© Estate of Georg Grosz/Licensed by Vaga, New York, NY

Mankind’s first murderer, a weary Cain contemplates the death of his brother, Abel, who lies face down (at right) in this 1944 painting by the German-born artist Georg Grosz. Chaotic skeletons struggle at Cain’s feet in Grosz’s painting, titled Cain, or Hitler in Hell. As Elie Wiesel points out in the accompanying essay, the first death in biblical history is a difficult one, raising questions not only about Cain’s responsibility for the death of his brother, but about Abel’s own culpability and God’s role in the killing. The final lesson, according to Wiesel: Killing a man is killing a brother.

Born in Berlin, Georg Grosz (1893–1959) emigrated to the United States in 1933, just a few days before Adolf Hitler took office as German chancellor. Grosz’s paintings present a biting satire of German society, criticizing militarism, blind obedience to political leaders, and moral corruption.