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Making His Mark, Cartoons From Dachau To Miami

Recently the Forward received a donation of 66 cartoons drawn by a survivor of Dachau. And they are a lot of fun!

The more accurate way of saying it, I guess, is that 66 drawings by the Forward’s in-house cartoonist were returned to our archive. Lillian Silver, daughter of former editor Simon Weber, brought us the working copies from the folders her late father had taken home with him.

As Chana Pollack, the Forward archivist and chief piner after missing objects, observes, these drawings could easily have been lost. Unwieldy sheets of stiff paper with drawn works in progress were not easy to carry home nor were they the sort of items that one would keep safe forever.

Image by Paul Markison

Silver did say that her father worked more from home as he aged, but that does not explain the survival of this art. Weber, who shlepped the drawings out into deepest Brooklyn, seems to have had a soft spot for Paul Markison — known professionally as “Mark.” And we’re grateful to his family for the safe return of his work.

Mark, who passed away in Boca Raton, Florida, in September, was born in Budapest. He told our contributing editor Eddy Portnoy that he went to art school before he was imprisoned in Dachau, and that he arrived in America in 1947 at the age of 23.

Jack Rich was a well-known labor writer and labor editor of the Forward. Through family friends, Rich saw Mark’s work for the “Hat Worker” — the organ of the hat cap and millinery union — and brought Mark to the Forward.

In the early 1960s, as chief cartoonist Samuel Zagat approached retirement, Mark took over for the Forward. His style is infectious, whether dealing with politics like Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev or the KKK or social trends such as the arrival of “hippy” culture or the enduring strangeness of the summer season when wives leave the city and husbands stay to “work.”

Image by Paul Markison

Some of the subjects of the cartoons have been lost (or at least mislaid) — for example. we aren’t sure why the cow has a lock on her udders (see below left) — but the cartoons are now carefully archived. They were lovingly catalogued by our volunteer archivist Arlene Bronstein, who finished that task just before her own untimely passing in September.

Image by Paul Markison

Throughout his long tenure at the Yiddish Forward, Mark needed approval for his cartoons. While that’s a fate that also befell Art Spiegelman, Ben Katchor and Eli Valley, his successors at the English Forward, they at least had a language in common with their readers.

Strange though it may seem, the last full time cartoonist for the Yiddish Forverts spoke Hungarian and English, but not Yiddish. Because of his linguistic lack, the older writers at the paper called him “the goyishe kid.”

But Mark had the last laugh.

Dan Friedman is the executive editor of the Forward. Follow him on Twitter at @danfriedmanme

(Thanks to Eddy Portnoy and Chana Pollack for archival and research help.)

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