Magneto in the Holocaust

This was announced a few months ago, and now a 6-page preview is up. But I haven’t seen it making headlines, aside from a single article: Magneto, whose pre-spandex name was Erik Lensherr, is a Holocaust survivor, which is going to be explicitly documented for the first time in a new miniseries, coming from Marvel Comics in September. The first pages have just been posted — without dialogue — so go ahead, check it out, and see if you can guess which one is Magneto. (Hint: it’s probably not the physically fit kid with blond hair and blue eyes.) As Marvel so eloquently puts the premise:

Before he was the Master of Magnetism and the most radical mutant rights activist mankind has ever seen – Magneto was just a boy growing up in Nazi Germany.

Unlike other distinctly-Jewish superheroes like Sabra, and The Thing, I always thought Magneto was Roma, or Gypsy. But this excellent FAQ more or less proves that our favorite archetypal antivillain is a Member of the Tribe. As you can see, it’s always been alluded to, and never made public. That is, until writer Greg Pak says of the new miniseries, which is entitled “Magneto: Testament,” that it “follows a Jewish boy and his family through Germany and Poland from 1935 to 1945.”

More explicit, it does not get. I’ve always sort of enjoyed that “silent allusion,” not to the Holocaust, but to Magneto’s genealogy. As everyone knows, Magneto is a pretty evil guy (or can be, at times), but his kids, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, are two of Earth’s mightiest heroes. (Or they were, until the Scarlet Witch destroyed Avengers Mansion and created an alternate reality…but I digress.)

Back to the evidence at hand, pre-Testament. My favorite catch is where Magneto says “I remember my own childhood … the gas chambers at Auschwitz, the guards joking as they herded my family to their death. As our lives were nothing to them, so human lives became nothing to me.” The FAQ author, Rivka, follows it up: “Fact: no one remembers the gas chambers of Auschwitz except in two ways (or three if you believe the dead can speak to the living), either you were a Nazi SS guard or doctor or official, or you were a member of the Sonderkommando.” All told, it’s an exemplary recontextualizing of whether or not the Master of Magnetism is Jewish, Gypsy, or something else.

All told, we’ll have to see how Testament fares before we officially accept Magneto’s Jewishness as X-Men canon. Pak is an able writer who’s been able to balance emotion and plot extremely effectively in “Phoenix: Endsong” and less so in “World War Hulk.” I don’t trust him absolutely, but I trust him.

(Also, notably, “Testament” was also the title of Douglas Rushkoff’s series of loose comic adaptations of the Torah.)

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