A graphic novel of Jews hunting Nazis
In The Spider’s Web by Chaim Eliav, adapted as a graphic novel by Avraham Ohayon; Feldheim Publishers; © 2019; ISBN 9781680-251074; 139 pages.
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO – This graphic novel is set shortly before the Six-Day War of 1967 with the action alternating between B’nei Barak, Israel, and Sao Paulo, Brazil. A Haredi Jew in B’nei Barak has nightmares remembering how the Nazis murdered his first family at Auschwitz. In Sao Paulo, meanwhile, a Jewish attorney is shocked to witness a group of Nazis giving farewell, raised armed salutes to his murdered client, Alberto Hunkes, an executive with Volkswagen in Brazil.
Yitzchak Austerlitz, on a visit to Yad Vashem, sees a photo of the Nazi who murdered his family, and becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down and getting justice.
Attorney Jairo Silverman, meanwhile, with the help of friendly Brazilian police officer, decides to investigate who might have killed Hunkes. Barely does he begin to make inquiries, when he is warned by men he recognizes as Nazis to let the matter drop. The more insistent they become, the more determined he becomes to get to the bottom of this mystery.
The assignment of a Brazilian journalist to cover the Six Day War results in principals in these two parallel stories meeting each other, with the result being some amazing denouements.
Almost as interesting as the main plot is the reaction of Silverman’s non-Jewish law partners when they realize that their firm’s Volkswagen account may be jeopardized by Silverman’s inquiries. Paulo Chilo, a Brazilian of Lebanese descent, is ready to break up the partnership and go out on his own. Another partner, Francisco Machado, a Latino, remains loyal to Silverman, but is nearly paralyzed with fear by all this talk of Nazis.
A sinister figure in the story is Hermann Schmidt, a Volkswagen executive who gave the Nazi salute at Hunkes’ funeral and now wants Silverman’s firm out of the picture. Not because Silverman is Jewish, he says, but because Silverman won’t stop asking questions.
And finally, there is Eduardo Hunkes, who was raised by murder victim Alberto Huertes and his wife, Regina, to hate all Jews. He is the journalist who is assigned to cover the 1967 war for his newspaper. Among the first Israelis he meets is Yitzchak Austerlitz, who has been called up as a reserve IDF soldier for the duration of the emergency.
Ohayon’s drawings, while cartoons, are nevertheless so realistic that they draw readers ever deeper into the story. In The Spider’s Web is an intriguing tale, easy to digest, especially for readers who get caught up in stories of international intrigue.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected] This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.