Georges Wolinski, the Tunisian-born French Jewish cartoonist associated with the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was shot and killed in the terrorist attack on the periodical’s headquarters on January 7, 2015. He was 80.
George David Wolinski was born in Tunis on June 28, 1934 to a Polish father and a Tunisian mother of Italian heritage. When he was two, his father Sigfried was murdered. At the end of the Second World War, he emigrated to France and studied architecture, but by the time he finished school, he had decided that cartooning was his true passion.
Wolinski made his debut in the magazine Rustica in 1958 and within two years, his cartoons took on a polemic tone, revealing his unabashed left-wing values. By 1961, he became a regular contributor to the satirical magazine Hara-Kiri, an edgy publication that became the target of bans by the French government in 1961 and 1966. During the student revolts in May 1968, he co-founded the caustic and incendiary satirical magazine L’Enragé (the Enraged), with fellow cartoonist Siné.
In 1970, Hara-Kiri earned another ban after poking fun at the press coverage of the death of French President Charles DeGaulle with the headline, “Bal tragique à Colombey : 1 mort (Tragedy at the Ball in Colombey: 1 Dead).” To circumnavigate the ban, the magazine renamed itself Charlie Hebdo, borrowing the name from a monthly periodical Charlie Mensuel, which itself took its name from the popular Peanuts character created by Charles Schultz. The new magazine’s name was also an inside joke about the recent controversy. Wolinski served as editor-in-chief until the magazine folded in 1981. Eleven years later, the magazine was relaunched with Wolinski coming back on board, along with several of his colleagues.
In addition to his work in Charlie Hebdo, Wolinski, celebrating and satirizing his Jewish heritage, provided illustrations for Dan Greenburg’s 1965 bestseller How to be a Jewish Mother: A Very Lovely Training Manual.
Shortly after the news of Wolinski’s assassination broke, his daughter Elsa posted a picture of his empty desk to instagram with the caption “Papa est parti pas Wolinski (Papa is gone, not Wolinski.)”
Tributes also came from friends of his, among them Mexican cartoonist Felipe Galindo, who remarked that “[Wolinski] was a great satirical artist. Nothing was sacred for him. He would touch anything. But he was also a very gentle, very kind man.” British comedian, actor, humorist and former National Lampoon editor Tony Hendra posted to Facebook that George Wolinski and his colleagues and contemporaries in Paris taught him that “satire is not only universal but also simple – nothing fancy, or witty, or naughty but acceptable, or suitable for work. It’s an incessant, nonviolent onslaught of ridicule against the very rich and powerful (and their eternal apologists the very pious), because they f—ing deserve it. Because as Balzac put it: ‘Behind every great fortune lies a great crime’ This week Wolinski died a true hero and a true martyr for that cause, at the hands of cartoons of heroism and martyrdom, yelling cartoonish slogans for their cartoon god. In short the late great cartoonist Georges Wolinski won hands down.”
Photo credit: Slate.com (Georges Wolinski)