The Free Bird. Der Frayer Foygl. Caricature from the Jewish Press in Independent Poland

To celebrate the centenary of Polish independence, on 16th November the Jewish Historical Institute opened the first exhibition of satirical illustration from interwar Jewish press. The title of the exhibition refers to the vignette of one of the pioneering humour and satire magazines – „Der Frayer Foygl” (The free bird), which used the symbol of the independent Polish state – the White Eagle.

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The exhibition The Free Bird. Der Frayer Foygl. Caricature from the Jewish Press in Independent Poland is a journey into an unknown dimension of the interwar period – a view on the history of independent Poland from the perspective of Jewish illustrators and satirists.

Artworks included at the exhibition have been drawn by artists gifted by both exceptional talent and sense of humour, such as Jakub Bickels, Szaja Fajgenbojm, Samuel Finkelstein, Chaim Goldberg, Fryderyk Kleinman, Leon Dawid Izrael, Mendel Reif, Bronisław Schneider, P. Sternschuss, Artur Szyk, Janusz Trefler, Jehuda Wermus, Ignacy Witz, and a large number of anonymous illustrators. Their oeuvre was destroyed during World War II, many of the artists themselves had died in ghettos, concentration camps, labor camps. Sometimes, presented caricatures provide the only remaining trace of their existence.

We would like to pay homage to these exceptional people – illustrators and satirists. They are the actual authors of this exhibition.

The artworks present a wide panorama of issues which had been concerning the community of Polish Jews in the period between regaining independence and the beginning of World War II in 1939. These sharp, insightful views into the past build a special, surprising story about both the bright and dark sides of of the Jewish minority in independent Poland. They illustrate important political and social events, presenting the Jewish community both from inside – as a national community with its own internal divisions and conflicts, as well as in a wider perspective – as an ethnic minority remaining in complex relationships with the Polish majority. The works include illustrations commenting on the social changes, emancipation of women, the great economic depression, anti-Semitism or foreshadowing of the Holocaust. We can also find portraits of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, poet Antoni Slonimski, Władysław Grabski – author of the monetary reform, or Adolf Hitler on his way to power.

All the presented caricatures had been published in regular satirical columns, as well as from satirical magazines (called vitzblat in Yiddish). Before World War II, the humour and satire branch, which they were a part of, was a dynamically developing part of Jewish printed media in Poland. More than 150 various titles had been published before the war in this genre alone – a record-breaking achievement, considering the scale of the Jewish diaspora at the time.


The Free Bird. Der Frayer Foygl. Caricature from the Jewish Press in Independent Poland

Dates | 16.11.2018–24.03.2019

Exhibition curator | Agnieszka Żółkiewska, PhD

Patron | KGHM Polska Miedź

Partners Polish Association for Yiddish Studies, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Media Patronage | TVP Kultura, Midrasz, Chidusz

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Entry to the exhibition is free till 31 December 2018.

Guided tours to the exhibition:

  • Polish – 300 zł (group)
  • English – 300 zł (group)

Group tickets – minimum 10 participants.

The guided tours to the exhibition are taking place twice a day from Monday to Friday: at 12 in English, at 3 PM in Polish.


Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. This project is part of the commemoration of the centennial of the regaining of independence.











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