Hollywood Collaborated With the Nazis, New Book Claims

Desperate to protect interests in pre-war Nazi Germany, U.S. film studios cut scenes, deleted Jewish credits, and even scrapped productions critical of Hitler's rise, book argues.

Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman
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Nirit Anderman
Nirit Anderman

When one thinks of how Hollywood has related to the Nazis, among the first movies that come to mind are “Casablanca” and “The Great Dictator,” in which the America movie industry portrayed the Nazis and Adolf Hitler in particular in a critical manner.

A new book being published in the United States claims, however, that the major Hollywood studios were desperate to protect their business interests in Germany and actually collaborated with the Nazis in the 1930s prior to the outbreak of World War Two.

Author Ben Urwand, argues in his book “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler” that American studios gave in to Nazi demands on a number of occasions, not only consenting to cut scenes out of certain movies, but even going so far as to scrap productions that ran afoul of the Nazi party.

The American film industry publication “Hollywood Reporter” published excerpts this month from Urwand’s forthcoming book, which is being published next month by Harvard University Press. The work is based on documentation from archives in the United States and Germany, revealing the surprising extent of the collaboration between Hollywood and the Nazis in the decade preceding the Second World War. According to the book, senior Hollywood figures saw fit to comply with Nazi dictates to protect their businesses interests in the Third Reich.

In the process, Urward wrote, they permitted the German officials to censor scripts, delete credits reflecting the work of Jews, halt film production and even forced an executive from MGM Studios to divorce his Jewish wife.

According to the book, the Germans also threatened, to bar the screening of American films in Germany if the studios failed to comply. As far back as 1930 — three years before the rise of the Nazis to power — with the release in 1930 of the movie “All Quiet on the Western Front” about World War I, Hollywood executives began to provide scripts and finished films to the German authorities for their approval, Urward found. Over the course of the decade of the 1930s, when the officials expressed opposition to specific content that they felt portrayed the Germans in a negative light or were critical of the Nazis or Nazi persecution of the Jews, Hollywood studios gave in, Urwand claims.

The effect of Nazi pressure sometimes even went so far as causing the cancellation of productions that were critical of Hitler’s rise to power. It is therefore not coincidental, according to Urwand , that until 1940, Hollywood didn’t produce a single important anti-Nazi film.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Credit: AP

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