Hollywood’s War on Hate

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.

This story "Hollywood’s War on Hate" was written by Caroline Lagnado.


Caroline Lagnado

Caroline Lagnado

She sometimes writes for the Forward.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Hollywood’s War on Hate

Thank you!

This article has been sent!