Wooden folk art figurine of a Jewish freeloader

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2016.184.5
Level of Description
  • German
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

overall: Height: 5.750 inches (14.605 cm) | Width: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm) | Depth: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm)


Biographical History

The Katz Ehrenthal Collection is a collection of more than 900 objects depicting Jews and antisemitic and anti-Jewish propaganda from the medieval to the modern era, in Europe, Russia, and the United States. The collection was amassed by Peter Ehrenthal, a Romanian Holocaust survivor, to document the pervasive history of anti-Jewish hatred in Western art, politics and popular culture. It includes crude folk art as well as pieces created by Europe's finest craftsmen, prints and periodical illustrations, posters, paintings, decorative art, and toys and everyday household items decorated with depictions of stereotypical Jewish figures.

Archival History

The figurine was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016 by the Katz Family.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family

Funding Note: The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Scope and Content

Small, roughly carved, 19th-century wooden figurine of a Jewish schnorrer, a Judeo-German term for a Jewish beggar. A phrase on the figurine’s base may represent the sort of a line a schnorrer could use on a hesitant potential benefactor. Methuselah is a biblical figure renowned for his old age, and Strauss is likely a reference to a rich Jewish family of department store owners and bankers. By referencing those two names, the schnorrer may be implying that their mark is old and wealthy, and would not need or miss any money that the mark contributed to him. During the Chmielnicki pogroms in Poland (1648-57), hundreds of Jewish communities were destroyed and thousands of Jews fled west after the destruction of their homes and way of life. Afterward, the influx of destitute Jewish refugees in central Europe helped create the archetype of the Jewish beggar, or schnorrer. Unlike a beggar or panhandler who could be distinguished by their ragged outward appearance, a stereotypical schnorrer dressed respectably. Schnorrers were characterized as impudent, with an air of entitlement to disguise their true needs from charitable individuals. They were evasive about why they needed assistance, and were not satisfied with small favors. Typical reasons given for a schnorrer’s collection included recovering from the destruction of their home, or funding the dowry for their daughter or another relative. Schnorrers were said to invert the act of charity by asking for handouts. They give the affluent members of society a chance to do a good deed, which complies with the Jewish communal practice of providing aid to those less well off in the community. This act of kindness meant the charitable patron should be thankful to the schnorrer for providing the opportunity. This folk art figurine is one of the 900 items in the Katz Ehrenthal Collection of antisemitic artifacts and visual materials.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions on access

Conditions Governing Reproduction

No restrictions on use

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Small, roughly carved, painted, wooden figurine of a Jewish man in a floppy, wrinkled, black top hat and floor-length brown coat with very textured surfaces. He has a light-colored complexion, a large, hooked nose, and thick, black-painted sideburns that extend into and extremely long-pointed beard that juts from his chin. His hands grasp his coat lapels, while his elbows are held close to his sides. He stands, knees bent forward slightly, upon a large, nearly square wooden block with a caption handwritten on the front. Additional handwritten text, now illegible, is written on the underside of the base. The paint has worn along the edge of the hat and his hands. There is a line of dry adhesive along the back of his neck, as though something was once attached there.

front, base, handwritten, black paint : ALT SOLLST DE / WERDEN WIE / METHUSALEM! / SILND SOLLST / DE BLEIBEN WIE / 'A' STRAUSS! [You should be old like Methuselah and be as Strauss!] underside, base, handwritten, black ink : illegible




This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.