by Joshua H. Stulman
In 2007, Al Wiesner saw the need to preserve and present the stories of the fast dwindling Holocaust survivors for the next generation of young Jews. Wiesner had been a youth during World War II and later served in the Air Force in the early 1950’s.
“[During the 1930’s] I heard what was happening but I didn’t hit home really because my father and mother came to the United States when they were 8-10, so I had no family in Europe,” said Wiesner. He continued, “Most was kept hush hush in the United States and it didn’t come out until later when I was a young kid and heard these things.”
The Holocaust was a subject Wiesner rarely touched on in his comic book work because of its sad and mature nature. He instead focussed on creating Shaloman stories centered on Jewish History and Holidays.
But for The Saga of Shaloman # 8 (the fourth volume of Shaloman comics), Al Wiesner decided to address the very relevant occurrence of Holocaust denial. To do this, Wiesner created the character of Donald Nyer (D. Nyer). Complete with Hitler mustache, the character espouses his anti-Semitism to crowds in an attempt to confuse and create doubt about the Holocaust and to sow hatred for Jews in general. Nyer’s hatred extends far beyond the Holocaust but to the core of Jewish History.
“I created the story because I wanted to, at the time, to do a book about Chanukah and I got the idea that people who are deniers have to be proven that it happened. And taking the denier and making him a believer… how can I say that the Jews won in Chanukah and suffered under the Germans? In one story the Jews are victims and the other they are victors. It gives people who have any doubts that its true and that it happened that way. In this one case, they were fortunate to win out among the people who where mercenaries and the other one, the world was more populated and more people were villains,” recounts Wiesner.
The story can be broken down into three acts. The first addresses the causes and roots of Holocaust denial in modern times and focusses on age old libels against the Jewish people. The second act is a trip through time to look at the roots of Anti-Semitism by the Assyrian Greeks during the Chanukah story. The third part addresses the Holocaust directly.
For the third act of his story, Al Wiesner interviewed Holocaust survivors (Daniel Goldsmith, Klara Vinokur and Itka Zal) and used their experiences as reference for the story. He also turned to historic photography as a source to accurately portray incidents in the concentration camps.
“I took three people who were victims in the Holocaust and worked their story into the book. At Temple Beth Israel in Warrington there was a lecture. One fellow, Danny Goldsmith,…told his story in the synagogue about what happened.” said Wiesner.
“I took the story of Klara Vinokur [Holocaust survivor] where she says ‘it happened before and now its happening again’ and used that as the opening,” Wiesner continued.
Saga of Shaloman # 8 sold out in its initial run in 2007, however the book was included in the Saga of Shaloman Graphic Novel. In 2019, Wiesner released a Limited Edition second printing of 250 copies because of the importance of the story in today’s world, a world where anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States and in Europe.
Saga of Shaloman # 8 is the only Shaloman comic rated PG-12. The artwork tastefully addresses the Holocaust without any graphic depictions so that the content can be accessible to younger audiences. The comic is a full 33 pages with no ads.