Isidore (Mike) and Frances Oznowicz, Nightclub marionettes photograph, c. 1940. Courtesy Frank Oznowicz, Jenny Oznowicz, and Ronald Oznowicz. Photo: Jason Madella.

OZ is for OZNOWICZ: A Puppet Family’s History

On July 21, The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) will open the original exhibition Oz is For Oznowicz: A Puppet Family’s History, which tells the incredible story of the Oznowicz family’s resistance and survival during World War II.

The exhibition will present a series of objects that have never before been exhibited, most notably a pre- WWII hand-carved marionette of Adolf Hitler with an extraordinary history. The marionette was created in the late 1930s by Dutch-Jewish puppeteer Isidore (Mike) Oznowicz, and his Flemish- Catholic wife, Frances, as a tool of political satire and resistance, and is being lent to The CJM by his son, Frank Oz, the prolific American actor, film director, and puppeteer.

Oz was the closest collaborator of Muppet creator Jim Henson, and Oz originated and performed the characters Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle, Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover, among others, as well as Yoda in the Star Wars films.

Oz and his siblings have loaned a selection of their parent’s marionettes for the exhibition, including the Hitler marionette and a home video interview Oz conducted with his father nearly fifty years ago about their harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied Belgium.

The objects in the exhibition contain a multitude of memories and serve as a representation of the family’s incredible survival story, courageous anti-Nazi efforts, and inspiring family legacy.