Hollywood and the Nazis

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933–1939
by Thomas Doherty
Columbia University Press, 448 pp., $35

The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler
by Ben Urwand
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 336 pp., $26.95

The apprehensiveness of American Jews has become one of the important influences in the social life of our time.” This unsettling observation comes from the opening paragraph of a strange little book written in 1936 by “The Editors of Fortune, entitled Jews in America. Fortune was then in its early heyday, featuring the photography of Margaret Bourke-White and Walker Evans and the elegant prose of Archibald MacLeish. Its founder, Henry Luce, once remarked that it was, “easier to turn poets into business journalists than to turn bookkeepers into writers,” and his investment paid off: During his nine years at Fortune, MacLeish published four books of poetry, won a Pulitzer Prize,and wrote nearly a hundred articles, including the one on which Jews in America was based. The ascent of Mussolini and Hitler and the anguish of the Great Depression had given rise to homegrown fascism and anti-Semitism in the United States. Friends of the New Germany, a pro-Nazi forerunner of the German American Bund, launched its operations in 1933, as did the Silver Shirts, a domestic version of Hitler’s Brownshirts, founded by William Dudley Pelley, a Christian occultist and former Hollywood screenwriter. The phenomenon, wrote MacLeish, “is important to non-Jews as well as to Jews,” because a nation that, “permits a minority to live in fear of persecution is a nation which invites disaster.”

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About the Author

Stuart Schoffman, a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, worked as a Hollywood screenwriter and taught film at the University of Southern California before moving to Jerusalem in 1988. His translations from Hebrew include books by A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and Meir Shalev.


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