In numerous cities across eastern Europe, Jewish publishers enjoyed notable success on the newly established postcard market. This article presents a socio-historical background of this topic and asks whether their social positioning influenced the depictions of the urban world they chose to feature on their postcards.
Postcards in eastern Europe: the classic small-scale business
The emergence of the mass medium of the picture postcard at the end of the 19th century opened up new possibilities for shaping and disseminating images of cities. Postcard producers contributed to the evolving visual narratives of cities, which were also changing rapidly during this period, and sold pictures of urban scenes en masse to visitors and locals alike. This meant that tourists, collectors, and the urban population itself could now comment on, send, and show or display city views – in short, appropriate them. But who created these images and what factors influenced the postcard market?
Around 1900, in many regions of eastern Europe, it was mainly Jewish merchants – some of whom were women – who emerged as the market leaders in the postcard business. This was the case in the northern and eastern provinces of the Habsburg Empire – 
deu. Böhmen, lat. Bohemia, ces. Čechy

Bohemia is a historical landscape in present-day Czech Republic. Together with Moravia and the Czech part of Silesia, the landscape forms the present territory of the Czech Republic. Nowadays, almost 6.5 million people live in the region. The capital of Bohemia is Prague.

deu. Galizien, yid. גאַליציע‎, yid. Galitsiye, ron. Halici, ron. Galiția, hun. Halics, hun. Gácsország, hun. Kaliz, hun. Galícia, ces. Halič, slk. Halič, rus. Галиция, rus. Galizija, ukr. Галичина, ukr. Halytschyna, pol. Galicja

Galicia is a historical landscape, which today is almost entirely located on the territory of Poland and Ukraine. The part in southeastern Poland is usually referred to as Western Galicia, and the part in western Ukraine as Eastern Galicia. Before 1772, Galicia belonged for centuries to the Polish-Lithuanian noble republic, and subsequently and until 1918 - as part of the crown land "Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria" - to the Habsburg Empire.

deu. Bukowina, ukr. Буковина, ukr. Bukowyna, ron. Bucovina, deu. Buchenland

Bukovina is a historical landscape in modern Romania and Ukraine. The northern part is situated in the Ukrainian Chernivtsi Oblast, while the southern part is part of the Romanian Suceava County. The region once formed a part of the Principality of Moldavia and the Habsburg Monarchy.

, as well as in the Kingdom of Poland as part of the 
Russian Empire
rus. Росси́йская импе́рия, rus. Rossijskaja imperija, deu. Russisches Kaiserreich, deu. Russländisches Reich, deu. Russländisches Kaiserreich

The Russian Empire (also Russian Empire or Empire of Russia) was a state that existed from 1721 to 1917 in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and North America. The country was the largest contiguous empire in modern history in the mid-19th century. It was dissolved after the February Revolution in 1917. The state was regarded as autocratically ruled and was inhabited by about 181 million people.

 and, to some extent, the eastern provinces of the 
German Reich
deu. Deutsches Reich

The German Empire was a state in Central Europe that existed from 1871 to 1945. The period from its founding until 1918 is called the German Empire, then followed the period of the Weimar Republic (1918/1919-1933) and the National Socialism (so-called Third Reich) from 1933 to 1945. 01.01.1871 is considered the day of the foundation of the German Reich.

 – here above all in the province of 
Province of Posen
deu. Posen, pol. Prowincja Poznańska

The historical province of Poznan was situated in eastern Prussia from 1815 to 1920. Currently, the territory of the former province is entirely in Poland. The capital was the city of the same name, Posen (present Poznań). About 2 million people inhabited the area.

. For other regions, such as the provinces of Hungary or the Baltic governorates of the Tsarist Empire, there is still a lack of basic research on this topic.1 The main sources are periodicals and municipal and state administrative records. Only in exceptional cases have business estates survived.2   
Even before the partitions of Poland, these regions had sizable Jewish populations. The political situation of the Jews differed from state to state and often from region to region. While, in the eastern provinces of the German Reich, most assimilated into the German-speaking population in the cities, in the Kingdom of Poland many were committed to national independence. In Galicia, Jews partly took on a mediating role in urban societies that were made up of and characterized by different ethnic groups. In some cases, however, they assimilated into the Polish-speaking population. In Bukovina, on the other hand, Jews often emerged as supporters of the monarchy.
In most of these regions, Jews were represented in large numbers in the milieu of merchants and traders in the cities – not least because the respective states prohibited or made it difficult for them to enter other professions until well into the second half of the 19th century. The Jewish population was therefore strongly represented in the book trade and publishing.3   When the picture postcard became increasingly established in the 1890s, it was initially individual and small-scale entrepreneurs such as photographers, small printers, bookstore owners, and stationers who entered the business. It is therefore not surprising that numerous Jewish entrepreneurs produced picture postcards.
Most of the publishers produced postcards in addition to other goods. Print runs of 2,000 to 3,000 copies enabled profits to be made, while, for fewer than 300 copies, it was generally not worthwhile to produce a printing plate. It is estimated that around 750 million postcards were produced annually in the German Empire at the turn of the century. Not all of these were picture postcards, but a considerable share of them were; for example, it is estimated that between 20 and 25 million picture postcards were in circulation in the Hungarian half of the Danube Monarchy in the 1890s.4  Advertisements for "picture postcard factories" suggest that postcards were even the core business for a few producers.
Success factor I: specialization
Looking at the postcard market can help us to understand why Jewish merchants dominated the industry in many places. In the multi-ethnic cities of eastern Europe, there was significant competition. In addition to postcards featuring views of the city and buildings, publishers produced advertisement cards, greeting and congratulatory cards, as well as so-called “folk-type” cards. The range of products was aimed at various social milieus, which had very different linguistic, religious, and economic backgrounds.
Publishers who exclusively catered to a certain milieu and were also active within it were often particularly successful. A typical example of this were entrepreneurs who were active in national movements and published national(istic) motifs, including Polish, Lithuanian, and German publishing houses in the territory of the German Empire who pursued their own “national” agenda. Meanwhile, in the Habsburg Empire, we find examples of Czech, Hungarian and Ruthenian national motifs. In the Kingdom of Poland, where the censorship laws were relaxed in 1905, postcards increasingly came onto the market featuring Polish and Lithuanian national themes.
One example of a Jewish publishing house with a nationalist leaning was the Jehudia publishing house in 
deu. Warschau, eng. Warsaw, deu. Warszowa, deu. Warszewa, yid. Varše, yid. וואַרשע, rus. Варшава, rus. Varšava

Warsaw is the capital of Poland and also the largest city in the country (population in 2022: 1,861,975). It is located in the Mazovian Voivodeship on Poland's longest river, the Vistula. Warsaw first became the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian noble republic at the end of the 16th century, replacing Krakow, which had previously been the Polish capital. During the partitions of Poland-Lithuania, Warsaw was occupied several times and finally became part of the Prussian province of South Prussia for eleven years. From 1807 to 1815 the city was the capital of the Duchy of Warsaw, a short-lived Napoleonic satellite state; in the annexation of the Kingdom of Poland under Russian suzerainty (the so-called Congress Poland). It was not until the establishment of the Second Polish Republic after the end of World War I that Warsaw was again the capital of an independent Polish state.

At the beginning of World War II, Warsaw was conquered and occupied by the Wehrmacht only after intense fighting and a siege lasting several weeks. Even then, a five-digit number of inhabitants were killed and parts of the city, known not least for its numerous baroque palaces and parks, were already severely damaged. In the course of the subsequent oppression, persecution and murder of the Polish and Jewish population, by far the largest Jewish ghetto under German occupation was established in the form of the Warsaw Ghetto, which served as a collection camp for several hundred thousand people from the city, the surrounding area and even occupied foreign countries, and was also the starting point for deportation to labor and extermination camps.

As a result of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from April 18, 1943 and its suppression in early May 1943, the ghetto area was systematically destroyed and its last inhabitants deported and murdered. This was followed in the summer of 1944 by the Warsaw Uprising against the German occupation, which lasted two months and resulted in the deaths of almost two hundred thousand Poles, and after its suppression the rest of Warsaw was also systematically destroyed by German units.

In the post-war period, many historic buildings and downtown areas, including the Warsaw Royal Castle and the Old Town, were rebuilt - a process that continues to this day.

. Founded in 1912, it was closely associated with the Yiddish magazine "Hajnt" (Today), which was published from 1908 to 1939, and sympathized with the Zionist movement. Jehudia attempted to bring modern and Orthodox Judaism into dialogue with each other and conveyed "Jewish" as a distinct nationality. Initially specializing in book publishing, the company also began publishing "winsch cards" for the Jewish New Year and other Jewish holidays, as well as arranged scenes in various genres. Many of the cards created idealized images of Jewish life and coexistence in Poland. On the postcards, the publisher called for donations to the Zionist movement. The motifs were intended exclusively for the Jewish public, and the imagery would have been decipherable only to them.
Success factor II – A broad spectrum of customers
However, there were also successful publishers who addressed a broader audience with their motifs and took a less clear political position. As a rule, most postcards from these producers have survived to the present day. Regionally and nationally successful publishers predominantly relied on this strategy.
In the province of Posen, for example, the publisher Isidor Themals issued postcards for both the German and Polish-speaking population. In order to be able to address the population at large, Themal employed both German and Polish speakers in his "picture postcard factory". He also made sure that he and his company appeared well-rounded and versatile in the public eye, appealing to both urban and regional audiences. The company had more than ten branches throughout Poznan, for example in Wreschen (today: Września) and Samter (today: Szamotuły). In the provincial capital, Themal sold products in at least three stores. He also established contacts in the beautification association of the city of 
deu. Posen

Poznań is a large city in the west of Poland and the fifth largest city in the country with a population of over 530,000. The trade fair and university city is located in the historic landscape of Wielkopolska and is also the capital of today's voivodeship of the same name. Already an important trade center in the early modern period, the city first fell to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1793 as part of the newly formed province of South Prussia. After a short period as part of the Duchy of Warsaw (1807-1815), Poznań rejoined Prussia after the Congress of Vienna as the capital of the new Province of Posen. From 1919, the city belonged to the Second Polish Republic for two decades, before it was occupied by the Wehrmacht in 1939 and became part of the German Reichsgau Wartheland (the so-called Warthegau). The almost six-year occupation period was characterized by the brutal persecution of the Polish and Jewish population on the one hand - tens of thousands were murdered or interned in concentration and labor camps -, and the resettlement of German-speaking population parts in the city and surrounding area on the other. In early 1945, Poznan was conquered by the Red Army and became part of the Polish People's Republic. One of the most important events of the post-war period was the workers' uprising in June 1956, which was violently suppressed.

, of which he was a member.
However, Themal’s publishing house did not always steer clear of local national tensions. He published cards depicting views of the so-called East German Exhibition in 1911, as well as photographs of the Poznan Bazar building, which housed numerous Polish institutions. In addition, the publishing house relied on postcard series featuring views of Poznan or photographs of events that were significant for the city. Themal's wide range of products was aimed at both the local population and travelers.In this way, his publishing house covered a large share of the regional market and many competitors, who focused on either nationalistic or tourist-targeted motifs, were left behind.5 
Jewish publishers and the market for anti-Jewish material
Publishers who wanted to appeal to a broad audience also catered to the growing market for anti-Jewish “mockery postcards”, which flourished around 1900. These included, for example, Lederer & Popper in Prague, the leading producer of postcards in the Czech lands. The publishing house, owned by Josef Lederer and Rudolf Popper, published, among other things, caricatures depicting Jews at spa resorts, which can be understood in the context of so-called “spa anti-Semitism”.6
Henryk Frist with his salon Malarzy Polskich in Krakow also oriented himself according to the demand for anti-Semitic material and produced, among other things, city views and mocking postcards with anti-Jewish content. Abraham Icchak Ostrowski's "Lodz Types" reflected prejudices about the population of the Kingdom of Poland, which was perceived as Eastern Jewish. In Czernowitz, the publisher Leon König, who dominated the local market, also partly encouraged anti-Jewish stereotypes with his motifs.7 
Being Jewish – what did this mean for publishers?
This raises the question of what role being Jewish played in the lives of the publishers themselves. Numerous publishing house owners lived out their Jewishness actively, openly, and committedly. Henryk Frist, for example, was traditional and devout, but unlike most Jewish merchants in Krakow, he no longer wore traditional clothing or hairstyle.8 Leon König was a member of the "Jewish National Association" in Czernowitz, which was loyal to the monarchy. The publishing house Abraham Icchak Ostrowski had been publishing the Yiddish newspaper "Lodzer Morgenblatt" since 1912. This, however, did not prevent the publishers from being guided by demand and spreading anti-Jewish prejudices with their postcards.
In addition to the subject of economic viability, the social position of the publishers must be taken into account. The majority of successful Jewish publishing house owners belonged to the assimilated educated or mercantile bourgeoisie. Traditionally dressed, Orthodox Jews may have represented an alien image for them, from which they preferred to distance themselves. Thus, publishing postcards that promoted anti-Jewish stereotypes does not necessarily have to be understood as a contradiction to the publishers' own Jewishness.
It was the exception rather than the rule that producers defined themselves as Jewish in a national sense – as Jehudia did. In most cases, they identified with regionally defined nationalities. Influential publishing houses such as Henryk Frist's Salon Malarzy Polskich or H. Altenberg in Lviv positioned themselves through their products as Polish nationals. Frist was the most important player in the Galician postcard industry. Even before it was established, he operated a picture framing shop in the old town and sold art, often with patriotic content. When he later entered the postcard-manufacturing business, he continued to benefit from his connection to the local art scene. According to his grandson, he considered himself first and foremost a Pole.9 
The influence of publishers on portrayals of the urban environment
To what extent, then, did the different political and economic positions of Jewish publishers have an impact on the imagery that was being produced on postcards? One striking fact is that people marked as Jewish on cityscapes are usually staged as Orthodox. In some cases, captions explicitly name them as Jews. Meanwhile, the assimilated Jewish population, to which most of the producers belonged, is invisible on the postcards, hidden amongst hardly distinguishable people in bourgeois attire. This becomes all the more obvious when we compare these postcards with those produced by the Jewish-nationalist Jehudia publishing house in Warsaw. Jehudia usually presented a romanticized image of the Jewish population. Several postcards featured modern and traditional Jews shaking hands. The fact that mainly assimilated publishers produced postcards thus had an effect on the representation of Jews in the cities.
In addition, Jewish publishers in many places drew a comparatively balanced and differentiated picture of the multi-ethnic cities with their many faiths. While most publishers in Posen printed either a Polish or German connotation of the city on postcards, Isidor Themal offered both versions and thus served both target groups. Views of Polish Posen mainly showed the eastern part of the city, including the Cathedral Island, the Wallischei craftsmen's quarter and the city center, which symbolized the old, Polish city. The Kaiserviertel, on the other hand, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the western part of the city, symbolized the German Posen.10 However, Themal also published another picture postcard that could not be assigned to either of these versions but rather paid tribute to urban development and modernization.11 The caption highlights, among other things, the numerous gardens, the library, and the museum.
In the postcards of Chernivtsi, Leon König showed almost all of the city's places of worship – from the synagogue to the Greek Orthodox Paraskeva Church, the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church, and the Armenian Catholic Church. Although the German National Association explicitly excluded Jews, postcards by König showing the German House have survived along with others featuring views of the Jewish National House. Publishers like Themal and König did not focus on portraying the cities from the perspective of a single ethnic or religious group. Rather, they presented in detail the numerous facets of the cities.
Across many cities in eastern Europe, a high percentage of the producers of postcards were Jewish. This was because, having been banned from entering certain occupations, many Jews ended up working in small businesses. Most of the publishers owed their success to a sales strategy that was aimed at a broad spectrum of customers and was geared to specific markets. In this way, some of the publishers gained an advantage over producers whose products served only one, often nationally defined segment of society.
English translation: William Connor