A fool’s licence?

Rubinstein was the de facto jester of the Warsaw Ghetto, offering some small distraction from the horror of the Holocaust, while simultaneously making people confront it.  He came up with a witty but terrifying equation for how many people would survive the ghetto, and mocked the corpses lying around.  Even his own death was reported as a kind of joke. 

Here, in a context where one look or word could lead to death or debasement, he didn’t hide from or spare the guards.  Curiously, they appear to have let him get away with it.

He would even provoke the German guards who somehow tolerated him like masters in the past tolerated their court jesters. 

Rubinstein was a jester in extremis and it is hard to know if he was an ‘artificial fool’, or a ‘natural’ one.

Source: Amos Goldberg, ‘A Fool or a Prophet: Rubinstein the Warsaw Ghetto Jester’, The 2019 J. B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Annual Lecture at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 13 March 2019, p. 7

Image credit: Radomsko Ghetto forced labour, unknown photographer.


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