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August 12, 1988 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-08-12

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G.B. Shaw's Cynicism: Was It Anti-Semitism?


Editor Emeritus


eorge Bernard Shaw was often
quoted about one particular
statement he made about Jews.
These are the lines from Shaw's
dramatic play "Saint Joan."
"The Jews generally give value.
They make us pay, make you pay, but
they deliver the goods. In my ex-
perience, the men who want something
for nothing are invariably Christian."
But the true character of the
famous Britisher was revealed in the
July 27, 1988, New York Times Book
Notes, under the title "A Shaw Letter
on Display: Shaw and Dictators," as
The fourth installment of let-
ters by George Bernard Shaw,
edited by Dan H. Laurence and
recently published by Viking,
shows the wide range of Shaw's
interests. The letters also show
his penchant for dictators of
various stripes. As John Gross
has noted in these pages, "In the
1920s and 1930s, Shaw spoke
respectfully about Mussolini; in
the 1930s, he spoke respectfully
about Hitler; in the 1930s and
1940s, he spoke more than
respectfully about Stalin?'
When Henry Fairlie's review
of the Shaw letters came into
The New Republic recently, the
magazine's editors wondered

how best to illustrate it. They
decided to reproduce portions
of the Feb. 12, 1936, letter from
Shaw to their own magazine.
The first two paragraphs of
the letter, handwritten in bright
red ink, say: "I hold with Adolph
Hitler, that our political
democracy is a lie. Its 'waning'
means presumably it's being
found out. The faster it 'wanes'
in this sense the better I shall be
"There is no antithesis bet-
ween authoritarian government
and democracy. All government
is authoritarian; and the more
democratic a government is the
more authoritarian it is; for with
the people behind it it can push
its authority farther than any
Tsar or foreign despot dare do."
An early indictment of Shaw came
from Rabbi Louis I. Newman. He was
in our militant Zionist ranks. He was
an associate of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise,
held pulpits in New York and San Fran-
cisco and, in the 1930s, he wrote a
newspaper column entitled "Telling It
In Gath." It was a fearless expression
of his views containing many criticisms
of irresponsible occurrences.
Rabbi Newman was amng the most
prominent associates of Vladmir
Jabotinsky in Zionist revisionism. He
never permitted an insult to the Jewish
people to go unchallenged. In a column
devoted to Shaw, he stated:

George Bernard Shaw has
found an opportunity to insult
the Jewish people. When asked
to attend a meeting com-
memorating the 10th anniver-
sary of the death of Israel
Zangwill, he said: "The meeting
will inevitably end in a discsus-
sion of the Jewish question. I am
not a Jew and do not see how I
could be of any help if I were to
make a speech. In any case, I am
too old to attend any more
public meetings. I have had
enough of them. I am ap-
proaching a doddering, senile
condition, and prefer to stay

In view of Mr. Shaw's self-
analysis, perhaps we should
treat the entire matter as
another jest. A few years ago an
American-Jewish periodical
asked Shaw for a New Year
greeting. He recommended,
among other things, "that Jews
go to Palestine to stew in their
own juice," and after making
other uncomplimentary state-
ments, declared, in effect, "You
asked for this, and now I've
given it to you:'
Jews should be careful
about approaching gentiles, for
greetings or messages, unless
they are certain that the answer
will be favorable. And if they are
rebuffed, they should not give

publicity to the incident. We
wonder who erred in this latest
Shaw episode. In the light of
previous occurrences, he should
not have been asked, but, hav-
ing been asked, and having
responded with another nasty
retort, no newspaper attention
should have been given him.
But there was something much
more devastating under Shaw's own by-
line. In the now defunct Liberty
Magazine he published an article, "The
Palestinian Muddle." Here is what he
wrote to introduce his bias:
The whole trouble arose
through Balfour giving
Palestine to Dr. Weizmann,
when it wasn't his to give. He
might as well have handed him
The thing was that Dr. Weiz-
mann had just supplied the
British government with a
cheap way of making cordite.
Naturally, the government was
very grateful, and Balfour said:
"How much do you want?"
"I don't want money," said
"Quite so," said Balfour.
"Then what shall it be? Baronet-
cy, earldom, or what?"
"I don't want a title," said
Weizmann. "I don't want
anything for myself?'
"You, a Jew, don't want
Continued on Page 38

Perle Hessing's Soul-Stirring Art Mirrors Her Life

erle Hessing, who began to
paint when she was in her 50s,
gathered a lifetime inspiration
which she injected in the many results
of her artistic endeavors. A native of
Galicia, now in the Soviet Union, she
was brought up in Canada. After World
War II she lived with her family in
Australia, where she produced many of
her works that had begun to gain wide
Her notable achievements are in
her very large book "A Mirror to My
Life" (Henry Holt Co.), into which are
packed her impressive impressions.
Every aspect in her experience,
which included wanderings from birth-
place to many lands — including Bri-
tain where she now lives with her
philosopher husband and son — left
their marks on the sensitive artist. She
gained much from the tragedies of the
holocaust whose narrations were a chief
influence upon her.
Her impressions are deeply moving
both as art and as explanatory essays
in her book.
In fact, in every instance her il-
lumination as art gains emphasis in a
literary accompaniment.
She gained immensely from the
storytelling of her father, a printer and
bookbinder who had Chasidic inspira-
tion with which he narrated Bible tales
and the legends he acquired as a Jewish
It is in her impressions of what had




occurred in the era of Nazi horrors that
Perle Hessing shares with the admirers
she has created with her depth of feel-
ing and interpretation. She had heard
much about the murder camps, Terec-
zin and the children who were crative
and whose artistic works have been re-
tained in some fashion. Therefore, she
painted the accompanying and wrote
the following essay about it in "A Mir-
ror to My Life":
Some years after the war, I
visited Prague and went to the
Jewish museum, which had an
exhibition of paintings by
children who had been in the
concentration camp at Tereczin.
They had become orphans
when their parents were taken
away. Whenever the authorities
knew that the Red Cross was
making a visit, they would clean
the place up and give better
food rations to the children. But
at least the Red Cross sent
paper and pencils and things to
Among the pictures were
bright, happy scenes of things
the children remembered from
their home lives — they seem to
have been more able than the
adults to ignore the horrors go-
ing on around them, even
though death hovered all
around. My visits to this small
exhibition in the old ghetto were

Perle Hessing's "Tereczin."

quite a shattering experience,
and I have tried to put my im-
pressions together in this pain-
ting, which now hangs in the
Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem.

Art and the well related essays lend
importance to the creativity of Perle
Hessing. Her: "A Mirror to My
Life"merits the acclaim it already

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