Alister Wedderburn Profile picture
Oct 1, 2018 14 tweets 5 min read Read on X
This is the cover of one of the most extraordinary texts I am aware of: Mickey au Camp de Gurs, a comic strip drawn by Horst Rosenthal in 1942. Rosenthal drew it while a detainee in Gurs, a concentration camp in Vichy France. 1/n Image
The strip outlines the camp's daily practices and rituals, as well as the heavily racialised identity games underpinning them. Its protagonist is not Rosenthal himself, however, but Mickey Mouse. 2/n Image
The plot is simple: Mickey is arrested while strolling through Vichy France, and sent to Gurs, where he is detained. His response is bafflement rather than anger. 3/n Image
Yet if Mickey is bemused by the camp, it is likewise unable to get a read on him. In this panel the clerk tries to work out if Mickey is a Jew or a communist - but of course he is neither, unable to be dehumanised because he is already non-human. 4/n Image
At the end of the strip, Mickey decides that whatever Gurs is, it is not for him. And so he erases himself out of the strip altogether. 'And so, because I’m nothing more than a drawing, I rubbed myself out with a stroke of the eraser… and… ta-da…!!!' 5/n Image
Almost nothing is known about Mickey de Camp de Gurs. It is held in the archives at the @Shoah_Memorial, in Paris, to whom it was donated in 1978. Its movements between 1942 and then are unknown. Why and for whom it was written are questions without answers. 6/n Image
We do know that Rosenthal drew two other strips while in Gurs, both of which are similarly compelling, and we also know that soon after drawing them he was sent via Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he was killed on arrival. 7/n
...But beyond these fragments, there's nothing to go on except the text itself. And I love this comic strip dearly. It is funny, smart, moving and everything else a great piece of art should be. 8/n
But it also provokes a number of questions. Not least: how can one read this text in political terms? 9/n
Nothing created in circumstances such as these can be considered apolitical. And yet how can one talk about this text in political terms when all relevant information about audience, reception and so on is completely inaccessible?
I love Mickey au Camp de Gurs, and this little thread is primarily a piece of unapologetic evangelism on its behalf. But I've also tried to grapple with the question above, in addition to a couple of others aroused by the strip. 11/n
...if you're interested, then please feel free to give my article 'Cartooning the Camp: Aesthetic Interruption and the Limits of Political Possibility' a read. It's currently OnlineFirst @millennjournal…

Over the moon that so many people are digging this comic. Some housekeeping:
1) I'm going to do another thread later today about one of Rosenthal's other surviving strips, so keep yr eyes peeled
2) Rosenthal's strips have been published in French:…

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