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Anti-nazi Paintings Slashed, but Who Did It Proves Puzzle

May 19, 1935
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Considerable doubt was being expressed in official circles Friday about the charges of Michael Califano, painter of anti-Nazi canvasses, that his studio had been raided by three Nazi thugs who tore his beloved paintings (recently insured for $25,000) to shreds while he himself was beaten and tied to a steam-pipe.

Detectives of the West Forty-seventh Street precinct, told a Jewish Daily Bulletin reporter that they had no proof of the alleged raid other than the statement of Soloman Shapiro, Califano’s financial backer, who told police he entered the studio Thursday afternoon to find the artist unconscious and lashed to the steam-pipe.


Thirty paintings, most of them dealing with Jewish subjects, were destroyed. One of them was “The Ignominy of the Twentieth Century,” a canvas portraying Hitler and a storm-trooper glaring at Prof. Einstein. Victor Califano, son of the artist, pointed out to reporters that only the figure of Hitler was not slashed.

Recently Califano had 5,000,000 reproductions made of this mural for sale to the public, according to the police, at six for a quarter.

By the time Detective William Holzher arrived, Califano was no longer tied to the steam-pipe. The detective examined the artists’s head, where he was supposed to have been beaten, but found no marks. The artist was taken to Flower Hospital and released Friday by authorities, who said his injuries were slight, although he complained of suffering from shock and contusions.


Three house painters working outside the building during the time Califano was supposed to have been attacked told Detective Holzher they saw nobody enter the house. Employees of the Semper Operating Corporation, building agents who occupy the basement directly below the studio said they heard no unusual sounds from above during the time of the alleged raid.

Police commented drily that newspapers were notified of the alleged assault before anybody thought of phoning the station-house. When Detective Holzher arrived on the scene, Califano, presumably considerably shaken by the experience, could furnish no definite description of his supposed assailants.


It was further learned that Califano had moved into the studio only the day before the incident occurred and his new address was listed in no directory. Police were at a loss as to how any Nazi thugs could have discovered the address.

As Califano told the story, he was working on a painting when three men entered the studio and asked to buy a reproduction of the Einstein canvas. As he turned to a cabinet for the post-cards, he says the men seized him and dragged him to the steam-pipe where they trussed him up.

Then, the story goes on, one of the men forced the muzzle of a revolver into the artist’s mouth while the other set about slashing at the portraits. The raiders evidently exercised a great deal of care in their vandalism for only faces of non-“Aryans” were cut while faces of blonds and the figure of Hitler were not touched.

Califano says he fainted and the next thing he knew was that Shapiro, his financial backer, was untying him.

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