This study analyses manifestations of antisemitism in Czech political caricatures shortly before and during World War II. It does not focus only on the caricatures themselves but on their most significant creators such as Karel Rélink, Dobroslav Haut and František Voborský. Their work, fully compliant with the requirements of the Nazi authorities, was not very imaginative, nor did it achieve the aggression and brutality of the cartoons that were being made at the same time in Nazi Germany itself or on Slovak territory. Considerable emphasis is also laid on the periodical in which the antisemitic cartoons appeared. Remarkable for example is the colour magazine Ejhle, which the Nazi authorities published from 1944 to 1945, that is, at a time when activities not absolutely necessary for carrying on the final phase of the war were being suppressed on the territory of the ‘old Reich’.
Despite the last thirty years of political stability and democratic establishment, antisemitism has not fully disappeared from the Czech Republic. This article aims to deepen our understanding of not only the visual symbols and ideological links, but also of the people who create and disseminate these artworks. Having collected and coded visual antisemitica for the last ten years, the author documents the contrast between traditional depictions of Jews in contemporary Czech folklore (or in what is considered ‘tradition’) and the more esoteric symbolism of the conspiracy theories and political extremism. It is argued that, while the mainstream ‘traditional’ depictions of Jews have retained stereotypical features, the extremist scene has moved forward to a more abstract expression, which pushes our methodological and legal definitions of ‘visual antisemitism’ to, and beyond, their limits.
According to the prevailing view of First Republic Czechoslovakia, open manifestations of antisemitism were the domain of anti-state and extremist elements, and as such were outside the acceptable social norm. However, the caustic anti-Jewish attacks which appeared throughout the 1920s and 1930s on the pages of the conformist periodical Humoristické listy (1858-1941), known for its conservative values and the basis of the successes of J. R. Vilímek’s publishing empire, present a good example of what was considered acceptable in a journal targeted at a broad conservative middle-class readership. It was precisely this periodical that at the end of the nineteenth century became one of the main platforms of the escalation of anti-Jewish hatred. This contribution presents the visual production of the 1920s and 1930s when Humoristické listy, by publishing antisemitic drawings that were extremely varied in style and content, continued in the line of the worst of its own history.