New Book Finds Ties Between Nazis and Hollywood

Hollywood's major studios not only accepted Nazi censorship, but collaborated with Hitler, finds new book.

Elad Benari ,

Israel News photo: Flash 90

A soon-to-be released book claims that the Hollywood film industry had close ties to the Third Reich, the Yisrael Hayom daily reported on Sunday.

Hollywood's major studios not only passively accepted Nazi censorship, but actively collaborated with Hitler's propaganda machine to protect their interests in the German market, according to the book written by Harvard University doctoral student Ben Urwand.

In his book, titled "The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler," Urwand reveals documents that have never before been made public.

The book offers evidence that heads of large Hollywood studios, some of them Jewish immigrants, edited films, scene by scene, at the behest of senior Nazi officials, according to Yisrael Hayom.

The results were films that could easily have been used as Nazi propaganda. One document even suggests that Hollywood sent money to Germany to produce munitions, the report said.

"Hollywood [in the 1930s] is not just collaborating with Nazi Germany, it's also collaborating with Adolf Hitler, the person and human being," Urwand, 35, was quoted as having said in an interview with The New York Times.

The fact that the Nazi regime intervened in the film industry during Hollywood's golden age is known and even documented, but Urwand suggests another story, based on American and German archival material, that the relationship between Hollywood and the Third Reich was deep and long-lasting. This warm relationship continued until the beginning of the 1940s.

According to Urwand, collaboration with the Nazis began in 1930, when the Jewish Carl Laemmle, who headed Universal Studios, agreed to far-reaching changes in "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930) after Nazis who watched the movie rioted.

In the book, Urwand reveals a letter from January 1938 sent by the German offices of Fox studios, with a request to receive Hitler's opinion about several movies. The letter ends with the salutation "Heil Hitler," according to Urwand’s book.

In 1939, MGM studios hosted 10 editors of Nazi newspapers on a studio tour. Urwand says he found a total of nearly 20 films aimed at American audiences in which content was influenced by senior Nazis. The most important point, he says, is that Jewish characters were almost entirely erased from films.

Urwand, whose maternal grandfather and grandmother were Jews who hid in Hungary during the Holocaust, addresses the fact that a large proportion of studio executives were Jewish themselves.

"I wouldn't want what I write to be generalizable about Jews, but specific Jews in the movie business made decisions to work with Nazi leaders," he was quoted as having said. "They didn't want to lose their business. ... They also felt Hitler might win the war and they wanted to work with the Nazis to preserve their business."