Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust

Many of the superheroes we see in comic books are fictional. They have impossible powers, supernatural origin stories, and maybe even a few too many dollars to spend. Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of the real heroes who have existed throughout history.

When I think of real-life heroes, I think of the strong-willed, honorable men and women who populate our everyday lives. You need incredible courage to stand up to injustices in the world. Others may call to mind figures like the man who refused to kneel to Loki in Marvel’s Avengers film. As that character said, “There are always men like you”. Whether their gestures are grand and outwardly daring like that man’s, or quieter and less visible, everyday heroes have existed throughout human history.


The best scene in the Avengers, in my opinion

In their comic book series and exhibit, Chutz-Pow, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh decided to showcase the remarkable individuals of World War II. The first issue chronicles the experiences of resistance fighters, Holocaust survivors, liberators, and the everyday heroes who fought for justice in a time where hate was everywhere.

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The cover of Chutz-Pow’s first issue

I received a copy of the first issue from a friend who teaches history classes at a high school and community college outside of Pittsburgh. The comic’s creators reached out to educators like him in order to maintain historical accuracy. Survivors from throughout Pittsburgh and the surrounding area were also able to share their stories with the Holocaust Center.

The comic is unusual not only for its content, but for the Holocaust Center’s choice of medium. While plenty of comic book characters and series, such as Magneto or Maus, rely on aspects of the Holocaust to drive home character backstories or historical relevance, I’m not familiar with many other comics based solely on real survivors’ stories. Plenty of books (each one important) exist to preserve these stories, but this comic resides in a unique category. By publishing a comic, the Holocaust Center aimed to create a more interactive storytelling experience.

The first issue of Chutz-Pow, which was first released in 2014, showcases the testaments of Les Banos, Malika and Moshe Baran, Dora Iwler, and Fritz Ottenheimer. Their trials and journeys are truly incredible. Readers will learn of their experiences as a Hungarian double-agent, a victim of Kristallnacht, a member of the Mstitel (Russian for “revengers”), and more.

“When you’re acting as a superman, you’re teaching your children to be supermen.”

-Fritz Ottenheimer

Reality is often more interesting than fiction, and it has plenty to teach us. As more and more Holocaust survivors pass away each year, preserving their stories becomes even more important. Works like Chutz-Pow set them in stone for future generations and teach us just how important everyday heroes are.

The second issue of this series was released on October 30th of this year. I’m not usually one to advertise sales, but works like these are important. The first issue of Chutz-Pow: Superheroes of the Holocaust is available through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

If you enjoyed this, try:

Webcomics: Hidden Gems
X-Men: Magneto Testament



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