Telling the Story of Simon Wiesenthal: Jew, Artist, Holocaust Survivor, and Nazi Hunter


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From Simon Says: Nazi Hunter by Andre Fracttino

 

By Justin Manuel Sawyer

 

“The only value of nearly five decades of my work is a warning to the murderers of tomorrow, that they will never rest.” –Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005)

Simon Wiesenthal was a Jewish-Austrian Holocaust survivor who used his skills as an artist to survive the concentration camps, painting swastikas on the sides of the trains that were used to transport his fellow prisoners After the war, he dedicated his life to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.  

Wiesenthal would probably appreciate the fact that years later a pair of artists would come together to tell his story in a new, dynamic way. Writer Andre Frattino and artist Jesse Lee set up a Kickstarter campaign to help them bring their comic book, Simon Says: Nazi Hunter, to life. The project has garnered a lot of attention among comics fans and Jewish media outlets. I sat down with Frattino to discuss his passion project.  

“I feel that comics have a wide range, in that they’re fans remain loyal for their lives,” says Frattino, who has a lifelong love of comics and the medium’s abilities as a storytelling tool. “If someone’s a fan of comics when they’re young, more now than ever, they usually keep the trend going throughout their life. In one way or another, they love the stories and the fantasy.”

Indeed, Frattino enjoys exploring the lighter side of the medium of comics in his graphic novel series, The Flagler’s Few, which tells the story of Florida-Georgia area ghost hunters. “Think of it as Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Harry Potter meets Scooby Doo,” he says.

Simon Wiesenthal (center) pictured in 1923 with a group of Boy Scouts of which he was the leader in Buczacz, Poland. Only one of these boys survived the Holocaust. Photo via the Wiesenthal Center.

But comics also have a larger responsibility, he says.

“They are vehicles for social and historical awareness. I’m a huge proponent of historical graphic novels, and I think that it enables us to learn history in an intriguing and visually exciting new way. We have enough heroes in our own real world that we don’t need to rely only on caped crusaders.”

With the reemergence of white supremacy in mainstream politics via the Alt-Right movement (Nazis – it’s okay to just call ‘em Nazis) and an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the globe, Simon Says: Nazi Hunter is painfully relevant in today’s political climate.

But the idea has been gestating in Frattino’s fertile imagination for some time now.

“The project has always been in the back of my mind, and it’s very coincidental that the project came to fruition during these tumultuous times,” he says. “Jesse and I were working on this idea since October, and before Jesse came along, I was working with another artist since March of 2014, so it seems a little chilling that things have aligned this way.”

Simon Says: Nazi Hunter isn’t the first time Wiesenthal’s story has been adapted into a form of entertainment. In 1989, he was portrayed by no less a talent then Ben Kingsley in the made-for-TV movie Murderers Among Us. But Frattino felt it was time for an updated take on Wiesenthal’s life story.

From Simon Says: Nazi Hunter, Created by Andre Frattino

“To be honest, I can’t recall the exact moment I learned about Simon Wiesenthal. I’ve been trying to remember, but all I can recall is that it was an instant acknowledgement that Wiesenthal deserved a modern voice in a popular medium. I was a huge fan of MAUS (Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust) and I feel it’s a critical topic to discuss, the Holocaust.”

In a time where everyone has instant access to information (both real and alt-real), the possibility of blowback from hate groups is just the push of a button away. And while Frattino hasn’t had any direct altercations with any white supremacists yet, the idea is never far from his mind.

“I haven’t received that much of a push back, but I have, and still am, prepared,” he says. “I’ve been expecting it, and I haven’t let my guard down. Universally though, I’ve received fantastic feedback and support from a variety of individuals. From celebrities, to TV writers, to activists, and comic fans. It’s been very heartening. But, like Simon, I remain constantly vigilant.”

As of this writing, Frattino and Lee have meet their initial goal of $5,000 and are working on reaching their stretch goals in order to add more content to the final project. If you’re interested in funding Simon Says: Nazi Hunter you can visit the Kickstarter page by clicking here.

Frattino’s personal website is here and you can find his other books here.

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