Hollywood’s War on Hate

By Caroline Lagnado

Published April 27, 2007, issue of April 27, 2007.
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An exhibit at the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion shows Hollywood movie posters from the Holocaust era. The posters, part of lawyer Ken Sutak’s personal collection, offer a glimpse into the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s, revealing how the film industry independently went to war against the Nazis starting in 1935 — six years before the United States.

Two of the largest studios, United Artists and Warner Bros., chose not to bow to German pressures to ban Jewish film employees and restrict the content. The American government also imposed sanctions on the industry under the guise of wishing to remain “neutral.” But Hollywood did not comply. Warner Bros., which was shaped by Jewish immigrants Harry Warner and his brothers, rejected the pressure to comply with the German government and instead chose to make pointedly anti-Nazi films. United Artists — run by Charlie Chaplin, among others — reorganized its distribution in Germany and retained its Jewish employees. And Chaplin would add a very personal touch in 1940 when he starred in “The Great Dictator,” a satire of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.

“Cinema Judaica: The War Years” runs through July 7.


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