Arthur Szyk (pronounced ShickA") created his Haggadah on the eve of the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. In 1937, he relocated to London, carrying with him the 48 densely illustrated panels that depicted Jewish heroes like Moses and David triumphing over Egyptians and Philistines. Three years later, a group of wealthy English Jews financed a first (limited) edition of The Szyk Haggadah. By 1956, the plates had found their way to Israel, where a trade edition remained in print until 2003. Available in the United States only through specialized distribution channels, this version became the most popular haggadah of the twentieth century-at least in Israel. This edition, the first widely available printing since 1940 to be reproduced from Szyk's original art, boasts a newly commissioned and incredibly practical text by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, the Director of Doctoral Studies at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. A special commentary section, which follows the main story of the Passover, gives insight into both the rituals of the seder and Szyk's rich illustrations.
A master miniaturist, Arthur Szyk studied and worked in Paris, Krakow, and Palestine during the years before World War I. His art attracted the attention of the Polish Army in Lodz, which recruited him to head their Department of Propaganda. Following the war, he was a popular and highly collectable artist, traveling to America to promote exhibitions. Hitler's rise to power in early 1933 prompted Szyk's return to Lodz, where he began work on his haggadah in earnest. The original version of the haggadah, which depicts historical Jewish triumphs through contemporaneous villains, included swastikas on the armbands of the Egyptians.A" Szyk eventually removed these to make the illustrations more palatable to European publishers, who were wary of Germany's military expansions. Szyk's anti-Nazi work was widely published during World War II; in 1941, Putnam published The New Order, filled with Szyk caricatures of Axis leaders, and his satirical drawings of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito graced magazine covers, editorials, ads for war bonds, and even War Department pamphlets and films.