The Hitler Haggadah with Jonnie Schnytzer


Joined today by johnny schnitzer to talk about the hitler. Haga a nineteen forty-three judeo arabic haggadah. Which tells the story of the holocaust the second world war and the allied landing in north africa through the passover seder. Johnny schnitzer is a phd candidate at bar. Ilan university with a focus on medieval kabbalah. His dissertation is focused on the fourteenth century. Kabul list rabbi. Joseph ben shallow ashkenazi and johnny is also preparing a critical edition of ashkenazis. Commentary on sefer itsy raw. Johnny also edited an english edition of the etc. Which we're going to be talking about today. The hitler etc is such a fascinating text in many ways even just the title is jarring. And you might think how can you use. Hitler's name in the title of this traditional jewish text and it draws you in to a tremendous piece of moroccan jewish history that reworked the traditional passover story to tell us about the experience of north african jews in the holocaust. I hope you enjoyed our conversation. Where we're going to dive into this text and think about how it can broaden our understanding of the holocaust to include the middle east and north africa in that story and also where we think through the important relationship between jewish roots and holidays with history and historical memory. Thanks for tuning in high johnny. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us to talk about your book that you added. Thank you for inviting me. Lovely to be here. Absolute think this is such a fascinating text. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about it in other words like what is it that makes this different from all other hug adults. I think there are sort of two bombs that this text drops upon any re- debt guest that sort of feast there is on the hit laga and the first one of course is the title and this is what got me interested in this from the outset and that is this sort of sporadic this who has the chutzpah to do this at taking a jewish texts calling it the hit laga. That's the sort of bomb number one. Because you're not even sure what this is about. Who wrote this. But you know one thing you know that the author who is anonymous and we'll touch upon them in a moment takes to keywords. That every juneau's today every jew does not need to google almost haggadah writer passover passover eve where we read the haggadah we all come and we eat together and he takes haggadah and he connects to the other. Keyword that we all know about for a very separate horrific connotation. That's hitler and he puts it together. The first bomb is who has the chutzpah to perpetrate a text. And give it the title. Hit laga taking one of the most sacred texts and connecting it to one of the biggest mom's area if you like in jewish history and then you open the text and you realize that author has done something absolutely fascinating he is done with. The sages have asked us to do generation after generation and that is to see ourselves as if we left egypt red. It's to reenact. Redemptions to reenact. God saving the jewish people taking us out. And what does he do. He takes the structure of the storytelling bit of the haggadah. Right on passover. Eve we have the ceremony we have the blessings and then we reached the mortgage section the mugged section to section where we meant to mcgee. We meant to tell the story. That's what is about right. We tell story we tell the story of redemption. This also explains why passovers become right. This trend of everyone bringing own hug dot. Everyone bringing their own stories. Because it's all about bringing together different pieces of the puzzle. Creating this beautifully rich mosaic. So he takes the traditional structure of the haggadah which tells us about how we were taken out of egypt and it tells us about these different characters. Rabbinic figures leaving two thousand years ago. The told us to do this and told us to do that. And he takes out the content and fills it with a new content whereby he tells the story of the holocaust of world war two of the allied victory of the ex pows over nazi germany. And hitler and mussolini's italy he tells us the story of his generation rights yossi who has something to tell us in the traditional said. There's something about how. How would you meant to do something. All of a sudden becomes the speech of the dictator iosif stalin when we told them the haggadah that i god and not an angel. Not anyone else is going to take you. The jewish people out of egypt suddenly becomes. I shall the goal. I not level not the right none of none of the other vichy high commanding general's. I shall the goal which already tells us right. This is what's fascinating in the hitler etc and this is the second bomb if the first bomb is the title. We still don't know what it's about. The second bomb is when you discover that this was written by an anonymous jew living in robots morocco probably towards the end of nineteen forty-three as a result possibly inspired by operation torch. The allied operation led by the us on the shores of casablanca and algiers. And everything changes all of a sudden this jew living in morocco. Who's lived under a regime whether anti jewish laws jews around him have lost their jobs. Jews around you can't get a jewish education you become by night a second-grade citizen and so out author. It almost seems as if he's taking a text which it's time to write it when we don't yet know the ending. He doesn't yet know about the horrific six million who are being murdered. He doesn't know about concentration camps in poland. But he knows he wants to do something horrific any also is living in a time where his life has changed for some years and as a result of the allied victory he suddenly possibly is inspired and sees. I get the exodus. The story i meant to be telling i meant to take the passover haggadah until the story that i see and that's how the allies beat the excess power. And how in fact you know retelling the story of exodus mine new-fangled version. I think that the text itself is amazing in the ways in which it on. The one hand utilizes the story of passover very explicitly very specifically in when he talks. About how hitler. Enslaved the jews but also like you mentioned the way in which some of the characteristic aspects of the traditional aspects are transfigured and transformed new. Whether we're talking about the parable of the four sons the for children or the different rabbis plagues. What are some of the really interesting things that are happening in this text that really are utilizing the passover story itself and also the the characteristic aspects of the passover seder that people who read attritional seder would be familiar with but they give it new meaning in this context. If we take right this this idea of the four sons four daughters any jewish figure that we look at it and we want to understand. What is it the sort of a heart of their teachings you know. One of the tricks is to see if they wrote a commentary on the haggadah. What do they do with these. Four boys of for doors. What do they symbolize. And in the case of the hit da it takes us back in time to a sort of moroccan viewpoint of the the north african campaign. And so who is the wise son now. You know it's going to be an allied power. But you're not sure that england or is it america and you'll told the the wise son is england right. The royal air force acts cleverly. He's clearly impressed he he is probably the razzie stance radio. He knows about the bombings. He knows about montgomery and then we move onto the russia. The russia we know can only be one person. That's clearly hitler. Hitler the evil one. He knows that he's a know he. He's torturing the jewish people and yet it's interesting that if you read through the at that we're not quite sure what's going on in europe right off a thinks that there is a concentration camp in berlin so we're not yet show what's going on in the world and our author doesn't yet. Nobody knows that he clearly is evil that he's plotting against the jews there wearing yellow badges which also is interesting. Because we're not sure. If he's referring to the yellow badges of jews in europe or the yellow badges of jews in certain places in north africa and then who is the tam. The time is interesting. Because tom can both mean in hebrew complete simpleton the thomas america and then shane no. You're dillashaw and who doesn't know how to ask questions. The classic version says the fourth son is the son who doesn't know how to ask questions. The newfangled version is and mussalini. Who isn't with the avowed woods and this is very interesting because when i was speaking to holocaust survivors. Oh you know this. Sort of all degeneration and i spoke to people from algeria from tunisia morocco across the board there was a nickname from cellini mar. He was the donkey he was the s. This resonates with this passage whims lead author decides to change it. And say it's not. He doesn't ask question it's that we don't even wanna talk about

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