I Bet You Didn’t Know Captain America was a Golem!

The very public Jewish roots of Captain America, the first superhero to punch Hitler in the face!

“Captain America was me, and I was Captain America.  I saw him as part of me, and he always will be.  In the fight scenes, when Cap used to take on seven men at once, and five bodies would fly around the room while he punched two in the jaw — that’s how I remember the street fights from my childhood.”

 – Jack Kirby

Once upon a time, in the city of New York, two young mentches created a comic book the world had never seen before. It was March 1941 and Captain America was giving Hitler a proper right hook, right in the kisser!

Captain America was probably the first truly political superhero, taking a stance against Hitler and Nazism. The Jewish background of his creators, Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurzberg) and Joe Simon (born Hymie Simon), directly influenced the character and the original plot of the Nazi-punching hero.

Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, 1940’s, AP

They were both second generation Americans, their parents having come from Europe and brought with them the traditions and folklore of the Jewish communities who left their homes behind; seeking out a new life and new opportunities in America. It’s very likely that their families imagined that in this new country, they would not have to deal with the persecution and antisemitism that plagued Jewish people in Europe for centuries.

But antisemitism was all too common in America of the 1930s. After Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933, groups like the German-American Bund (Amerikadeutscher Bund), an American group made up exclusively of German immigrants and German-Americans, worked to promote a favorable view of Germany, Hitler, and Nazism. They were, of course, outspokenly antisemitic.

The German-American Bund at a gathering in New York’s Madison Square Garden, February 20, 1939

“Jewish kids then were raised with a belief in moral values.  In the movies, good always triumphed over evil.  Underneath all of the sophistication of modern comics, all the twists and psychological drama, good triumphs over evil.”

– Jack Kirby 

When Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, and the war broke out, the United States kept its isolationist strategy as long as it could. It was at this time that Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, already successful animation and cartoon writers and artists, began to develop a character; a character who would be a savior for the Jewish people persecuted by the Nazis and would fight against the Nazi war machine, aiming to conquer Europe and the world.

Captain America #1 was published eight months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the event which ushered in American participation in the war on the side of the Allies. By then, Captain America was a Nazi-fighting veteran.

The patriotic concept of Captain America is clear from the name and the colors of the American flag that make up his costume. And in many ways, Kirby and Simon intended for the hero to be All-American and unifying in the face of an enemy that was dangerous to the world at large. However, the Jewish signifiers crept in, some intentional and some very likely unconscious.

Captain America’s alter ego, Steve Rogers, was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a well-known Jewish enclave from the late 19th-century and well into the 1940s and 1950s. When Steve Rogers attempts to get drafted into the US Army in order to go fight the Nazis in Europe, he is rejected time and again for health reasons. But Doctor Reinstein (an analogue for Albert Einstein, already a cultural icon of the time) taps Rogers for a special project in which he injects the frail patriot with “Super-Serum” that gives him health, strength, and agility; making Rogers the pinnacle of human ability and a super-soldier able to fight the Nazis practically single handed.

Captain America #1, March 1941. (Marvel Entertainment)

“Those are the things I learned from my parents and from the Bible.  It’s part of my Jewish heritage.”

– Jack Kirby

The analogy between Captain America and the Golem from Prague is clear when you look at the parallels. The Golem itself can be read as a precursor of superhero stories, a creature created for the protection of a community in peril. Like the Golem of the 16th-century, the frail Steve Rogers is the raw material needed in order to create a hero that will drive the persecutors of Jews away in fear.

In the 20th-century they were Hitler and the Nazis. The Golem is animated by the letters אמת spelling out the word “Truth” in Hebrew. The letter emblazoned on Captain America’s mask is “A” obviously for America, but the Hebrew letter א is analogous to the English letter A. Captain America’s weapon of choice is the shield, bringing to mind the Shield of David, that is, the Magen David. The modern interpretations of the Golem contain a star on his chest, just like Captain America.

The Golem, 1915 and Captain America, 1941

For more information about the Jewish roots of Captain America:

“Up, Up, And Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero” by Simcha Weinstein, Leviathan Press, 2006

The quotes from Jack Kirby are from “Secret Identities: Jewish Comic-Book Creators” by Michael Weiss, http://bit.ly/2wmqYKA, 1995


You Will Never Believe Who Turned Down the Author of “The Three Musketeers”

When Rachel Félix met her childhood idol, the famous writer Alexandre Dumas, she could not contain her excitement. It didn't last.

William Etty, Portrait of Rachel Felix, c. 1840

In 1832, at just 11 years old, the young Rachel Félix, a Jewish girl from Switzerland, left her home for Paris. There, she enrolled in one of France’s most prestigious schools for the performing arts, she also acquired broad literary knowledge. Despite her great love of the classics, her favorite writer of all time was the contemporary, best-selling author of The Count of Montecristo and The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas père.

Alexandre Dumas père, in a photograph from the 1850s (photo by Félix Nadar)

It took Rachel a little over a decade to become the most famous stage actress of the day for her roles in the classic tragedies of Racine and Corneille. By the 1840s, she had become the most celebrated actress in Paris, the European theater capital of the time. While vacationing in Madrid, she happened to meet the idol of her youth, and at the end of their brief encounter Dumas invited her to join him for lunch at the seashore. Excited at the opportunity to dine in the company of the famous author, she also accepted Dumas’s proposal to continue to correspond with him after her return to Paris.

The great dramatic actress quickly became disillusioned. Her reply to Dumas reveals the great miscalculation on both of their parts regarding the intentions of their mutual correspondence: whereas Rachel was certain that the much admired author was interested in an intellectual exchange, his intentions were clearly amorous in nature.

Deeply offended, Rachel was determined to beat him at his own game, and penned a response laced with equal measures of dry sarcasm, wonder and sincere regret. Using the words “fraudulent interpretation” in the letter she sent him on 17 July 1848, she expressed her bewilderment at how such a pleasant afternoon spent in each other’s company could have led Dumas to draw conclusions, “so far from my own thoughts.” She asked to immediately end their epistolary exchange, “which has wounded me deeply.” She also wanted to make it clear to him that while she had indeed been very honored to conduct a correspondence with someone whom she viewed as the greatest living author of the day, she now regretted the direction Dumas had chosen to take things.

As the letter progresses, we see Rachel’s anger rise along with her feeling that an affront to her honor had been committed, which becomes apparent in the small grammatical errors, and especially in the multiple underlines she includes for emphasis. Toward the end of the letter, Rachel launches her final salvo: “I knew that with stupid folk one must consider one’s every word, but one need not be so careful with intelligent, intellectual people.”

Rachel’s letter to Dumas, 17 July 1848, from the Rachel Félix Archive at the National Library of Israel. Rachel’s underlines are evident throughout the entire last part of the letter

Dumas’s response did not take long, since in a second letter also written in Rachel’s hand and now found among the National Library of Israel’s treasures, she disdainfully quotes from a telegram Dumas sent her: “Madame, If you truly desire it, we shall leave things at that. This will always be a part of the path we have traveled together, with utmost regard, your friend, Dumas.”

The temptation was too great for Rachel, and she added a short retort of her own. She asked to apologize, sarcastically, of course, for having apparently misread Dumas’s intentions, and now scolded him, in light of the flirtatious letter he had sent before. “If you have jotted down these lines from your inkstand by mistake, in the midst of your endless duties – I am indeed honored to receive them,” she concluded. Then, she erased a number of lines she had written and sent off her undated, indignant response to Dumas, without bothering to compose a new one.

Rachel’s second and final letter to Dumas, undated. From the Rachel Félix Archive at the National Library of Israel


Our story could easily end here. In fact, the missing pieces might even add an element of mystery to the entire affair.  And yet, in the Library’s collection there is one more letter that was sent by Rachel, this one to her sister Sara. The letter is undated, leaving it for us to decide when it might have been written and sent.

What’s in it?

Stated simply, Rachel asks that her sister inform Dumas that she cannot meet him on Sunday and would, therefore, be happy if he would choose another day during the week.

When was it sent?

Based on the two letters described above, the meeting referred to in this third letter would have to have been written after Rachel and Dumas’s initial encounter in Madrid, which was the event that triggered the exchange of letters that had so deeply offended Rachel.  In other words, we don’t precisely know.

Did Rachel eventually respond to Dumas’s advances? Did they ever make up and become friends?

In all likelihood, we will never know the answers to these questions either. Melodrama, mystery, lovers’ quarrels and reconciliation, were, no doubt, all integral parts of daily life in nineteenth-century France.



Adolf Eichmann’s Secret Visit to Palestine

Years before Eichmann was brought to Israel to stand trial, the notorious mass-murderer visited Mandatory Palestine in 1937 while disguised as a journalist.

Eichmann at his trial. Photo: David Rubinger

In 1937, years before he became one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious mass-murderers, Adolf Eichmann visited Mandatory Palestine undercover as a German journalist. Eichmann’s second visit, twenty-four years later, was organized for him courtesy of the Israeli Mossad.

What was Eichmann hoping to find in Palestine before the start of the Second World War? Why was it important for him to see the Jewish yishuv with his own eyes? And the last and most frightening question of all: what conclusion did Eichmann draw from his visit? The answers to these questions are discussed below.

Eichmann reported from his visit to the Land of Israel: The creation of a Jewish State must be prevented“, a headline in Maariv, 28th of April, 1961

Long before the “Final Solution” was conceived at the Wannsee Conference, Hitler and the upper echelon of the Nazi regime had hoped to resolve the “Jewish problem” through forced emigration of the Jews living in Germany. Almost three years before the outbreak of World War II, in 1937, a nondescript German bureaucrat by the name of Adolf Eichmann was sent on a covert visit to Mandatory Palestine, together with his direct supervisor in the Nazi party’s intelligence service (the notorious SD), in order to explore the possibility of deporting Germany’s Jews to the region.

A clandestine meeting had taken place in Berlin between Eichmann and Feivel Polkes, an unofficial representative of the Haganah, one of the precursors of the Israel Defense Forces. They discussed the possibility of shipping off the persecuted Jews from Germany to Palestine. The Nazi officer wanted to see the Jewish community in Palestine for himself and to personally examine whether the plan was actually feasible.

On October 2nd, 1937 the Romania docked at the port of Haifa, carrying the two Nazi officials who travelled incognito, disguised as a German journalist and a student. Their application to properly enter the country was denied by the Mandatory authorities. It is not clear whether the two had been identified or whether their entry permits had aroused the suspicion of the customs officials. In any event, they were given a temporary entry permit for one night only. Disappointed by the failure of their mission, the two toured Haifa and spent the night on Mount Carmel. After the time they were allotted was up, they sailed for Egypt where they met with Mufti Amin al-Husseini and the representative of the Haganah.

I paid a British officer […] to evict Eichmann from Haifa“- Feivel Polkes took credit for Eichmann’s visit being cut short, Maariv, 21st of December, 1966

Even though the two Nazi representatives had been within the borders of Palestine for less than a day, Adolf Eichmann considered himself a qualified expert on the future of the state-in-the-making. In a detailed report to his superiors, Eichmann wrote that the economic situation of the Jewish settlement was dire, and it did not appear that it would improve any time soon. He did not tie the difficult situation to either geopolitical or material conditions but (as befitting a good Nazi) blamed it on the Jews’ devious and destructive nature – they had to settle for cheating each other as there were no Aryans around to cheat instead.

​Eichmann’s great fear was that the expulsion of the Jews from Germany would contribute in the future to the establishment of a stronger and prosperous Jewish entity that would rely on the great wealth which the deportees would bring with them to Palestine. Eichmann feared that over time, that same Jewish state would become a threat to Nazi Germany.

Eventually, the outbreak of the Arab revolt and the opposition of the regional Arab leadership to forced Jewish emigration put the kibosh on the plan. The fact that the British were working to limit Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel, even stopping it completely with the start of the war, had not helped matters.

Following the crushing defeat of Nazi Germany, Eichmann, who by then had become one of the primary architects responsible for the Holocaust, was captured by US forces. With help from his old friends he was able to escape the POW camp under a false identity and make his way to Argentina. In 1960, the Mossad discovered his whereabouts, abducted him and brought him to the State of Israel to face justice. Following a long trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In the early morning hours of June 1st, 1962, he was executed by the Jewish State, whose establishment he had feared even before the war.


The Eichmann trial. Photo: David Rubinger


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Revealed: SS Chief Heinrich Himmler’s Warm Wishes to Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini

Discovered in the National Library archives, Himmler's message to the Mufti decried the "Jewish invaders", while sending “warm wishes for your continued struggle..."

The Mufti and Heinrich Himmler meeting in 1943. Photo: Albert Kurt

To the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini,

The National-Socialist Movement of the Greater German Reich has since its inception upheld the fight against World Jewry.

It is for this reason that it closely follows the struggle of the freedom-seeking Arabs – and particularly in Palestine – against the Jewish invaders.

The common recognition of the enemy and the joint struggle against it is what creates the firm foundation between Germany and freedom-seeking Muslims around the world.

In this spirit, I am pleased to convey to you, on the anniversary of the execrable Balfour Declaration, warm wishes for your continued struggle until the great victory.

Reichsführer-SS, Heinrich Himmler

Telegram from Heinrich Himmler to Haj Amin al-Husseini. Click on the image to see this item in the National Library catalog.

 Haj Amin al-Husseini, Leader of the Arab World?

In 1937 the authorities of the British Mandate for Palestine sought to arrest the Mufti due to his involvement in the Arab Uprising. In response, the Mufti fled the country to Lebanon, and from there to Iraq, where he stayed for some two years. In Iraq he joined a pro-Nazi group led by Rashid Ali al-Kaylani which rebelled against the monarchic regime and carried out a military coup in April of 1941, which lasted for only two months until British forces reached the outskirts of Baghdad. Kaylani and the Mufti fled through Iran to Italy and from there to Nazi Germany. The Mufti reached Berlin in November 1941.

The German Wehrmacht’s astonishing string of victories convinced the Mufti that he must secure a meeting with Adolph Hitler, the Fuhrer of the now enormous Nazi Reich. During the 90-minute meeting between Hitler and the Mufti, the latter strove to present himself not just as leader of the Palestinian national movement, but as a leader of the Arabs in general, and even as the representative of all Muslims.

Photo of the sole meeting between Adolph Hitler and Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini. Photo: Heinrich Hoffmann

As a member of the “Muslim Brotherhood” movement, the Mufti believed in pan-Islamic unity and in the struggle to liberate Arab peoples from the yoke of colonial powers like Britain and France. In Germany he labored to obtain a declaration of Nazi support for the independence of Arab countries and support for the expulsion of Britain and France from the Middle East. He saw his fight against Zionism as one facet of his struggle against European colonialism, which also coincided with his personal virulent antisemitism – views he strove to disseminate during his years in Germany through Radio Berlin broadcasts in Arabic.

As part of his war against Zionism, the Mufti marked the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration (Nov. 2nd) as a major annual day of protest because he realized that only through diplomatic recognition from the world’s powers could Zionism achieve its aim of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. Out of deep fear that the ongoing annihilation of Jews in Europe would lead those who escaped to Palestine, the Mufti sought to receive assurances from the heads of the Nazi regime that no Jew would be sent there.

The above telegram, which was recently discovered in the archives of the National Library, and is apparently dated to 1943, includes a promise by Heinrich Himmler – one of the architects of the “final solution” – that “Nazi Germany will stand by the Arab people in Palestine in their struggle against the ‘miserable’ Balfour Declaration.

“In the end,” says historian Dr. Esther Webman of Tel Aviv University, “the Mufti failed to achieve most of his aims. Nazi Germany did not declare its support for the idea of Arab independence and the Nazi leadership merely used him to achieve its own goals. His attempts to foment rebellion by the Arabs of the Middle East against the colonial regimes during World War II were unsuccessful. His only meaningful achievement was to succeed in preventing a few cases of Jews departing Europe for Palestine during the war.”

Written with the kind assistance of Dr. Esther Webman, senior research fellow at the Dayan Center and head of the Zeev Vered Desk for the Study of Tolerance and Intolerance.