The Renaissance Woman Who Documented the Scientific Revolution

During the Reign of Terror Marie-Anne Lavoisier never surrendered in the face of persecution and kept the Scientific revolution alive and safe.

Marie-Anne and Antoine Lavoisier by Jaque-Louis David

When Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze was 12 years old, she was already courted by the men of her social milieu. Precocious and self-confident, she rejected their advances. Though her father supported her in this, there was an understanding that in order to protect herself from ill-suited men, like her 50 year old great-uncle, she would have to marry someone rather soon.

Knowing this, at 14 she accepted the match to one Antoine Lavoisier who was only 28. Lavoisier was a colleague of her father’s in the pre-Revolutionary office, the “Ferme générale”, the most hated tax collectors of the crown. Antoine Lavoisier, by chance, was also one of the great revolutionaries of chemistry, credited with the discovery of the function of oxygen in combustion.


“Traite elementaire de chimie organique” (Elements of chemistry : in a new systematic order) by Antoine Lavoisier, Paris: Chez Cuchet, 1789

Marie-Anne Lavoisier was the one who arranged her husband’s laboratory life, of which she was an active participant. She was fascinated by his research from the start and helped with his endeavors, detailing his equipment and chronicling the processes of his chemistry experiments..


Lab equipment drawn by Marie-Anne Lavoisier from “Traite elementaire de chimie organique” (Elements of chemistry : in a new systematic order) by Antoine Lavoisier, Paris: Chez Cuchet, 1789


Her sketching was not simply secretarial work for her husband, nor was her art a hobby she did in her spare time. But rather it was the work of a skilled and talented artist. While Antoine Lavoisier worked his day job at the “Ferme générale”, Madame Lavoisier studied under the tutelage of renowned painter Jaque-Louis David, the man who would become the portrait painter of Emperor Bonaparte.

Madame Lavoisier cultivated her talents of art, languages, and science with equal fervor, translating scientific texts from English to French, all of which were part and parcel of the chemistry breakthroughs Antoine Lavoisier came to in the 1770s.
However, after the Revolution and the start of the Reign of Terror in France, Marie-Anne’s family suffered greatly and it seemed everything she had worked for with her husband had fallen apart.

In 1794 Antoine Lavoisier and Messer Paulze, Marie-Anne’s father, were guillotined. All her possessions were confiscated, including the books and journals in which she and her husband documented their experiments. She herself was imprisoned for 65 days after her husband’s execution.

After her release she continued to write protest letters, demanding the return of her books. Her efforts were not in vain and she eventually got back everything the authorities confiscated in the name of the Revolution.

She went on to publish Antoine Lavoisier’s final writings on chemistry in 1805 under the title, “Mémoires de physique et de chimie” (Memories of Physics and Chemistry) – thus keeping the scientific Revolution alive.

Lab equipment drawn by Marie-Anne Lavoisier from “Traite elementaire de chimie organique” (Elements of chemistry : in a new systematic order) by Antoine Lavoisier, Paris: Chez Cuchet, 1789


This article was written with the generous help of Chaya Meier Herr, curator of the Edelstein Collection at the National Library of Israel.

When the Nazis Desecrated the Jewish Cemetery of Salonika

Human bones and broken tombstones were used as building materials, desecrating 500 years of Jewish history and half a million gravestones.

A swimming pool for Wehrmacht soldiers made out of Jewish tombstones

The Jewish cemetery of Salonika (also known as Thessaloniki) was an anchor of the long standing Jewish community of that city, the largest Jewish community in Greece before the Holocaust. The cemetery was established at the end of the 15th-century, when Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal arrived in Greece. The Jews who survived the expulsion and the long journey, buried their dead in a plot of land that would become the Jewish cemetery of Salonika, as precious and important to the community as their synagogues.

Holocaust survivors gathered for the “Mourners’ Kaddish”

The process of expropriating the land belonging to the cemetery did not begin with the Nazis.

Decades prior to the Nazi occupation, the non-Jewish residents of Salonika sought to take the land and use it for their own benefit. In 1886 a Turkish Ottoman gymnasium was established on the cemetery ground and famously, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was founded in 1925. The university took over from the gymnasium when Greece gained independence. In the 1930s the city administration officially decreed that the Jewish cemetery would be expropriated and given to the expanding Aristotle University. The plan never came into effect, but fear of demolishment motivated the Jewish community to give the university a section of unused cemetery ground.

In 1941 the Nazis came, and with them, total destruction of the Jewish cemetery.

By the end of 1942 cemetery grounds were confiscated by the city’s administration, which was controlled by the Nazi occupiers. A Jewish family who had relatives buried there and wished to have the grave exhumed was forced to do so through the city administration. In December of 1942 the city pushed for a quick demolishment and within days gravestones were destroyed and human bones were gathered in unmarked piles. When the Jewish community heard of what had occurred it was too late. All they could do was take the remains of their family members and re-bury them in a mass grave, outside the city of Salonika.

Exhumed bones and desecrated tombstones

The desecration of the dead was part of the Nazis plan to dehumanize the living. With the destruction of the Jewish cemetery, the Germans swiftly began transporting the Jews of Salonika to the death camps.


View the entire album here:

Fifty thousand of Salonika’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, 96 percent of the city’s Jewish community perished.

When the survivors returned they found that the broken tombstones were used to build pools for Wehrmacht soldiers, pave the streets of the city, and even rebuild Greek churches that were harmed in the war. They took photographs, documenting the destruction and desecration and demanding compensation from the newly liberated Greek government, to no avail.

A pool lined with tombstones built by the Nazi occupying forces for Wehrmacht jackboots

 The Jewish cemetery of Salonika was a victim of modernization and city development as well as anti-Semitism and Nazism. The photos taken by the survivors were put together as an album, a testament to what had occurred to the living and the dead during the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust. The album was donated to the National Library of Israel in 1949 by Rabbi Michael Molho.

Along with the remaining Jewish community, Rabbi Molho founded the Institute for the Research of the Jews of Thessaloniki, which operates to this day.

Rabbi Michael Molho examining broken tombstones

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,, 1995


Irene Harand: One Woman’s Answer to Hitler

​One of the most despicable books in human history ever published is Mein Kampf. This is the story of Sein Kampf (His Struggle, An Answer to Hitler), and the woman who wrote it.

Portrait of Irene Harand beside the German title of "His Struggle"

In 1935, an obscure book was published in Austria titled Sein Kampf (His Struggle, an Answer to Hitler). The author, Irene Harand, went through Hitler’s Mein Kampf (My Struggle) and tore to shreds the book’s antisemitic claims, allegations, and ideology which swept through Germany and Austria from the time of its first publication in 1925.

Harand’s book, translated into English in 1937, is full of refutations of the antisemitic libels which Hitler used liberally in Mein Kampf. Harand rips into “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”:

The text of the Protocols from beginning to end is nothing but a mess of lies and forgeries.

Any reflective individual who reads the Protocols will see at first glance that they are criminal fantasies of the worst order, and that the Jews have had no possible connection with them. The Nazis cannot Produce one iota of evidence that they are authentic. (pg. 175.)

Page 175 from “His Struggle”

Harand also attacks the idea that Jews are without a culture of their own and infiltrate societies for the sake of their own self-preservation:

Hitler maintains that the Jews never possessed a culture of their own, but always borrowed their intellectual substance from other peoples.


These Hitlerian comments on cowardice, lack of idealism and self-sacrifice in the Jews are totally devoid of any truth. (pg. 118.)

Page 118 from “His Struggle”

Harand, a Catholic Austrian, had no qualms about bringing to the forefront the ways that Christianity itself drove antisemitic ideas – ideas that became entrenched outside of religion and into social bias regarding Jewish people. She deconstructed these ideas throughout her book Sein Kampf in clear and easy language, giving examples, and exposing the fabrications of stereotypes and lies.

Between 1933 and the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938, Irene Harand worked tirelessly and endlessly against the antisemitic incitement that swept through Austria after Hitler’s rise to power. She became a thorn in the side of the Austrian Nazi party for her activism and efforts to denounce Nazism and antisemitism.

Part of Irene Harand’s activism included a lecture circuit that took her all over Europe. During the Anschluss she happened to be in England. It was then that she decided against returning to Austria and ultimately immigrated to the United States where she used her connections to provide visas for over 100 Austrian Jews, helping them escape from the hands of the Nazis.

In 1968 Yad Vashem recognized Irene Harand as Righteous Among the Nations.

This article was written with the help Dr. Stefan Litt of the Archives Department of the National Library.