X-Men: Magneto Testament #1

Issue Date: 
November 2008
Story Title: 
Magneto: Testament – Part 1 of 5

Greg Pak (writer), Carmine Di Giandomenico (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (color art), Art Monkey’s Natalie (letterer), Paul Acerios (production), Alejandro Arbona (assistant editor), Warren Simons (editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Marko Djurdjevic (cover art)

Special thanks to Mark Weitzman and the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Brief Description: 

Nine-year-old Max Eisenhardt lives in Germany with his family. His father makes jewelry in his workshop and Max helps his aging father. Max has made a lovely necklace from scraps, showing great workmanship for his age. His uncle, Erich is a bit of a scoundrel and tells his parents that this obviously means Max has a girl. The girl is Magda, the daughter of a cleaning woman at Max’s school. Max is the physically weakest of the boys but one of the brightest. His headmaster uses Max as an example of the inferiority and viciousness of the Jews. Max’s teacher, Herr Kalb points out that Max is at the top of the class and the headmaster dismisses this as Jewish cunning not true intelligence. Angered by this and eager to impress Magda, Max throws a javelin, sending it much further than any of his peers. He is awarded a gold medal which displeases his bigoted headmaster. Herr Kalb tells Max that he is gifted but must be careful. “The nail that sticks up, gets hammered down”, he warns. Max presents the delicate necklace to Magda at a rally in the town square. This ends up to be a Nazi rally announcing the passage of the Nuremberg Laws. One edict forbids relations between Jews and true Germans. To illustrate the point, the Nazis have brought forth Max’s uncle, Erich who is known for his romantic conquests. They place a sign about his neck that reads “I have wronged a German woman” and beat him badly before the cheering masses. Max rushes to his uncle’s aid. Later, the family discusses the latest aggression from the Nazis. Erich suggests that it is time they leave but Max’s father Jakob believes that his military service may still afford them some protection. He tells Max that at least he showed them by winning the medal for the javelin. He says “They can’t take that away.” The next day, the headmaster states that the javelin Max used was not regulation and demands that he repeat the feat with a heavier javelin or return his medal. To everyone’s surprise, Max once again throws the javelin with uncanny skill. The headmaster cannot accept the victory of a Jew and expels Max for cheating. Herr Kalb is dragged away by the Nazis and as Max leaves the school, he is ambushed by his classmates and beaten.

Full Summary: 

In his modest home, Jakob Eisenhardt is trying to assemble a necklace of many small, hand-crafted metal pieces. He cries out “Ach!” in frustration as he fumbles the pieces and they scatter across the floor. He comments to his younger brother, Erich that he is dropping more links than he is fixing these days. Erich suggests teasingly that his brother has gotten fat during his time in the civil service and that his fat fingers can’t handle “an honest man’s tools”. Jakob replies that his fingers are fine; it’s his eyes that are the problem. Jakob gets down on the floor to retrieve the loose pieces.
His son arrives and tells him not to worry, he’s got them. In a miraculously quick time, Jakob’s son Max has gathered the metal trinkets and hands them to his father. His uncle smiles at the raven-haired lad and jokingly asks him if he’s going to keep his poppa out of the poorhouse. Jakob tells Max that his uncle is only joking but that he should see the piece that Max has been working on. Max holds up a necklace made entirely of metal with ornately shaped pieces that dangle beautifully. Erich asks what this is and Jakob tells him that Max has made this entirely from scraps he found on the workshop floor. Jakob praises his son’s craftsmanship and points out the delicate craftsmanship. He adds that it’s even more impressive given that Max is only nine years old!
Erich smiles and compliments Max’s work. He tells his brother “You know what this means… he’s got a girl.” Max’s mother asks “Who’s got a girl?” Max quickly hides the necklace and says “Nobody.” To which his mother replies “Exactly!” Max’s uncle Erich just laughs but Max’ mother does not find it amusing. She asks Erich if he wants to run around acting like he does, especially in times like these. Erich smiles and tells her “All the more reason to have some fun.” Uncle Erich tells Max “Life is short” and proceeds to teach him Lesson One: he should smile if a pretty girl gives him “that certain look.”
Max’s mother asks his father if he’s just going to sit there while his own brother teaches their boy such nonsense. Jakob places his hand on his wife’s shoulder affectionately and smiles at her. He then asks Max if he thinks the look she’s giving him may be “that certain look.” Mrs. Eisenhardt blushes and gets momentarily flustered by her husband’s flirty comment. She smiles softly, calls him a “man” in a slightly annoyed tone laced with amusement and affection and orders him to come into the kitchen and help her with the food. Jakob wraps his arm around his wife and leads her to the kitchen. Max seems bewildered by this but his uncle ruffles his hair and continues his lessons on dealing with girls. “Lesson Two: If a pretty girl invites you into the kitchen… always say yes.”
The next day finds young Max at school, preparing to compete in a series of physical challenges. The group of schoolboys stands stiffly at attention as their headmaster addresses them. He tells them that they are everything, sons of the nation upon whom the hopes of their fathers and forefathers rest. He espouses the school’s goals of training their minds, hearts and bodies but warns that teachings will only take them so far and that they must find the strength and will to seize the glory that is their birthright.
As he says all this, Max Eisenhardt is distracted by a pretty young girl named Magda. Magda’s mother is a cleaning woman at the school. Max tries to get Magda’s attention and when she finally looks up at him, he smiles broadly. The blond-haired boy next to Max sneers and says with derision “Trash loves trash.” Max glares at the boy who smiles with smug superiority.
The boys engage in a variety of trials: foot races, long jump, and wrestling. The blond boy easily pins Max down as they wrestle and taunts him by pointing out that Max has been “Dead last in everything.” Max looks over at Magda as the boy says nastily “I’m sure the little scrub’s very impressed.” Max tries to rebuff the boy but the group is then called back to attention by the headmaster. He calls to the boys to look at Max. He begins with “He’s really the perfect example isn’t he? Small. Weak. But vicious.” He accuses Max of being a nasty loser who “snaps at the victors like a little dog.” Max sinks under the scrutiny of his headmaster, staring at the ground. The headmaster points this out as a further sign of weakness, which he sees as a sign of cowardice. He tells the other boys that this sickens him and the stupid look on Max’s face “truly turns my stomach.” Max’s teacher, Herr Kalb interrupts this harsh dissection and tries to point out that Max is near the top of his class in almost every subject. The headmaster says that this is merely a sign of his “degenerate cunning” and “vastly different from real intelligence.” Herr Kalb reluctantly agrees with his superior. Max seethes with anger as the other boys smile smugly.
The headmaster calls the boys to participate in their final event: the javelin throw. Max is still a bit dejected from the racist criticism of the headmaster as he picks up the javelin. He catches a glance from Magda and this brings a smile to his face. He gazes at the field before him, littered with the javelins thrown by his classmates. He leans back and throws the metal javelin with all his might. To everyone’s surprise (including Max himself) it soars boldly through the air, landing several feet beyond the furthest javelin. The headmaster grimaces at this achievement and eyes Max suspiciously. Herr Kalb tries his best to suppress a satisfied grin.
Max is awarded a gold medal for his javelin throw and stands atop a platform next to the boys with the second and third farthest throw. The silver medal has gone to the blond boy who taunted Max earlier in the day. Naturally, he is visibly bitter that Max has beaten him. After school, Max bounds happily out of the school with his gold medal dangling about his neck. He is stopped by Herr Kalb. Kalb tells Max that he is gifted and special but that he needs to be careful. He shares a Japanese proverb: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” He asks Max if he understands what he is saying. Max apologizes and says that he has to go or he will be late.
Max rushes off, trying to catch up with Magda and her mother as they leave the school. He follows them into a crowded town square. He calls out to Magda and she turns and reaches out for him. Her mother tries to pull her away. Max holds out a small box and tells her it is for her. Magda smiles brightly as she takes the box and says simply “Bye, Max!” The words lift Max’s spirits and he smiles broadly with elation. His sentiment is echoed by the crowd who is cheering wildly and raising their hands in salute. The square is filled with Nazi flags and banners as the townspeople cheer for the assembled Nazi troops. A man looks down at Max and tells him to “Hail our heroes!” Max looks around and realizes for the first time what has drawn the crowd. On the platform in front of him is his uncle, Erich. He has been badly beaten by the Nazi soldiers. Around his neck is a sign painted in red. The German phrase translates to “I have shamed a German woman.” The Nazi soldiers continue to beat Uncle Erich as the crowd cheers them on.
September 15, 1935 – The Nazi party introduce the Nuremberg Laws. These new laws declare that Jews cannot be citizens of the Reich. Marriages between Jews and German nationals and their kin are forbidden. Sexual relations between Jews and Germans are forbidden. In addition, Jews are forbidden from hoisting the Reich and national flags or bearing the colors of the Reich. As the people cheer these pronouncements, Erich Eisenhardt is beaten publicly to demonstrate the enforcement of the Nazi edicts. Max pushes through the crowd towards his uncle, who falls to the ground. Blood fills one of his eyes. The other is swollen nearly shut. Blood gushes from his nose.
That evening, Max shows the medal he was awarded to his father and the rest of the family. Uncle Erich is recuperating from the beating he received on the couch nearby. Jakob looks at the medal and tells his son that they gave him medals too. He takes down a medal he received for his service in World War I. He tells his son that he was even called a “hero.” It was his service record that allowed him to keep his job with the government for so long. He quotes President Hindenburg who said that the Jews who bled for Germany in the Great War were German enough for him. From the sofa, Erich tells his older brother “no more, Jakob. No More.” Jakob asks what he means by this. As Erich cradles his bandaged hand and speaks through a badly swollen lip, he says simply “They’re never going to stop.” Jakob asks what they should do then, “…run away?” Erich replies “Exactly.”
Jakob tries to brush off this idea but his daughter Ruth chimes in. She tells him that her uncle may be right. At the flower shop where she works the people call her “Greta” and assume she is German and a Christian. Her father corrects her and tells her that she is German. Ruth says that she lets them assume this because it is easier that way. Jakob slumps against the table and asks his wife what she thinks. “No more room for us in the land of Goethe and Schiller and Beethoven and Mendelssohn?” She pulls him to the kitchen and asks for his help with dinner. He smiles and looks down at Max “At least you showed them, huh?” he says proudly. He hands Max his medal which is emblazoned with the eagle and swastika symbol of the Reich. He tells his son, “They can’t take that away.”
The next day at school, the headmaster orders Max to stand before the other students. He announces that it has come to his attention that the javelin that Max threw the day before was defective. He tells them “This Jew has won nothing.” He demands that Max return the medal the next day as it belongs to a German boy… unless Max is able to duplicate his feat with a regulation javelin.
Soon Max stands on the practice field once more. The other boys are watching as are the headmaster, Herr Kalb, Magda and her mother. Max looks worried. The javelin in his hand is considerably heavier than the one from the previous day. He tells this to Herr Kalb who replies that it is regulation weight. Max tells him that it is heavier than that. Herr Kalb is clearly sympathetic and tells Max to just throw it. Max glares at the headmaster with anger and throws the javelin with all of his might. It soars far, all the way to the back wall of the school. Herr Kalb looks shocked and the headmaster seethes with anger. Max looks towards Magda who smiles and brings her hand to her neck. She is wearing the necklace that Max made for her. This brings a smile to his face.
Later that day, Max is summoned to the headmaster’s office. The headmaster tells him that the Reich has no place for “cheating, Jewish scum” and tells Max that he is expelled. Max glares angrily as the headmaster tells him that he has three minutes to get out of his sight. As Max walks down the corridor, he hears shouting coming from another room. He hears a cracking sound and the door opens. A pair of Nazi soldiers is beating Herr Kalb who begs them to look at his papers. As they drag Herr Kalb away, Max looks down at the floor. A splatter of blood stains the marble.
Max looks up as someone calls out “Hey, Eisenhardt!” Standing behind him is the blond German boy and several of his friends. The boy cracks his knuckles and Max runs. The boys chase him out onto the schoolyard where several other boys are waiting. Max stops running and punches one of the boys. But he is quickly overwhelmed by the gang of boys. They force him to the ground and begin beating him up with the golden Reich medals they have been given. The medals are soon streaked with Max’s blood. The words of Herr Kalb ring in his ears, “Max…you’re special. Gifted. You have immense promise. But you need to be careful… the nail that sticks up… gets hammered down.”

Characters Involved: 

Max Eisenhardt / Magneto
Jakob Eisenhardt (Max’s father)

Ruth Eisenhardt (Max’s sister)

Erich Eisenhardt (Max’s uncle)

Mrs. Eisenhardt (Max’s mother)
Magda and her mother
Herr Kalb
Unnamed headmaster and students at Max’s school
Nazi soldiers
Crowd of locals

Story Notes: 

The final page of this issue contains the following Afterword by writer Greg Pak:

“In the three years editor Warren Simons and I have been developing “Magneto: Testament,” we’ve struggled with the complicated, rich and contradictory information the comics give us about Magneto’s life during the Nazi rise to power and World War II. Different comics give different accounts of Magneto’s name, his age, his ethnicity and religion, his hair color and even his Auschwitz tattoo number. But as dedicated Magneto fans have documented, the most compelling and essential material indicates that Magneto was a Jewish boy in Europe during the Nazi ascendancy and provides several key details about the fate of his family and his experiences in Auschwitz.
We’ve done our bets to remain true to these elements while fleshing out the rest of our hero’s experiences based on research of the actual historical record. Longtime readers will notice a wealth of surprising new details – for example, for the first time, we’re revealing Magneto’s birth name. And sometimes, because the comics record is contradictory or conflicts with historical fact, we’ve had to choose one detail over another. But at every step, we’ve done our best to remain true to the key moments that have contributed so much towards making Magneto the deeply compelling character we know today.
But most importantly, in an age in which Holocaust deniers still spread their lies, we’ve done our best to ensure that the real-world history we explore in the series is entirely accurate and that we deal with this unfathomably, harrowing material in a way that’s honest, unflinching, human, and humane. In later issues, we’ll provide citations and suggestions for future reading. For now, we offer a thousand thanks to Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for his expert advice and historical fact-checking.”

This issue establishes a number of vital facts about Magneto’s heritage and history:
- His birth name: Max Eisenhardt

- Family members: Jakob (father), Ruth (sister), Erich (paternal uncle)

- Year of birth: Sometime between 1925 and 1926
It is also firmly established that Magneto was Jewish, definitively countering other accounts that have suggested otherwise.
This issue also depicts subtle demonstrations of Max’s mutant power to manipulate the forces of magnetism. The manner in which he gathers the fallen metal pieces of his father’s necklace, the intricacies of the necklace he has created for Magda and his feat with the javelin all indicate early, subconscious manifestations of his mutant abilities.
As stated here, the Nuremberg Laws were designed to strip Jews of the rights as German citizens and create a clear divide between the Jews and “Germans”. The first law, The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, prohibited marriages and extra-marital, sexual relations between “Jews” and “Germans.” It also annulled any existing marriages meeting this definition including those which were conducted in other nations. It barred the employment of “German” females under forty-five as servants in Jewish households. The second law, The Reich Citizenship Law, stripped Jews of their German citizenship and introduced a new distinction between “Reich citizens” and “nationals.” These laws defined a Jew as any person with three or more grandparents who were Jewish. This defined Jews by their family heritage as opposed to their actual religious practices. Even Germans who had converted to Christianity or never practiced Judaism in any form were classified as Jews and stripped of their rights as German citizens. The language of the original Nuremberg Laws can be found at the following website:

In addition to these laws that related directly to the Jews, a third law provided guidelines for the governmental sterilization of those deemed “mentally unfit”. This was called the Law for the Protection of Hereditary Health: The Attempt
to Improve the German Aryan Breed.

Paul von Hindenburg was Germany’s second president and a decorated military general. He was elected in 1925 and served as president until his death in 1934. In April 1933, President Hindenburg openly opposed a piece of Nazi legislation called the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service that would bar Jews from civil service. He only agreed to sign the bill when provisions were made that allowed those Jews who were veterans of the Great War or the children of Jewish veterans to continue to serve in government positions.
The full language of this law, including the revisions that Hindenburg insisted upon, can be viewed here:
Goethe refers to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, one of 19th century Germany’s greatest writers best known for his famous drama, Faust. Friedrich Schiller was a contemporary and close friend of Goethe’s and a prominent writer and philosopher in his own right. Ludwig van Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn were among Germany’s most famed composers from this era.

In an interview at Comic Book Resources, writer Greg Pak discussed how he came up with Magneto's true birth name.

"When editor Warren Simons and I first started thinking about Magneto's real name, my mind kept running back to the fact that "Eisenhower" is actually a German name - "Eisenhauer," which literally means "iron striker." With a little poking around, I found out that "Eisenhardt" - meaning "iron hard" - is a German Jewish name. Given the origin story we were working on, that felt like a perfect fit. In an early draft, I'd named our hero "Ari Eisenhardt," but our sharp-eyed historical advisor, Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pointed out that "Ari" wasn't as common during our time period as it later became. I poked around some more and finally came up with "Max," which again seemed perfect - a very common Jewish name during the time period that feels just right for the kid at the center of our story but also hints at the "Magnus" to come."

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