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Poster of a naked, red Leon Trotsky seated on human skulls

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.363

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    Poster of a naked, red Leon Trotsky seated on human skulls

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    Brief Narrative
    Anti-Jewish, anti-Soviet, Nazi propaganda poster distributed in battleground regions of Poland and Ukraine in 1943. It depicts a skeleton talking to a red, naked Leon Trotsky, who sits upon a pile of human skulls. During the war, Germany sought instances of Soviet perpetrated violence against Polish and local non-Jewish populations to exploit as graphic propaganda that would turn the locals against the Soviets and frighten them into supporting Germany. In 1943, the Germans exploited the discovery of mass graves documenting Soviet atrocities, such as the 1940 Katyn massacre of nearly 4500 Polish Army officers captured as prisoners of war as well as graves from prewar Soviet atrocities, such as Vinnitsa, committed during campaigns of political repression. The Germans then linked these to the always looming threat of the Jewish Bolshevik conspiracy to dominate the world and crush those who opposed them. This poster was originally issued in 1920 by the Polish Ministry of Military Affairs, during the Russo-Polish War. Trotsky, a leader in the Russian Revolution, also built the Red Army, and images of him as a red, bloodthirsty, satanic figure were used by the opposing White Army during the Revolution. This poster is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of anti-Semitic visual materials.
    Artwork Title
    Wolnosc Bolszewicka
    Alternate Title
    Bolshevik Freedom
    publication/distribution:  1943
    distribution: Poland
    distribution: Ukraine
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    front, top, red ink : WOLNOSC BOLSZEWICKA [Bolshevik Freedom]
    front, bottom right, black ink : OBIECALI BOLSZEWICY: / DAMY WAM POKÓJ / DAMY WAM WOLNOŚĆ / DAMY WAM ZIEMIĘ / PRACĘ i CHLEB- / NIKCZEMNIE OSZUKALI: / ROZPĘTALI WOJNĘ / Z POLSKĄ / ZAMIAST WOLNOSCI DALI / PIĘŚĆ – ZAMIAST ZIEMI / - REKWIZYCJE / ZAMIAST PRACY-NĘDZĘ / ZAMIAST CHLEBA-GŁÓD. [The Bolsheviks promised: We’ll give you peace. We’ll give you freedom. We’ll give you land, work, and bread. Despicably they cheated: they started war with Poland. Instead of Freedom they brought the fist. Instead of land – confiscation. Instead of work – misery. Instead of bread – famine.]
    front, bottom right corner, black ink : M.S. WOJSK. WYD(ZI?)AL P(?) [Ministry of Military Affairs, Division of Propaganda.]
    front, bottom center, black ink : LIT. ART. W. GŁÓWCZEWSKI. WARSZAWA [Lithograph Art W. Glowczewski. Warsaw]
    front, bottom right corner, black ink : MJB
    Compiler: Peter Ehrenthal
    Publisher: M. S. Wojsk. Wydzial Propagandy
    Printer: Wladyslaw Glowczewski
    The Katz Ehrenthal Collection is a collection of more than 900 objects depicting Jews and antisemitic and anti-Jewish propaganda from the medieval to the modern era, in Europe, Russia, and the United States. The collection was amassed by Peter Ehrenthal, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, to document the pervasive history of anti-Jewish hatred in Western art, politics and popular culture. It includes crude folk art as well as pieces created by Europe's finest craftsmen, prints and periodical illustrations, posters, paintings, decorative art, and toys and everyday household items decorated with depictions of stereotypical Jewish figures.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Offset color lithograph poster on light brown paper with an oversize, naked, red skinned man with glasses, a big nose, short dark hair, mustache, and goatee, Leon Trotsky, seated on a pile of human skulls. A skeleton in a white shroud grips his right shoulder and whispers in his ear. The face is in right profile; the left hand is on his knee, holding a downward pointing handgun. The right hand grips a bloody, dripping dagger and rests on the pile of skulls. He is frowning and appears to contemplate his work with grim satisfaction. The skulls fill the bottom third of the image. In the right background, 4 uniformed soldiers beat, drag, and steal from the dead. In the far background, across an open plain, is a town in flames. There is Polish text along the top and bottom. The poster is adhered to linen backing and has trimmed, uneven sides. See 2016.184.395 for another version of this work.
    overall: Height: 45.125 inches (114.618 cm) | Width: 32.625 inches (82.868 cm)
    overall : paper, ink, linen, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The poster was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by the Katz Family.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Special Collection
    Katz Ehrenthal Collection
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:13:43
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