 years of hunting through flea markets, trade fairs, auctions and the Internet consists of some 3,500 postcards, more than 1,000 sketches, several hundred posters, leaflets and pamphlets, numerous illustrated books, newspapers and magazines, and a large number of paintings, engravings, drawings, sculptures and everyday objects.

In addition to its size and the diversity of objects, the collection is remarkable for its extremely broad regional and historical diversification. The current holdings of 8,100 visual antisemitica items come from Europe, the USA and the Middle East and cover the period from the 17th to the 21st century.

The Langerman Collection at its previous location in Brussels, 2019

The collection includes such objects as:

  • oil paintings from Western and Central Europe from the 17th to the 19th centuries, depicting ritual murder or “haggling Jews,”
  • illustrated magazines, leaflets and posters defaming Alfred Dreyfus and the Jews of France,
  • used and unused postcards from Europe, North Africa and North America from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, whose motifs and inscriptions taunt and deride Jews,
  • antisemitic everyday objects such as walking sticks, pipes, crockery, jugs and figurines,
  • illustrated antisemitic propaganda from various völkisch and nationalist groups,
  • children’s books meant to teach the reader how to recognize Jews by their supposed physical characteristics,
  • anti-Jewish posters, illustrated writings and printed works of various propaganda campaigns from National Socialist Germany,
  • posters from antisemitic organizations in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine, that collaborated or sympathized with the National Socialist occupiers,
  • antisemitic posters from Iran that deny the Holocaust and demonize Israel,
  • several large special collections of material attributed to specific illustrators or propaganda campaigns.

A Visual Archive of the History of Hostility Towards Jews

The artifacts reveal the visual repertoire of antisemitism in all its inconsistency, malevolence and defamatory intent. Jews are presented as both destitute peddlers of rags or as capitalist bigwigs, as Bolshevists or as agents of the USA, as shirkers or powerful world conspirators, as lecherous abusers of children and women, as dangerous animals, vermin and germs. The motifs reflect Christian anti-Judaism, culturally and socially based hostility towards Jews, the more modern, biologically based racist antisemitism, which culminated in the National Socialist murder of Jews, as well as Israel-related antisemitism.

In its entirety, Arthur Langerman’s archive provides horrific and undeniable evidence of the international spread, persistence and adaptability of the hatred of Jews. As such it is a resource of unique potential for historical education, prevention and remembrance work.

When you see these images you gain a new, more direct understanding of the history and the dimensions of hate. For me, it was clear quite early on that these images are key to understanding how the Shoah could happen.

Arthur Langerman with a tableau by painter Jean-Pierre Dequène, 2017

The Langerman Collection offers an extensive body of long-neglected sources for research on antisemitism. As such it enables the development of innovative research approaches that offer new insights into the history, spread and function of antisemitic imagery. One can trace how some motifs have changed over centuries, how they are modified to fit different historical, regional and cultural contexts and thus endure stubbornly to this day. Because of its regional breadth, the collection also offers on one hand material for local and country-specific research, while on the other hand providing a basis for studies about transnational circulation, the migration of imagery and mechanisms for dissemination of antisemitism. In addition, it is hoped that the collection will provide insight into mechanisms of design, production and control of visual antisemitic propaganda, as well as new insights into how visual stereotyping, discrimination, and processes of exclusion function. This is closely linked with questions about the role of visual representations in preparing the ground for anti-Jewish violence and the acceptance of such violence, and how knowledge about visual representations may help in the prevention, early recognition and sanctioning of hate crimes.

After digitization, indexing and classification, the Langerman Collection will be accessible for research, educational and exhibition purposes at the new location of the Center for Research on Antisemitism, on Kaiserin-Augusta-Allee in Berlin-Moabit.

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