Thousands of messages and images come to us every day. They flood us through various channels, such as social media, television, and the printed press. But do these messages and images always tell the truth? Fake news and fake images invariably sneak in: sometimes they are innocent, sometimes they are extremely dangerous. One reason why fake news and fake images are so dangerous is that people are often highly susceptible to them.
Stereotypical ideas and conspiracy theories about Jews, Roma, migrants, LGBTQIA+s people, and other groups poison society. But these notions are not new. During the Second World War, for example, antisemitic propaganda was highly effective in making clever use of stereotyping and conspiracy mongering. This propaganda was used as part of a genocide of unprecedented proportions. The exhibition #FakeImages exposes how this kind of image is created.
Arthur Langerman, a Belgian survivor of the Holocaust, has been collecting antisemitic drawings, posters and objects for over 50 years. His collection is a direct result of the horrors of the annihilation of the Jews, and forms the basis for the historical part of this exhibition. #FakeImages presents antisemitic images from across the centuries, with a strong focus on propaganda before and during the Second World War.
But #FakeImages also goes further. The exhibition highlights mechanisms that have a major impact on contemporary ideas and on society. In four interactive modules, visitors will discover via contemporary examples how to break through common patterns of misleading information such as stereotypes, prejudice, racism, deception and humour.
Arthur Langerman’s family was arrested in Antwerp by the German occupying forces in late March 1944. His parents, Zysla Blajwas and Salomon Langerman, were detained at the Dossin Barracks. Arthur, though not yet two years old, was sent to the Uccle Nursery, a children’s home belonging to the Association of Jews in Belgium but controlled by the Nazis.
Arthur Langerman’s parents were deported from the Dossin Barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Transport 25, on 19 May 1944. His father died in February 1945, probably during a death march from Flossenbürg to Plattling. His mother was transferred from Auschwitz to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in August 1944. She was reunited with her son after being repatriated to Belgium. Traumatised, she withdrew into silence, secrecy and pain, a situation that left a permanent mark on Arthur.
The Trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 opened Arthur Langerman’s eyes to the uniqueness of the radical evil that had targeted his family and the rest of Europe’s Jews. He began his collection, tenaciously gathering evidence of European antisemitism over the centuries. The pieces date mainly from the late 19th century onwards, although some are much older.
“I wanted to understand what the Jews had done that was so wrong, for them to have been treated so cruelly. I wanted to understand why people nurtured such hatred for Jews.”Arthur Langerman
Comprising over 8,100 original pieces, Arthur Langerman’s collection is the largest of its kind in Europe. It was transferred to the Center for Research on Antisemitism at the Berlin Technical University, where the Arthur Langerman Archive for the Study of Visual Antisemitism (ALAVA) is available for research and exhibitions. For the #FakeImages-exhibition Kazerne Dossin made a selection from this extensive collection.
Antisemitism evolved enormously. Originating as a religious anti-Judaism, a political antisemitism developed from the 19th century onwards, culminating in the racial antisemitism of the 20th century.
Church fathers and theologians develop the theme of deicide, which holds that the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus.
The theological discourse becomes violently extreme, attributing the world’s misfortunes to the Jews. Thousands of Jews are massacred by Christian armies (in the Crusades) and Muslim armies alike.
In 1370, Jews in Brussels were accused of using daggers to pierce communion wafers stolen from a chapel. Blood is said to have flown from the wafers. Six Jews and their families are tortured before being burned alive in public. The Duke of Brabant expels the Jews and confiscates all their assets.
The period from the 15th century to the 17th century sees continual acts of antisemitic persecution. Many cities and states in Europe act to expel Jews or force them to convert. These measures are always accompanied by confiscation of the victims’ assets.
Creation of the first ghetto, in Venice.
In his treatise ‘On the Jews and Their Lies’, Martin Luther presents an eight-point plan to dispose of the Jews, either by expelling them or by forcing them to convert.
Accusations against Jews of ritual murders in Germany, Russia, Italy, Syria, Greece, Turkey, Poland, Romania, Hungary, France, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria…
The Saint Michael and Saint Gudula Cathedral receives new stained-glass windows portraying the legend of the desecration of the Host in detail.
Appearance of the word Antisemitismus, in the meaning of ‘hostility to the Jews’, on the occasion of the foundation of an ‘antisemitic league’ in 1879.
On 13 March 1881, an anarchist group assassinates Tsar Alexander II. This event triggers pogroms (massacres of Jews) in Russia and then in Poland. Jews flee en masse, seeking refuge in western Europe and the United States.
A French journalist and politician, Édouard Drumont, describes the ‘Jewish race’ in his pamphlet La France juive [Jewish France]: ‘The soft, limp hand of the hypocrite and traitor’, the ‘hooked nose’, the ‘protruding ears‘. The work is highly successful in France.
A Belgian jurist and Socialist Party activist, Edmond Picard, publishes Le Droit et la Race [Law and Race], which connects social problems with supposed racial problems. His antisemitism targets Jews and other peoples deemed ‘Semitic’. He supports the policy of Leopold II in the Congo.
In France, the Jewish military Captain Alfred Dreyfus is arrested and falsely accused of passing military secrets to Germany. He is demoted and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.
In France, the newspaper L’Aurore publishes Émile Zola’s open letter J’accuse… [I accuse…], in which the influential writer defends Captain Dreyfus. Protests erupt in France, often accompanied by cries of ‘Down with the Jews!’ The Catholic press and a number of anarchist and socialist newspapers rage against both the Jews and the Dreyfusards, who defend Dreyfus.
The Tsar Nicolas II’s secret police produces a forgery entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which discusses a supposed Jewish plan to take over the world. The work is published in Russia in 1903 and is subsequently translated into many languages. Even today, it continues to serve as a standard reference work for antisemitic circles.
Pogroms in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland and other countries in eastern Europe.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in October 1917, between 100,000 and 150,000 Jews are killed by various armed units, peasants and soldiers returning from the front, in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and parts of present-day Poland.
Admiral Miklós Horthy, regent of Hungary, carries out brutal repression against Communists, Social Democrats and Jews. Antisemitic laws are reinforced.
New stained-glass windows are installed in the Saint Anne’s Chapel at the Church of Saint Nicholas in Enghien, recalling the so-called desecration of the Host, a major theme in religious antisemitism since the Middle Ages.
Poland suspends its cooperation with the League of Nations in respect to minorities. Discriminatory laws are adopted against the 3.5 million Polish Jews. In 1935, anti-Jewish riots break out across the country.
In Germany, under the authority of Chancellor Adolf Hitler, the Nuremberg racial laws are announced. The new measures include official bans on marriages and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews. Between 1933 and 1945, some 2,000 laws, decrees and ordinances contribute to the exclusion of Jews in the Nazi Reich.
Germany annexes Austria. Within six months, Adolf Eichmann, who is in charge of the logistics of the Final Solution, forces a quarter of Austria’s 185,000 Jews to flee the country.
Germany’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, organises the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ (‘Kristallnacht’) in the Reich. Thousands of synagogues, Jewish-owned businesses and Jewish cemeteries are burned or vandalised. Around 100 Jews are lynched. Some 25,000 Jews are deported to concentration camps.
In Romania, General Ion Antonescu is appointed President of the Council of Ministers. He establishes a state dominated by the Iron Guard and enters an alliance with Nazi Germany in 1941. During the Second World War, some 350,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews are murdered by the regime.
In Belgium, the occupying military government promulgates the first of 17 ordinances against Jews. These measures aim to identify the Jews, isolate them from the rest of the population and prepare their deportation. These measures contravene the Belgian constitution.
In France, the Vichy government promulgates its first Jewish Statute, despite there being little pressure from the German occupying power to do so. This new statute, which excludes 330,000 French and foreign Jews in mainland France from society, as well as 370,000 North African Jews, institutes professional bans and internment of foreign Jews.
With the help of collaborating states and local collaborators, Nazi Germany implements the systematic extermination of Jewish men, women and children. Measures include starving the Jewish populations in ghettos, shooting them en masse in eastern Europe and deporting them to extermination centres. The toll of the Shoah amounts to nearly six million people, or two-thirds of Europe’s Jews.
Opening of the Mechelen assembly camp, from where the Nazis deport more than 25,500 Jews and 353 Roma.
There are a number of mechanisms that continue to have a major impact on our ideas and our society today. These mechanisms are closely linked to the historical antisemitic imagery we discover through the Langerman collection.
#FakeImages dissects these timeless mechanisms through four interactive constellations, and sends you on an exploration of contemporary examples in search of links between past and present.