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Brass nutcracker in the shape of Fagin

Object | Accession Number: 2016.184.629

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    Brass nutcracker in the shape of Fagin


    Brief Narrative
    Brass lever nutcracker cast in the shape of Fagin holding a money bag. They were mass produced by a brass company Pearson / Peerage in England, which made them for a long time, under several names. Fagin is a devil-like Jewish criminal from the novel, Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens, 1837-39. The novel's characterization is antisemitic and exploits many negative stereotypes. Referred to as The Jew, Fagin is villainous, greedy, and repulsive, with black nails, fanglike teeth, and he kidnaps small children to make them thieves. Dickens shared a common prejudice of the time, saying that if he had a character who was a fence, he had to be a Jew because "that class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew." Many adaptations try to sidestep the complications of Fagin's ethnic identity, or make him more of a comic figure, but his Jewishness is central to his depiction. This nutcracker is one of the more than 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.
    manufacture:  approximately 1900
    manufacture: Great Britain
    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

    Household Utensils
    Physical Description
    Tapered columnar, cast brass, lever nutcracker with both hand grip formed as a man with a flat cap and caricatured Jewish features. He has thick eyebrows, hooded eyes, a large, hooked nose, upturned, fleshy lips, and a long stringy beard. His right index finger rests on his nose, and his left hand holds a sack with coins falling from the bottom. Below this is a banner engraved Fagin. The figural design is smooth on the back and transforms at the waist into a narrow scrollwork column with curled knobs on the bottom sides. The grips are hinged at the top of the head, with Fagin engraved on the bottom center. On the grip interiors are two small cavities and a thick post for cracking nuts. See 2016.184.79 for a similar example.
    overall: Height: 4.875 inches (12.383 cm) | Width: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm) | Depth: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm)
    overall : brass

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The nutcracker 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 18:30:38
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