Superman Fights in the Holocaust: Honoring Heroes

Superman Fights in the Holocaust: Honoring Heroes

To send Superman “where I’m needed most” may sound like a familiar mission, but this time it’s not the typical fighting against evil aliens or villains to protect humanity. The world renowned hero Superman is involved with the Holocaust in confrontation with the Nazis.

It is an amazing revelation to learn that superhero writers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster may have been inspired, in part, to create Superman by their Jewish heritage and the rising anti-Semitism in the 1930s. Two subtle but shocking points can be suggested.  First, like the parents of Moses the prophet, Superman’s parents sent him as a child alone to save him from impending doom. Then, Superman’s homeland Krypton was destroyed, not unlike Germany was, a place Jews escaping the holocaust called home. In the early Superman comics, Superman can be seen fighting against authoritarian leaders that recall Hitler and the Nazi party.  

One of Siegel and Shuster comics Superman Archives volume 3 of 1941 shows the Dulkian American Sports Festival which resembles the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics.  The Dukalian consul Karl Wolf, could be seen as Hitler and the Dulkian athletes all strike the “Heil Hitler” pose towards their fascist leader.  The athletes give a salute that resembles the dangerous Hitler salute. Superman fights the Dulkians. The cartoonists thus target Hitler’s wrongdoing. This impacts readers around the world. As one of the most famous superheros, perhaps the greatest one, Superman has the power to show what is wrong in the real world to youth of all races and religions.   

One measure of Seigel’s success was that it infuriated Josef Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda. In Das Schwarz Korps, a weekly newspaper of the Nazi SS, Goebbels tried to degrade Jerry Siegel and America: “Jerry Siegellack stinks. Woe to the American youth, who must live in such a poisoned atmosphere and don’t even notice the poison they swallow daily.” They said “Siegellack stinks!” meaning sealing wax stinks, a pun on Siegel’s name to make him seem like a joke. This was the first Superman comic to attack what the Nazis have done to the Jewish people. This was the only form of attack on Hitler by Superman when the holocaust was still happening.

Later issues deal directly with ghettos and death camps.  In Comic Superman (1987) Issue 54 by Jerry Ordway and Dennis Janke with Karl Kesel, Superman is sent back and forth into both the future and the past. This time the Spectre decided to send him to the past where, as Superman says, “I’m needed the most.” He warped in front of a train taking Auschwitz survivors past the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto.  Superman destroys the train, allowing the Auschwitz survivors a chance to escape and he grabs the atom bomb that was dropped from a plane. Hitler was testing their atomic weapons. With the bomb, the superhero flies high into the skies and it explodes. Everyone thinks he is dead but the explosion triggers his time travel so he is transported into another era.

The comic most involved to the Warsaw Ghetto is in Superman: The Man of Steel #80 to 82 by L. Simonson Bogdanove Janke. For the 60th anniversary of superman’s creation in 1938, DC editors release the 3 consecutive issues on 1998. “The very real Nazi threat that had been left unspoken by Siegel and Shuster in the original 1938 comic was now brought into full focus. (Weinstein, p 30).” At the beginning Clark was to get a real scoop on what the Nazi were doing in Poland. So, he disguises himself and infiltrate as one of the Jewish people in custody of the Nazi. He experiences firsthand how horrible the Jews are treated. The task he got when he sneaked in was to move bodies of Nazi victims into a mass grave. Superman soon take Nazi supplies for the Jews and stops a cattle car before it reaches Treblinka and save Lois Lane. Then he goes to fight with the Jewish resistance against the Nazis during the Warsaw ghetto.

Cover of Comic Superman (1987) Issue 54

The creators of superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are both born from Jewish Immigrant Families. In Cleveland, Ohio Superman was created from the pair who worked together for their high school papers and shared the love for comics and science fiction. The first Superman appearance in a comic was in Action Comics #1 on June 1938. They enjoyed a degree of fame as the creators of superman till they publish and sold their rights for $130. Then all profits from the Superman name did not go to them. After many trials, Siegel and Shuster did get paid a small part of superman’s earnings and recognized as the creators of the iconic superman.


All in all, it is a very interesting fact that many heroes are reference and is shown going back to history. Superman creators were both Jewish so his back ground must have been related to their own stories. The creators connected their cartoon against Hitler, even as a slight hit against the Nazi, because of what they have done to the people of their religion as shown in the early action comic. There are many other heroes and villains that come associated with the holocaust and being Jewish as many of their writers are Jewish. Some just to name are villains like Magneto who is a holocaust survivor and heroes like the Thing from fantastic four. Some heroes like superman, such as Captain America and Daredevil was depicted to fight Hitler and Nazi party.



"Time and Time Again" part 3 "The Warsaw Ghetto!" By Ordway and Janke with K. Kesel

American Cartoonist Nazi Germany, and the holocaust” By Aizenberg, Rabbi Isidoro.  

Superman is Jewish? How comic book superheroes came to serve truth justice and the Jewish-American Way” By Harry Brod

Up, Up, And Oy Vey!” By Simcha Weinstein

  • Justin Ip, a current student at Tottenville High School, had the opportunity to work at the Wagner College Holocaust Center in Summer 2017. His position was funded by the NYC Dept. of Youth and Community Development Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) overseen by United Activities Unlimited on Staten Island). He has worked with Prof. Lori Weintrob on various projects including transcribing testimony of Holocaust survivors.