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Monday, September 26, 2022

The Wartime Adventures of Miss Piggy, Bert, and Yoda’s Common Ancestor Who Fought in World War II

The puppet has a height of twenty inches, is hand-painted and carved out of wood, and is wearing a uniform that is damaged and worn. But despite everything that it has been through over the course of more than 80 years — being buried in a backyard in Belgium at the beginning of World War II, being dug up after the war and taken on a nine-day cross-Atlantic journey, being stored and almost forgotten in an attic in Oakland, California — it is still immediately and chillingly recognisable. It has a black toothbrush moustache and its right arm is raised in a Nazi salute.

It is a portrayal of Hitler that was hand-carved and painted in the late 1930s by an amateur Dutch puppeteer named Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz. His Flemish wife, Frances, dressed the puppet when they were living in prewar Belgium.

The Hitler marionette, an instrument of parody and defiance, provides an intriguing glimpse into the strong puppetry tradition in the family of the man who retrieved it from that attic: Frank Oz, one of the creators’ sons. Frank Oz went on to become one of the 20th century’s best-known puppeteers, bringing Cookie Monster, Bert, Miss Piggy, and others to life through his collaborations with Jim Henson, and later becoming a force in the Star Wars movies, giving the voice Later on this month, the marionette will make its debut in front of the general public for the very first time at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

Oz was taken aback when he discovered the puppet many years ago in the attic of his family’s house in Oakland. “I thought, ‘Oh My God,'” Oz recalled thinking at the time. He transported it to New York, where he put it on display in a museum case in the living room of his apartment on the Upper West Side, together with seven marionette heads that had been carved by his father.

Isidore, who was Jewish and was born in Amsterdam, and Frances, who was Catholic, were forced to flee Antwerp in 1940 as the Nazis approached and bombs erupted over Belgium. The exhibition follows the fascinating narrative of this puppet and how its creators managed to accomplish it. They hid the puppet in their garden at the insistence of Frances’s mother, who was concerned that they might be apprehended by the Nazis if they were seen carrying such a rebellious marionette while they were attempting to outrun them.

This story reconstructs the life of the parents of one of the men who were so instrumental in making the Muppets beloved. Indeed, a significant portion of this tale is clouded by obscurity, as it details the lives of the parents of one of the men who were so important in making the Muppets beloved. It is not quite known how the Hitler puppet was utilised in performances, or even whether it was used in any performances at all.

The Hitler puppet serves as the primary focus of the performance “Oz is for Oznowicz.” Isidore sculpted the moustache in such a way that it protrudes from the puppet; the moustache, along with the hair and the eyebrows, are all painted black. Left arm is being adorned with a Nazi arm band that is being worn. There was no attempt made to restore the Hitler puppet or any of the heads; Frank has decided to display them in the condition in which he discovered them. A rip in the clothing has allowed the right leg of the marionette to become seen.

The exhibition “Oz is for Oznowicz” includes a disclaimer for visitors, which reads as follows: “This exhibition contains a marionette of Adolf Hitler that may be disturbing for some viewers.” This disclaimer was included due to the sensitivity of the subject matter and the museum’s mission to address questions about Jewish history. Our goal in displaying this item is to encourage conversation and education about the ongoing horrors of antisemitism and authoritarianism in today’s world, as well as to preserve the memory of the Holocaust through the objects and firsthand accounts of those who experienced its persecution. In addition, we hope to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive through the objects.

Isidore’s sons recall their father as a guy who had a keen sense of humour and a strong political awareness. They also noted that it was in character for him to employ comedy and parody for the purpose of achieving political impact. However, after they arrived back in the United States and started their lives over as immigrants in a new nation, they made an effort to put that period of their life in the past.

After meeting each other at a gathering of the National Puppeteers of America in 1963, Jim Henson extended an invitation to Frank Oz to collaborate with him in New York City on a part-time basis for a period of six months. He was employed at Henson until the year 1986.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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