31 January 1933
Art critic Max Osborn's response to a letter to the editor
The day after Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor, Max Osborn, art critic for the Vossische Zeitung, responded to a letter to the editor that referred to an article that had appeared on 25 January. In it, Osborn reported on the opening of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which had taken place just a few days earlier. At the end of the article he mentioned one of the special objects exhibited in the museum: a Palestinian clay lamp engraved with a Star of David and a swastika. "Isn’t it charming?" he wrote.
In his response to the letter to the editor, which has not survived, Osborn once again addresses the inclusion of both symbols on a historical object, which by all accounts was a unique example. He describes this inclusion as "a strange curiosity"—especially in view of the fact that they currently "stand in such opposition to each other.A premonition of the reign of terror over the next twelve years?"
Max Osborn (1870–1946), the well-known and respected art historian, writer, and journalist, was appointed editor of the Vossische Zeitung in 1914. In late April 1933 he lost his job. Over the following years he wrote numerous articles for German Jewish newspapers. He was a member of the honorary board of the Kulturbund of German Jews, founded in July 1933, and director of its art exhibitions. After the November Pogrom of 1938, Osborn fled to France with his wife and in 1941 the couple managed to escape to New York via Lisbon. There Osborn continued to work as a journalist and wrote his memoirs, Der bunte Spiegel (The Colored Mirror).
Among Max Osborn’s many works was an art guide to Berlin published in 1909 that was one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite books. Hitler purchased it in 1915 while serving as a soldier in Fournes-en-Weppes in northern France and carried it with him throughout the war.Aubrey Pomerance
Vossische Zeitung Berlin
Berlin’s newspaper for political and scholarly issues
Berlin, 31 January 1933
Herr Wilhelm Bütow
Berlin W. 35.,
Magdeburger Platz 4
I would like to respond to the letter you wrote on 30 January to the editors of the Vossische Zeitung. The swastika was of course used in many different ways in ancient times. However, the aspect that is important and worthy of emphasis here is the juxtaposition of the Star of David and the swastika on the same small surface. This is a rare if not unique case amongst the excavated artifacts of the ancient world. Moreover, even if the harmonious co-existence of these two symbols was not unusual for people living during the period in which the lamp in question was made, for us the combination of two symbols that stand in such opposition to each other is a strange curiosity.
Thank you for your interest.
Dr. Max Osborn
The Vossische Zeitung
The Vossische Zeitung, published by the Ullstein publishing house, was the oldest newspaper in Berlin. During the paper’s three-hundred-year history, writings by many prominent authors such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Theodor Fontane and Kurt Tucholsky appeared in its pages. In 1933, the liberal publication was targeted by Nazi censors and was discontinued the following year.