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Carved letter opener with a Jewish man’s head as pommel

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.543

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    Carved letter opener with a Jewish man’s head as pommel


    Brief Narrative
    Carved wooden letter opener with the head of a Jewish man as the handle. European artisans commonly adorned everyday items such as ceramics, toys, and household utensils, with caricatures of Jewish faces. These objects were often examples of racial antisemitism becoming part of everyday life. In some cases, where the portrayals were naturalistic or not cruelly exagerrated, as with this letter opener, it may be that the owner or maker was Jewish and wanted an object that reflected an image with a familiar cultural resonance. This letter opener is one of more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic visual materials.
    creation:  approximately 1850
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family
    Compiler: Peter Ehrenthal
    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

    Object Type
    Letter openers (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Carved, varnished, finished light brown wooden letter opener with a pommel in the shape of the bust, in low relief, of a middle aged man in left profile wearing a cap with a circular crown and short visor and a lapelled jacket. He has grooved, collar length wavy hair, a curled sidelock, and a trim mustache and beard. His large nose and hooded eyes are stereotypically Jewish features, but it is also appears to be a detailed, naturalistic portrait. The pommel extends into a smooth clip point blade with a dull convex edge on the front and a thicker concave spine. The back is finished and flat.
    overall: Height: 5.375 inches (13.653 cm) | Width: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    overall : wood, varnish stain

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The letter opener 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 18:13:48
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