Caricature of Hitler
Artist, writer and Holocaust survivor Arnold Daghani grew up in Bessarabia prior to the Romanian annexation in 1918. He subsequently lived in Fascist-controlled Bucharest before moving to Czernowitz, under Soviet jurisdiction. Following the Nazi invasion, he and his wife, Anisoara, were arrested in 1942 and deported to the Mikhailowka labour camp in the Ukraine. Here he chronicled his experiences both in artworks and in a written diary which he managed to smuggle out during his escape to Budapest in 1943. After the war, Daghani lived variously in Israel, France, Switzerland and England. In 1947 Daghani published his experiences, first in Romanian, and subsequently in 1961 in English under the title The Grave is in the Cherry Orchard, in the ADAM (Arts, Drama, Architecture, Music) International Review. Originally founded in Bucharest, the magazine was edited in exile by Miron Grindea, Daghani’s exact contemporary and fellow Romanian émigré.
Daghani’s collage, Caricature of Hitler, was made long after the Second World War in October 1978. Aged almost seventy and in poor health, the artist was restless and unsettled, dwelling on past events. Although he had produced art during his time in ghettoes and labour camps based on these experiences, many of these early works were lost during his subsequent exile and travels. Between 1960 and the late 1970s, Daghani worked constantly, writing and making simple sketches in preference to the physical and mental demands of more complex work. Incidents from the war, particularly the Jewish experience in the Holocaust and representations of Hitler, recur frequently throughout this later body of work as a process of re-fixing unstable memory.
This powerful satirical portrait of Hitler comprises key collaged elements taken from newspapers: a cut-out of a woman’s breasts has been cleverly and subversively transformed into the face of Adolf Hitler, to which a nose has been added, and a cartoon-like moustache, eyebrows and a tuft of hair have been inked in. Beneath the caricature a text equates the Dictator’s distinctive hairstyle (‘the rise of the tuft’) and moustache as shorthand for the atrocities with which he is associated. With his savage wit, Daghani joins a roster of notable émigré caricaturists and political satirists, including George Grosz, Victor ‘Vicky’ Weiss and John Heartfield (1891–1968).
In 1992 Ben Uri held an exhibition of Drawings by Arnold Daghani in Dean Street, Soho to mark the 1991 publication of The Seven Days of Schlemihl, written and illustrated by the artist. Ben Uri owns 60 Daghani works including the Love print portfolio, comprising ten nudes executed in white on black, and more than 40 further works on paper dating from 1960 to the late 1970s, including views of Jerusalem and orthodox Jewish subjects, portraits and further caricatures referencing Hitler and the Holocaust. A further 6000 works by Daghani are also held in The Arnold Daghani Collection at the University of Sussex.