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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » January 26, 2012
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Underground Satire
January 26, 2012   
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A new exhibition opens at the Eryk Lipiński Museum of Caricature in Warsaw in February, entitled Warsaw 1939-1944. Wartime Satire and the Realities of War in Cartoons by Polish Graphic Artists. The idea behind the exhibition was sparked by the expanded edition of a coffee-table book by Grzegorz Załęski entitled Satire in the Resistance Movement, published last year.

Although the exhibition mainly deals with Warsaw, comprising drawings from Załęski’s collection borrowed from his son Krzysztof, it also features items from the Museum of Caricature, the National Museum in Warsaw, the Historical Museum of Warsaw, the Central Archives of Modern Records and several private collections. As the title suggests, along with satirical cartoons produced by members of the resistance movement, the exhibition consists of scenes from the everyday lives of residents of Nazi-occupied Warsaw, including their living conditions.

The organizers have designed the exhibition as a tribute to the featured cartoonists, including Henryk Chmielewski a.k.a. Yes, Stanisław Tomaszewski a.k.a. Miedza, Aleksander ¦widwiński, Andrzej Will a.k.a. Was and Jerzy Zaruba. One of the most interesting items on display are underground pamphlets and newspapers, including the only surviving copy of the first satirical wartime magazine, Biały koń, published in June 1940.

The exhibition is divided into several sections dealing with different topics. The first, Germans Ridiculed, consists of depictions of the German invaders, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his faithful Italian ally Benito Mussolini, but also works which portray Germans as victims of Hitler’s regime.

In the second section are drawings depicting Poland’s allies, most notably British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The next section focuses on “The Allies of Our Allies,” that is the Soviets, the Red Army and Stalin. These works include anticommunist cartoons.

The final section is entitled Everyday Life in Nazi-Occupied Warsaw and includes scenes from the Warsaw Ghetto. For the first time in Poland, the public at large will be able to see reproductions of watercolors which Teofila (Tosia) Reich-Ranicki painted in the ghetto in 1942.

A separate part of the exhibition features satirical pieces written for the underground press by members of the resistance, most notably pieces published in German as part of a subversive operation carried out by the Polish underground Home Army.

The exhibition is the brainchild of Prof. Tomasz Szarota from the Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), one of Poland’s leading experts on the history of World War II and the author of several books on life in Nazi-occupied European capitals. The exhibition is set against a visual backdrop that was created by graphic artist Zygmunt Zaradkiewicz to provide a vivid setting for the show. Zaradkiewicz, who is director of the Museum of Caricature, also designed the exhibition catalogue.

Warsaw 1939-1944. Wartime Satire and the Realities of War in Cartoons by Polish Graphic Artists; Museum of Caricature in Warsaw,11 Kozia St.; Feb. 27 to May 20
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