Munich: Histradut Zionit, Achida, and Nocham, 1945-1946. Octavo. 14ff. With seven woodcuts by Miklós Adler. Text in Hebrew and Yiddish. Light spotting on back cover, else a very fine copy in printed wrappers.
The history of this Haggadah begins with the compelling story of Hungarian-born Jewish artist Miklós Adler, whose family had endured the occupation and brutality of the Nazis. Between March 1944 and May 1945, more than half a million Jews of Hungary were killed. After living in Debrecen's Jewish ghettos and being marked for transport to Auschwitz, the Adler family was moved to Thieresenstadt, the concentration camp outside Prague. In May of 1945, the Adler family survivors returned to Hungary, and Miklós created sixteen vivid and emotive woodcuts depicting atrocities of the Holocaust, arranged in the order in which the events occurred and numbered to correspond to this chronology. The first five images elucidated Adler's personal experience with the Nazi invasion of Hungary, while images six through sixteen depicted a more collective experience of the Holocaust and Auschwitz. Late in 1945, Szabadság Nyomda, known as the "Freedom Press," published a portfolio of Adler's sixteen woodcuts in an edition of 1,000 copies. Then referred to as "The Sufferings," the edition contained no title and no colophon. Each copy consisted of twenty-one loose sheets comprising the woodcuts, a preface in Hungarian and Hebrew, a preface in English and Russian, a sheet of captions in all four languages, and an epigraph. Adler 's name was not mentioned as the woodcut artist, but he did sign a few of the plates with two Hebrew letters to identify himself as the son of Benjamin. In the Hungarian edition's preface, Adler writes, "one can't find a word to apply to what happened to the Jews of Europe during the past years." Perhaps this is why Adler chose to tell this story using practically no words at all.
By late 1945 to early 1946, the portfolio and its loose sheets were beginning to surface in the American zones near Munich. Yosef Dov Sheinson, a Lithuanian author and Hebrew teacher, apparently saw Adler's portfolio and incorporated seven of the sixteen images into the Haggadah he was editing, illustrating, and arranging for the first Passover after liberation. According to Touster, this Haggadah "did not just tell the traditional Passover story of Israel's deliverance from slavery under Pharaoh, but the parallel story of the Jewish remnant that survived slavery and destruction under Hitler." It was written for and dedicated to the "Saved Remnant, the few who escaped." After a devastation that sought to wipe out traces of anything Jewish, it was impossible to find Hebrew type in Lithuania, but according to Touster, Sheinson was able to secure the type with the benevolence of American Jewish organizations by November 1945.
The director of Achida, one of the organizations involved in the printing of this Haggadah, brought paste-up pages to a major Munich publishing house, whose previous owners had been vehemently pro-Hitler. They created the plates and printed the first copies -- the present copy being among them. These initial copies were brought to U.S. Army chaplain Abraham J. Klausner, who suggested that these Haggadot be used for the upcoming Passover Seder. This work was then reprinted by the U.S. Third Army and used for a communal Seder in Munich on April 15 and 16, 1946. Emblazoned with the Third Army's tricolor insignia "A" and containing an English title page, epigraph, two-page introduction by Klausner, and a little re-arranging, the "A" Haggadah took on another life. Unlike the "A" Haggadah, our earlier copy mentions the Jewish organizations that contributed to its publication on the front cover.
Ironically, Adler and Sheinson were both at Thieresenstadt during its first days of liberation. Adler, who immigrated to Israel in 1957, never knew about the use of his woodcuts in Sheinson's Haggadah. Thus, the identity of the artist of this Haggadah remained unknown until 1998, when conclusive scholarship became available on the Army reprint and Miklós Adler.
The Sheinson Haggadah is most powerful for its interplay of text and image. Against a backdrop of Sheinson's hand-drawn depictions of Eden are Adler's purely dark reminders of the fallen world -- death marches, crematoria, separation from loved ones. In the borders, Sheinson's other illustrations include "braus bad," or gas showers; fathers debating with their sons; and the Promised Land blossoming with flowers and trees and fruits of the soil. Sheinson selectively altered the text to reflect a feeling of bitterness, which is most explicit in his treatment of the Dayenu, a hymn of praise. Adler's last image features a newly liberated man whose mind is anything but free as he struggles with what it means to go home.
Together with a copy of the Third Army edition. OCLC records only three copies of the "A" Haggadah and no copies of this original printing. Item #32567
(Touster, A Survivor's Haggadah, p. xxv; Touster, Beyond Words, p. 18; Yaari 2328; not mentioned in Yersushalmi).