Hitler's Rise and The Haggadah

1933 - 1936


Arthur Szyk, 1935. Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. London.

Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

The Enabling Act grants Hitler power to act without Parliamentary consent and constitutional limitations. Referencing Hitler’s blend of  negotiation and intimidation to get the Enabling Act passed, Szyk places Hitler on top of the Reichstag, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In his right hand he clutches an olive branch, but his left is raised in a Nazi salute. Hitler, Szyk states, is not to be trusted.


Photographer unknown (c.1920s) Arthur and Julia Szyk. Paris

The Szyks travel to the United States.

Washington and His Times is exhibited at the Library of Congress. The US Congress presents Szyk with the George Washington Bicentennial Medal for his outstanding contribution to the bicentennial celebrations.


Arthur Szyk (1935) The Haggadah: The Family at the Seder.

Szyk returns to Łódź and begins work on The Haggadah.

The work is a visual interpretation of the ritual text used by Jews for the celebration of Passover. It is to become his best-known work.  The work features 48 full page watercolor and gouache illuminations, and the traditional text in Hebrew calligraphy. While the text was customary, the illustrations used contemporary subject matter, as Szyk used the work to critique the anti-Semitic actions of the Nazi party in Germany.

It is to become his best-known work.


Arthur Szyk (1939) The Haggadah: Dedication to the Jews of Germany.

Anti-Semitic laws declared by the Nazis.

At a large rally in Nuremburg, the Nazis announced anti-Semitic laws codifying who could be classified as Jewish.

Szyk’s Haggadah was created at a time of considerable political instability in Europe. He watched with alarm as the events in Germany unfolded, and his despair at the plight of the Jews, combined with his determination to fight it, drives his work throughout this time. This image of Moses with the Ten Commandments, is dedicated to German Jews on the eve of World War II and the ensuing Holocaust. The work has only recently come to light, and was never published.

The scroll that Moses unfurls is inscribed: “To the memory of the suffering of my brethren in Germany in the 57th century, I am dedicating these pictures.” The “57th century” refers to the Jewish calendar year 5700, which began on September 14, 1939.

Explore Arthur Szyk's life and times through his art