Did your attitude towards the Holocaust change in the course of doing Judenhass?
Only in that it seemed progressively more urgent to me to produce the work as I came to see how widespread -- although seldom discussed -- Jew hatred still is in our society. Passive Jew hatred has a great tolerance for active Jew hatred and the latter feeds on the former. People who passively hate you are very tolerant of people who actively hate you and see nothing wrong with passive hatred.
It was a clear situation of finding consolation in the fact that you can always find a situation infinitely worse than your own no matter how bad your situation seems to be. Any time I was tempted to feel sorry for myself, I just had to re-read the words of the camp survivor on page 40 and I knew that my own life for the last ten years was like a ten-year vacation on the French Riviera by comparison.
Have you had any experiences, personally, with Jew Hatred?
I remember my grandparents casually using the term “Jew” as a pejorative and a defining characteristic. “He was a Jew” was a shorthand reference deemed sufficient to explain why someone was considered untrustworthy or suspect. When I was a kid, when someone cheated another kid in a trade we said that the one kid had “Jewed” the other kid. I used it as a term until I found out what it meant. My father admitted to me once that he didn’t generally like Jews. I had a barber for a brief period of time who blamed the Jews for everything. It was virtually his only topic of conversation.
Why do you think Jew hatred didn’t transmit itself to you?
Because of comic books. Superman was created by Jews. Batman was created by a Jew. Will Eisner who was my absolute idol as a writer-artist was a Jew. It was unthinkable for me to harbour any ill will towards Jews. They created the comic-book field and the comic-book field—prior to my coming to believe in God ten years ago—has always been the most important thing in my life.
What do you think is the “reason” behind Jew Hatred?
I’d have to say envy. I think everyone who isn’t a Jew is envious that someone who is a Jew is one of God’s Chosen People. People tend to envy or hate any circumstance—as an example being a member of the aristocracy in England—that is a birthright. Being Jewish is a birthright. You’re either born Jewish or—even if you choose to convert—you aren’t really a Jew. It must be an awe-inspiring blessing if you can live up to it—being a good Jew—and a terrible curse if you can’t. I can’t imagine having that level of personal responsibility; living up to being one of God’s Chosen People.
You’re primarily known as the writer and co-artist of the world’s longest graphic novel, Cerebus, which was 6,000 pages long and made of individual graphic novels that are between 250 and 1,200 pages in length. Why didn’t you do Judenhass as a graphic novel instead of as a single 48-page comic book?
I wanted to make it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. I’ve heard that schools in Canada have stopped teaching the Holocaust even in the very limited way they used to teach it: as part of their limited coverage of the Second World War. I hope that by keeping Judenhass to 48 pages—it can be read in about 20 to 25 minutes even by a slow reader—and keeping the cover price at $4 that I could persuade a certain number of schools to use it as a teaching supplement. How many is open question.
Why do you think schools outside of America don’t adequately teach the Holocaust anymore?
Because it’s a really unpleasant and ugly subject for non-Jews and politically correct people tend to avoid all unpleasant and ugly subjects: more recently because of what I see as misguided sensitivity towards Muslims as Holocaust deniers. I give equal weight to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in my religious observance, but I am mostly a Muslim. I pray five times a day, I fast in Ramadan, I pay the “stated alms”. So it becomes another source of personal responsibility and personal atonement for me, that people are using Islam’s notorious and well-documented level of Jew hatred as an excuse to not teach the Holocaust. “Lest we forget”…unfortunately the politically correct are always eager to forget anything and everything if it assists in substituting the illusion of society as one, big happy family for the reality of widespread Jew hatred.
Unfortunately, squeamishness has to be taken into account in our day and age. When I was in high school we saw films of the corpses being bulldozed into the mass graves because it was thought to be an important thing for everyone to be aware of—which it is. I’m hoping that the fact that these are drawings and not films or photographs will persuade teachers and school boards and parents to overcome their squeamishness and to make the right “lest we forget” choice. I can accept squeamishness as a reason to find an acceptable compromise on ways to teach the Holocaust. What I can’t accept is squeamishness being used as an excuse to completely evade the reality of the Holocaust.
If your religious observance is primarily Muslim, why did you include a quote from Prophet Muhammad in Judenhass as an historical example of Jew hatred?
Because it’s from the Hadith, which are sayings of Prophet Muhammad as a man. They aren’t divinely inspired like the Suras of the Koran, they’re just the opinions of Muhammad as a man. Like referring to Jews as pigs and monkeys. That’s one of Muhammad’s personal opinions. That isn’t in the Koran.
But aren’t there many examples of Jew hatred in the Koran also?
Yes. Jew hatred and Christian hatred. But I think those refer specifically to the Jewish tribes and Christian communities that The Prophet had personal experience with in Mecca and particularly in Medina when he and his followers emigrated there. Both Jews and Christians in and around Medina were instrumental in trying to help the Arabian tribes to destroy the first Muslim community. I don’t think those divinely-inspired verses in the Koran were intended as descriptions of Jews and Christians in general but rather of those Jews and those Christians at that particular place and time in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century in particular.
What school grades do you think Judenhass would be appropriate for?
I would say Senior Public and higher…Junior High School in the United States. The subject matter is horrific but I think that’s more a persuasive argument for exposing schoolchildren to it than for sheltering them from it. “This is what non-Jews did to Jews just because they were Jews.” If you’re a non-Jew this is what your great-grandparents and your ancestors were responsible for.
As can be seen from Judenhass, virtually all non-Jews either committed the Holocaust or did nothing to actively prevent it or stop it or to diminish its severity. I don’t have particularly high hopes for the project given the state of our society. I’d be pleasantly surprised if it sold well in the comic-book field and I’d be pleasantly surprised if it sold well to Catholic school systems and Jewish school systems. I don’t think it’s even worth proposing to public school systems. I think public schools are pretty much irretrievably overwhelmed by passive politically correct Jew hatred.