Helsingin Sanomat Pertti Jarla's Cartoon

HELSINKI SANOMAT PUBLISHES CARTOON OF NAZI SOLDIER HOLDING A PACKAGE LABELED JEW-FREE SOAP…….

Text reads: Jew-free Soap

This is an interesting case. The Finnish capital’s newspaper, the Helsinki Sanomat, refused to print the dreaded Danish cartoons of Mohamed when the storm surrounding them first erupted, regardless of the well documented reasons as to why they were published by the Jylland’s-Posten in the first place, but had no problem whatsoever publishing the above cartoon by Pertti Jarla in his “Fingerpori” comic strip.

The cartoon was published a week ago last Friday, and pulled from the Internet this past Tuesday. What’s in question here is a cartoon which failed to deliver the artist’s meaning behind the drawing. Fortunately, the Finnish public reacted strongly to the drawing, as they should have, but interestingly the paper eventually pulled it from its Internet pages with the cartoonist issuing an apology which was published today in the HS, viewable here at the Ilta-Sanomat.

Pertti Jarla: “The inability to see something humorous is in my opinion a healthy and understandable reaction. My intention was to find black humour in a situation where Nazi Germany tries tragicomically to be ethical in a modern way. The purpose was not to belittle the horrendeousness of the issue, but on the contrary to play with conflict of the horrible issue and everyday mundane things [such as soap].”

Taking on the subject of the Jewish Holocaust is always difficult due to the immense tragedy surrounding the German National Socialists’ extermination of European Jewry, Jarla’s chief sin here, is his failure to deliver the exact point he was trying to make. His apology only compounds his original failure (drawing a cartoon to easily misunderstood) by once again failing to be clear, so what’s the point in drawing the cartoon in the first place if it’s so difficult for him to deliver its meaning a second time?

H/T: Kumitonttu

NOTE: The TT inquired about it from someone belonging to the Helsinki Jewish community; “It does give ammo to the Jew haters, it can be understood to also mean: Jew-free soap, which would make more sense actually …. even though its cruel. It doesn’t make sense, it’s in bad taste and the word play is to complicated to understand. So as a Finnish/Jewish reader it’s in bad taste, but I wouldn’t pull it.”

UPDATE: Think animal rights or a green product. Here’s some background. This cartoon is in light of a series of reports in Finland about animal rights in Germany and how they are all upset about the bad mistreatment of animals. This is a play on how the German society today is more concerned about the ethical treatment of chickens, than German society was about the Jews in the 30′ and 40’s. He’s defending the Jews, not mocking them, calling the Germans out on the carpet and calling them hypocrites.

Kumitonttu adds: “I think the artist plays with Finnish language and we should understand the text as “Jew-free soap”. I also think that the artist has a point. For me it looks like he tries to compare the time in Nazi-Germany to modern days.

If I’m right, he tries to compare how a modern West tries to emphasize that a CO2-free products are more favorable than oil-produced goods. If I’m right, again, he says that the Greens ideology is as disastrous as the Nazi-German socialism was. And in that respect I think he hits the point.

What makes the case tricky is that by withdrawing the strip we have no chance to discuss about its theme. Instead of carrying its responsibility as a reliable forum for current topics, the newspaper tries to wipe out the dust under the carpet. Like the three monkeys – do not hear, no dot speak, do not see. ”

8 Responses

  1. I think the artist plays with Finnish language and we should understand the text as "Jew-free soap". I also think that the artist has a point. For me it looks like he tries to compare the time in Nazi-Germany to modern days. If I'm right, he tries to compare how a modern West tries to emphasize that a CO2-free products are more favorable than oil-produced goods. If I'm right, again, he says that the Greenie ideology is as disasterous as the Nazi-German socialism was. And in that respect I think he hits the point.

    What makes the case tricky is that by withdrawing the strip we have no chance to discuss about its theme. Instead of carrying its responsibility as a reliable forum for current topics, the newspaper tries to wipe out the dust under the carpet. Like the three monkeys – do not hear, no dot speak, do not see.

  2. Kumitonttu: Kumitonttu commented on helsinki sanomat publishes cartoon of: “I think the artist plays with Finnish language and we should understand the text as "Jew-free…”

    Kari: Why? The finnish text "vapaan juutalaisen saippua" means "The soap of a Free-Jew". Just like the "Vapaan juutalaisen valtio" means " The State of a Free-Jew". Not a "Jew-free state".

    Jarla probably took the idea(if there were any)from the green egg commercial "vapaan kanan munia", which means something like "Eggs of/from the (cage)free-chicken".

  3. Kari, I think you're right. This was a complicated strip, and it's a pity that Helsingin Sanomat cut off the chance to have a debate about it.

  4. Regarding Kumitonttu's comment. Unfortunately I fail to see the cartoon in the same, rather optimistic, light. On the contrary, Jarla wants to draw a parallel between Jews and chicken; he perceives it absurd that we depict ourselves as ethical consumers when instead of buying eggs that were produced by a caged chicken; we buy the eggs of a chicken that lived in relative freedom.

    Therefore, what is the difference between a soap made out of a free Jew or a Jew who was held in captivity? The end-result is the same, the Jew is dead, and so – in all likelihood – is the chicken. The cartoon is a lazy attempt at an analogy (moral equivalence) between human beings and animals. I bet the cartoon was inspired by the ongoing debate over fur farming.

  5. Good point Dennis by saying "a lazy analogy between humans and animals". I find it, however, important that when arts is produced it must not need to meet the "high standards" or show "good taste". If so, we'd have arts that have no content or substance, as we both agree, don't we?

    Still, the main point in this case – at least for me – is how willing the newspaper was to avoid insulting anyone. That's not very brave.

  6. The translation is wrong. The text doesn's say Jew free, which would actually be 'juutalaiseton' or more likely 'ei sisällä juutalaista'. It's a word play from 'vapaan kanan munia' which means 'Free Range Eggs'. So the correct translation for 'Vapaan Juutalaisen Saippua' is Free Range Jews' Soap.

    Obviously the Nazi is happy that his soap is made from ethically treated Jews.

  7. Hi,

    in my opinion, HS deserves respect for printing the cartoon.
    Imagine a world where genocide is everyday life. Completely absurd except that it was everyday life 65 years ago. Brilliant.

    This is the author’s intention, and it takes no rocket science to figure it out.
    The well-practiced whining from certain groups who still refuse to “get it” doesn’t impress me.
    But it’s obviously not politically correct, and that makes it an easy target.

    1. But one must be reminded that the HS COWERS in the face of Islam. This was an easy pick for them.

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