Page 149 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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AMISHAI-MAISELS/STEINHARDT AND BIALIK
141
3): there too an old bearded man raises his hands above his head
against a background of apocalyptic destruction, in which houses
tremble as lightning strikes the city.
However, there are several major differences between
Pogrom
III
and
The Prophet
which point up the d ifferen t messages
Steinhardt wished to convey in each work.
The Prophet
is built on
images such as Erich Maria Rilke’s
The Prophet
o f ca. 1907, or the
prophet Petrus Heissler in Carl Hauptmann’s
War
A TeDeum
o f 1913, all o f whom derive u ltima tely from N ie tzsche’s
Zarathustra.10 For these pre-war writers, as for Steinhardt, de­
struction had a positive value: only afterwards could a new, more
spiritual society be constructed. Therefore, despite the people
who flock to Steinhardt’s
Prophet
to repent, he is unable — and
perhaps unwilling — to halt the destruction being wreaked be­
hind him. Looking down sadly upon the penitents, he raises his
arms in a gesture compounded o f warning and defeat, for he is as
much a victim of apocalyptic doom as they are.
The main figure in
Pogrom III
reacts in a different way. Al­
though his gesture also expresses despair, his clenched fists com­
bined with the screaming head he turns heavenward express his
anger against God who permitted the destruction amidst which
he stands. No longer God’s messenger to man, he has become
man’s messenger to God, and his literary source derives not from
German Expressionism but from Jewish literature, especially
from the pogrom poetry of Chaim Nachman Bialik. This is in fact
suggested by the name given the drawing when it was exhibited
in 1917 at the Berlin Secession:
To Bialik.11
Yet the Bialik poems
involved do not deal with the pogroms o f 1914-15, but rather
with the Kishinev massacre of 1903, which had served as the basis
for many of the archetypes of pogrom painting. Steinhardt’s
drawing is actually an illustration of parts of Bialik’s “In the City
of Slaughter”:
Arise and go now to the city of slaughter;
10 Erich Maria Rilke,
Samtliche Werke,
Frankfurt-am-Main: Insel, 1955, pp.
566-67; and Carl Hauptmann,
W a r— A TeDeum,
in
Vision and Aftermath,
trans.
J. M. Ritchie and.J. D. Stowell, London: Calder and Boyars, 1969, pp. 31-35,
39-48, 55, 58-61.
11
Berliner Secession, Friihjahrs-Austellung,
May-July 1917, no. 359. Nadel calls it
To
N. Ch. Bialik
(Nadel, p. 41), and Steinhardt labeled the photograph o f the
painting “To Bialik.”