BURLINGTON, Mass. (AP) — In the turn-of-the-century postcard, the big-nosed man with a bushy moustache gazes at needy customers from behind a counter that bears the sign: “Money to loan at only 10 per cent a month.”
In another, two gents in top hats warily eye a bearded, big-nosed man carrying a box that identifies him as “J. Green, Gold Brick.”
A Jew and lifelong collector of vintage postcards, Frank Levine has found anti-Semitic images like these in antique shops across Europe, flea markets in Brimfield and online on eBay.
“They’re out there if you know where to look,” he said from his Malden home. “This kind of anti-Semitism happened before my lifetime. It’s still happening.”
Levine, 54, has been collecting postcards most of his life, a passion he inherited from his now-retired father Solomon Levine, who sold them from his home. While Frank Levine focuses on Malden history and Three Stooges memorabilia, he’s acquired numerous postcards, mostly circulated in the U.S., that reveal a casual anti-Semitism featuring stereotypical ideas of how Jews look, act and speak.
Their portrayal of Jews is never subtle: Jews have big noses, thick lips, beards and forelocks. They’re usurers or pawnbrokers selling over-priced, damaged goods in fire sales. They speak with European accents and wear yarmulkes. There are jokes about circumcision and eating pork.
Printed in Germany, England and the United States, most of Levine’s anti-Semitic cards were mailed in the U.S. bearing everyday messages with few references to the images.
He also has memorabilia showing how the Walt Disney company got into the act with a miniature bank called “The Gelt,” a Yiddish word for money. To save money, children could drop coins into a blue figure’s big nose.
On the weekend of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Levine will be showing for the first time more than 25 anti-Semitic postcards in temples in Natick and Burlington.
He’ll be appearing as part of Holocaust Memorial Day programs with death camp survivor Edgar Krasa, of Newton, and author and filmmaker Susie Davidson on April 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington and on April 7, at 7 p.m. at Temple Israel in Natick.
Davidson will discuss her book, “The Music Man of Terezin: The Story of Rafael Schaechter” which she wrote with Krasa.
Levine said he would be showing the postcards as a reminder anti-Semitism thrived in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Nazi Germany.
“If a Jew gets cut, we all bleed,” said Levine. “I think people are right when they say, ‘Never forget.’ ”
He was named for his late uncle, Frank Levine, who was a navigator on the refugee ship Exodus that attempted to carry Holocaust survivors from France to what later became Israel in 1947.
Levine took out a postcard printed by F.W. Dunbar in 1906 that portrays a stereotypical Jewish merchant with a beard and prominent nose holding a banner with a picture of a burning building over the logo ‘Our Friend.’ A fire truck races toward the scene above the caption “Our enemy.”
“That’s fairly typical. It plays on the idea of Jewish merchants selling shoddy goods they got at fire sales,” said Levine.
Krasa, who grew up in Prague and survived four years in the detention camp at Terezin and Auschwitz concentration camp, said he couldn’t generalize about anti-Semitism in the U.S. But he noted years ago his son wasn’t allowed to caddy in a country club that excluded Jews.
“Anti-Semitism persists in many ways,” said the 92-year-old Newton resident, “but it’s not always in the open.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.