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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 23, 2013 PAGE 17A By Danielle Berrin The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles Many people, Jew and non- Jew alike, have wondered who they might have been during the Holocaust. A righteous gentile like Schindler? A self- serving member of the Juden- rat? In other words, a person of courage or cowardice? Now, nearly seven decades later, an explosive new book revealshaunting details about Hollywood's relationship to Hitler's Germany. And the era's predominantly Jewish" studio heads are taken to task for their apparent complic- ity in Hitler's anti-Semitic propaganda. In America, responses to Hitler's assault on Europe var- ied-but they mattered'. What if Roosevelt had been braver sooner? What if American - Jewry had been as loud'about German as it is today about Israel? Because during World War II, America's response to news of the Holocaust can be characterized at best as ambivalent, or, at worst, handicapped. Even the Jewish-owned New York Times, the coun- try's cherished newspaper of record, was reluctant to herald the horrific news about the Jews. Between the years 1939 and 1945, the Times published Dems From page 1A and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he'll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning." In his first news conference as president, Rohani said Iran wants to improve its relations with the United States and intimated he was prepared to increase transparency of his country's nuclear program, which he insists is peaceful but which Western intel- ligence agencies believe is aimed at producing weapons. Iran"will defend its people's rights and at the same time will remove the concerns of the other party," Rohani said. "If we feel that the Americans are truly serious about resolv- ing problems, Iran is serious in its will to resolve problems and dismiss worries." Netanyahu dismisses such talk as a sham, but the Demo- cratic leadership in the House doesn't appear to agree. An official in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, said her thinking on Iran was consis- tent with Hoyer's, pointing to a floor speech July 31when she joined the overwhelming ma- jority of the House invoting to stiffen sanctions against Iran. Though she backed new sanctions against the Is- lamic Republic, Pelosi also welcomed Rohani's openness to talks aimed at ending the nuclear standoff. "Let's do it diplomatically. Let's do itwith economic sanc- tions. Let's do it by encourag- ing dialogue, engagement and the rest," She said. "But-let's do that engagement from strength." Like Pelosi, Hoyer backs both increased economic pressure and an openness to talks--a positionhe said is not inconsistentwith Netanyahu's 23,000 front-page stories: 11,500 were reports on the war; 26 about theHolocaust. The thousand other Holo- caust.related headlines that made it into the paper were buried inside. According to the new docu- mentary "Reporting on The Times: The New York Times and The Holocaust," the anti-Semitic climate of the period inhibited the Times' publisher, Arthur Hays Sul- zberger, from spotlighting the Shoah. There was concern that "the paper would be discredited to the extent possible, because of its Jewish ownership," former Times reporter Alex Jones says in the film, Sulzberger's kowtowing cowardice led to Holocaust coverage that was "un-dramatic, un-passionate and framed in general terms," Jones says, without explicitly emphasizing the extermina- tion of the Jews. Haskel LoOkstein, a promi- nent Modern Orthodox rabbi from Manhattan's Upper East Side, tells the camera, "[Sulzberger] was conscious that he lived in aworld of anti- Semitism, It was not an easy time to be a front-and-center American Jew." The same could be said of the era's Hollywood Jewish moguls. In the new book "The Collaboration: Holly- wood's Pact With Hitler," the tough line. Nor is a letter signed by 131 House members Urging President Obama to test Rohani's offer, Hoyer said. "The letter and the actions of the House of Representa- tives are consistent with what the prime minister has said," said Hoyer, who did not sign the letter. "Words are cheap, talk is cheap and let's see what the walk is." For Netanyahu and some in the pro-Israel community like Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N .Y.), the clock has run out on that approach. In'July, Netanyahu told the news program "Face the Nation" that Iran was "within a few weeks" of crossing the red line--a boundary the prime minister defined as possessing 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched ura- nium-and vowed it would not be permitted to do so. "If this were three years ago, I would have said, we have a couple of months to lose, OK," said Engel, the se- nior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Now, while Iran is playing out the clockspinning centrifuges, pretending Rohani is a moder- ate and stepping back, think- ing we might be pleasantly surprised--we would not be pleasantly surprised. We would be three months closer to Iran having a nuclear weapon." Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in his July 31 floor speech back- ing the intensified sanctions also suggested there was no point in waitingout Rohani. "Considering that Iran continues to flagrantly vio- late numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the suspension of its nuclear enrichment program while denying inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites, it is clear that Iran has negotiated again and again in bad faith," he said. historian and Harvard fellow Ben Urwand takes aim at an- other of America's cultural institutions: the entertain- ment industry. Although the book has not yet been released, a June article in The New York Times fomented a furor when it described the book's central argument: that "Hollywood studios, in an effort to protect the Ger- man market for their movies, not only acquiesced to Nazi censorship but also actively and enthusiastically coop- erated with that regime's global propaganda effort." Although it is hardly news .that Hollywood's founding moguls were ambivalent about their Judaism, the no- tion that Jewish studio heads conducted business as-usual with Hitler's Third Reich could stain the proud image of America's most Jewish and idealistic industry. Whatever anyone previously thought of the moguls' role in support- ing their brethren overseas, this book, to borrow a phrase from the Times, offers one big revisionist hack. Not everyone is buying it: "First of all, it is not true that the Warners did that," Harry's granddaughter, Cass Warner Sperling, exclaimed over the phone. "My grandfather was adamant about getting [War- ner Bros.] out of Germany, and got out of Germany in 1933, "America's policies must be based on facts and not some hope.about a new government in Iran that will somehow change the nature of the clerical regime in Tehran. We must respond to Iran's policies and behavior, not to its rhetoric." Nevertheless, the letter urging Obama to test Rohani appears to have had an impact. Its signatories include 18 Republicans, most of them from the party's mainstream. A separate and tougher letter to Obama backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and initi- ated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, garnered76 sign- ers. The Menendez letter, sent Aug. 21 emphasized intensified sanctions and urged that h'an be threatened with military engagement. But in a sign of how the "test Rohani" message is gaining traction, the AIPAC- backed letter notes Rohani's offer to engage and counsels "a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations." Obama appears to have em- braced the message, although in carefully restrained tones. After Rohani's inauguration, the White House issued a statement praising Iranian voters, not Rohani. It was is- sued by the White House, not by Obama. "The inauguration of Presi- dent Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the inter- national community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear program," the statement said. "Should this new government choose to engage substan- tively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States." and tried to get the other moguls to follow suit and was horrified that they wouldn't." To its credit, Warner Bros. was the first major studio to stop doing business with Germany in the mid-1930s, and, in 1939, despite warnings not to, released the avowedly anti-Nazi film "Confessions of a Nazi Spy." So you can imag- ine Warner Sperling's dismay when she saw the cover of last week's Hollywood Reporter displaying a giant swastika su- perimposed onto the famous Warner Bros. water tower, under the headline"How Hol- lywood Helped Hitler." "I take offense to that," Warner Sperling said. "That is pushing a fallacy which is not OK with me. You cannot put my family in that because they championed the opposite." She added: "Mr. Urwand has chosen a subject which will get a lot of attention, and I feel sorry for him that he feels he needs to promote,this information, when I think it is probably partially true but not all true." Because many of the mo- guls were immigrants of East- ern European Jewish descent, including Harry and Jack Warner, and Louis B. Mayer of MGM--all of whom figure prominently in the book---the idea that they would ignore the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and contort themselves into pretzels to sustain their Ger- man market well into 1940, seems shockingly gutless, even morally egregious. Germany, it's not Adolf Hitler, its [Gen.] Gurko Lanen." Tarantino called these tricks "subtextual Jewish resistance." "The moguls wanted it to be as much a one-way street as possible," Alicia Mayer, grand-niece of Louis B, Mayer, said by phone from Sydney, Australia. "They wanted to sell their goods overseas. And who was in Germany at the time? There were Jews in Ger- many. There were their own people in Germany. The idea of collaborating with the Nazi regime--that's insane. What they did do was tailor content towhatever the reqtiirements were when there was a power in place. Look at China." But there was something different and more devious about the nature of Germany's censorship than had ever existed before. When Hitler's chief censor, Dr. Ernst Seeger, made clear to MGM that "the German people have collectively adopted a hostile attitude toward Jews" and that Germanyhad no interest in any film in which a Jew played a leading role, Urwand notes that this marked the fir st time in history a film could be banned not for objectionable content, but "because of the racial origins of the members of the cast." When I pointed this out to Mayer, she said of the German censors: "If they had actually taken this to the bottom line, theywould have had no freak- ing films whatsoever, because Butwasitreallyapactwith it all had Jewish contact of Hitler? "You might call that capi- talism's pact with Hitler," filmmaker Quentin Tarantino quipped when I showed him the book. Moral courage is a fine ideal for Hollywood art- ists, "but you're talking about studio heads; you're talking about people whose job it is to make money," said Tarantino, whose 2009 film"Inglourious Basterds" showcases his vast knowledge of the period's history. "That's just the way it is. They had a very lucrative market in Germany for their product." The moguls prob- ably agreed to compromise their content, thinking: "Why turn away that market if it's not killing us?" Tarantino said. "Apparently, they felt it wasn't killing them. And at that time, for al! they knew, Germany would win the war in Europe. They could be saying goodbye to all of Europe for the next 50 years." What they did was not collaboration, Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum pointed out, as that term im- plies participation in the effort to achieve some end, and the moguls most certainly did not aid Hitler in murdering 6 mil- lion people. What they did do, however, was accommodate an increasingly malevolent regime. some sort; the moguls were Jewish, the directors were Jewish, the writers were Jew- ish. [The Germans] had no other place to go, So I guess they decided to drop their own damn standards, and they dealt with the Jews anyway, didn't they?" Nefarious Germans. Venal Jews. As most things are, this history is a complicated pic- ture. So what are we to make of Urwand's" evelations? "Look, from 1930 to '33, Hitler was not in power," Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance, said. "That should be separated out of the controversy. But that the movie industry was in a way directly cooperating with Nazi policy in the late '30s, after the Nuremberg Laws were set in Germany, I find inexcusable." However, Hier added, "Let's put it all on the table: In the United States [in the late '.30s and early '40s], nobody cared. And American Jews have a dismal record during that same period of time, so to say itwas only the movie industry would be unfair." Moriah Films, the pro- duction outfit of the Simon Wiesenthal Cen.ter, produced a2009 documentary,"Against the Tide," depictingAmerica's handling of the Holocaust. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, it focuses on the activist and Zionist Peter Bergson, who, in the early 1940s, began organizing public pageants and protests condemning Hitler and demanding U.S. support for the rescue of European Jewry. Although the American Jewish estab- lishment of the time refused to support Bergson and his fringe group, Committee for a Jewish Army, Bergson did find some surprising and even unlikely partners: non-Jewish members of Congress, the ultra-Orthodox community, and, let it be said, Hollywood. As Urwand notes inhis book, Bergson and the writer Ben Hecht joined forces for a huge public pageant called "We Will Never Die" (about a "rabbi talking to God about the murder of the Jews of Europe") starring actors Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, Frank Sinatra and a then-unknown Marlon Brando. Some 40,000 people attended, including the moguls. "Every single studio chief was part of the steering committee," Hier said. Hier, an Oscar-winning member of the Academy and longtime friend to Hollywood luminaries, said he was sur- prised to learn of the findings in Urwand's book. But he was quick to fill in the gaps: "Now I understand better why [the moguls] look so good in the '40s. They knew what they did," Hier said, How strange, he admitted, that in the '30s, the moguls made every effort to accommodate Hitler and avoid Jewish responsibility, and then in the '40s decided to publicly rally to save Eu- rope's Jews--even as the rest of American Jewry recoiled. "They felt like fools," Hier said of the moguls. "After all these negotiations, and then they see what Hitler's doing." Were these later acts the moguls' attempts at teshu- vah--repentance? Was this their way of returning to their Jewish values and identities? Of restoring their souls? "There's no doubt that all these Jewish businessmen were very focused-on mak- ing their way in a world that was antithetical to the Jewish experience," Mayer said. "They came as poor Jews from a persecuted environment, in deep pain, in deep trauma, and they banded together and moved on because they had to. But to say they weren't Jewish because they werehard-nosed and difficult, to say they didn't have a spiritual core is not true. They lived in the Jewish experience all of the time; you can't come from what they came from and shed that. It was fundamental to who they were." "They were rebellious col- laborators," Tarantino said. "Because they did a bunch of movies dealing with Germa- ny-esque countries; they dealt with the subject of countries taking over othercountries in Europe and you losing your freedoms. They just conve- niently never mentioned itwas Germany, or it was Nazism, or it was Jews, particularly. e'All of a sudden, in 'The Son of Monte Cristo,' which is rewritten to look like Nazi HANDYMAN SERVICE Handyman and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE SSERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 ._