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Concentration Camp Tarot Cards
August 25, 2007 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Hand drawn Tarot Cards created by a Boris Kobe, a prisoner at Allach Concentration Camp, a sub-camp of Dachau. Each card depcits an aspect of life in the camp - click each image for high-res versions.
posted by jonson (34 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh come on, everyone knows the Tarot isn't real, it's just a scam, therefore this post has no value!

Sorry, don't know what just came over me. Great find!
posted by Jimbob at 8:08 AM on August 25, 2007


Heh. I came to post the same one-liner, Jimbob! You must be psychic!

These are great cards though. His linework and sense of composition are pretty dead on.
posted by klangklangston at 8:15 AM on August 25, 2007


Fascinating cards. My first impulse was to say, "Wait, this isn't the divinatory Tarot I know!" -- but a little research quickly schooled my silly American new-agey impulses. Folks play card games with Tarot decks -- how cool.
posted by vitia at 8:22 AM on August 25, 2007


No soup for you!
posted by Poolio at 8:41 AM on August 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow. An actual soup nazi.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:44 AM on August 25, 2007


Great cards, great post.
posted by absalom at 8:45 AM on August 25, 2007


These are not Tarot cards.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:51 AM on August 25, 2007


What does this depict? Delousing?
posted by phrontist at 8:54 AM on August 25, 2007


a true story about soup in a concentration camp. A lady I knew, as a young woman she was in a camp with her mother. The war was coming to a close and the Nazis wanted to conceal bodies. They asked for volunteers for a mission and said there would be a reward of an extra ration of soup for those that helped. The young girl was very ill and so too her mother.Neither did want the other to see each other die. The mother warnded the daughter not to trust the nazis. But the girl went out and worked late into the night: burying bodies in a huge pit. The girl got the bowl of soup as a reward. Gave it to her mother. The mother refused and told the daughter to eat it. They then each used spoons to take the soup but each took as little as possible from the bowl. Question: how did this smart young woman solve this problem?

They each fed each other with the spoons to ensure that the other one got a good spoonful. The following day or so, the American troops entered Dachau and they were both saved and ended up, eventually, in America.
posted by Postroad at 9:17 AM on August 25, 2007 [7 favorites]


Fascism beautifully and lovingly depicted in all its ugliness.

Great post, jonson.
posted by lekvar at 9:27 AM on August 25, 2007


These are incredible, but I'm a bit surprised at the lack of historical detail: where the hell did he get the inks and paper? How did he hide what he was doing? How are these cards in such beautiful condition -- were they cleaned or somehow restored? Or did he have some way of protecting them that kept them pristine? I wish the Holocaust Museum had these in their collection, because I'm guessing the public documentation would be much more explicit.

These were probably just a secret pastime and never used as a classic Tarot deck, but I'm fairly haunted by the notion of someone actually using them to read a fortune.

Thanks for yet another excellent post, jonson.
posted by melissa may at 9:49 AM on August 25, 2007


Where's the Major Arcana? The Fool, The High Priestess, The World?
What about princesses? There are normally four face cards for each suit in Tarot.
This is a normal deck of cards. It looks like some was dealt a tragic hand, but not tarot.
posted by Balisong at 10:00 AM on August 25, 2007


This is a Tarot deck. Check it out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarocchi
posted by enamon at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2007


on a sidenote, whistling in the dark, the blog that discovered these tarots and was linked yesterday on BoingBoing, is actually pretty good
posted by matteo at 10:36 AM on August 25, 2007


and, melissa may, you'd be surprised to see how much actual art was created in the camps -- Terezin is the usual goto example
posted by matteo at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2007


Balisong, fortunetelling isn't the only aspect of a tarot deck. likely they used them to, you know, play games with. Austrian tarot decks only have 54 cards.

the new-agey aspect of fortunetelling Tarot decks is a relatively modern conceit.

or you could, like, read enamon's link and educate yourself.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2007


(mm, there's also a Terezin chamber music foundation, website here)
posted by matteo at 10:43 AM on August 25, 2007


Write what you know? Then why not illustrate what you live ? This resonates with me, this kind of creativity.
posted by nola at 11:24 AM on August 25, 2007


Where's the Major Arcana? The Fool, The High Priestess, The World?
What about princesses? There are normally four face cards for each suit in Tarot.
This is a normal deck of cards. It looks like some was dealt a tragic hand, but not tarot.


The Major Arcana is the first set of cards numbered 1-21. The four face cards are the King, Queen, Knight and Page of each suit at the bottom- some are missing, and the thumbnails are not in order on the page. In order for it to be a "normal" deck of cards, you'd not have the first 21 cards, you'd have 1-10 numbered cards in each suit, which definitely aren't in this deck.

Thanks jonson. Beautiful and awful. It looks like they were colored with crayon.

These are incredible, but I'm a bit surprised at the lack of historical detail: where the hell did he get the inks and paper?

Allach was a concentration camp where artists were interned. It housed a ceramics factory, where porcelain figurines were produced. There were other sub-camps that for some reason operated under the Geneva conventions and received care packages from the International YMCA that contained cryons and paper, so it's not impossible that inmates in certain camps had access to such things.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:30 AM on August 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, I left a bunch out of my first paragraph: you'd only have the numbered cars and just three face cards.

I write even more poorly in the morning. Bleah.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2007


These cards are absoutely amazing. I would love to get my hands on one of the reproductions they talk about. Am I missing something, though, or is the Fool/Excuse not shown? I would be very curious what Kobe did with that card.

As an aside, Tarot games are some of the best card games I've ever played in terms of strategy and variety. I'm a huge fan of the standard French Tarot. It's always good to see references to it pop up.
posted by Schismatic at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2007


Great post, jonson.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:41 AM on August 25, 2007


Oh wait, I think the shirtless lad with the hammer, blue hat, and grin is the Fool. That's awesome.
posted by Schismatic at 11:41 AM on August 25, 2007


That's what I was thinking, Schismatic.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:47 AM on August 25, 2007


Porcelain figurines from the Allach factory. The one in the box on the main page is from a collection of "jesters".

Allach also housed POWs, and forced laborers working in the BMW factory. Here's a metal bowl with the BMW imprint.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:07 PM on August 25, 2007


Incredible! I am having a hard time believing these are not Barry Windsor Smith illustrations.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:14 PM on August 25, 2007


Awe inspiring. What tragic fortune, concentration camp hell depicted in Tarot cards. Heart twisting.

Thanks for the excellent post jonson.
posted by nickyskye at 12:23 PM on August 25, 2007


Thanks for the compliment Matteo.

And thanks for posting this Johnson. I'm too chicken to write a FPP. : )

From an email from Dr. Stephen Feinstein, Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota

"The Slovenian Ministry of Culture gave out a bunch of them in Stockholm in 2000 and asked us to do what we could with them. I finally got a good electronic camera with macro lens."
posted by terrortubby at 12:47 PM on August 25, 2007


Sorry about the typo jonson.
posted by terrortubby at 1:10 PM on August 25, 2007


Depicting the Nazi guards on the cards was verboten? Somehow I was expecting them to figure prominently in the set.
posted by well_balanced at 1:12 PM on August 25, 2007


No, but the Capo are featured prominently. I really wish there was more history to be found about these images; what's the significance of the transition from grubby second-hand clothes to striped prison garb? Who are the slick looking soldiers smoking cigarettes on card XXI? American liberators, perhaps.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:03 PM on August 25, 2007


Dr. Feinstein believes the originals "are in an archive in Ljubljana as that is where he lived. The Slovenian Ministry of Education had an exhibit of repros on a desk covered
with glass, if I remember correctly, at the Stockholm International Conference."
posted by terrortubby at 2:31 PM on August 25, 2007


I had a huge shock when I saw these. For a moment, I thought my grandfather (previously) drew these.

He was a German Jew, but he emigrated to London between the two world wars (a fact to which I owe my existence). So though he had some hard times during The Blitz, he was never in a concentration camp.

But he was an artists. When I was a kid, he drew me cartoons, and, stylistically, they looked EXACTLY like these cards, down to the color choices, the cross-hatching and the expressions on the faces. This must have been a popular style at the time, and my granddad was still using it in the 60s/70s.
posted by grumblebee at 3:11 PM on August 25, 2007


I was totally going to post this, but feared cries of "boingboing filter". That'll show me to be timid!

These are just so gorgeous, I'm glad to see they made it on the Blue. Beautiful and awful at the same time, I am constantly amazed at the places wonderful art arises from.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:49 PM on August 25, 2007


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