When Hollywood Turned against Hitler

For most of the 1930s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) steered clear of politics, declining, for instance, to produce a cinematic version of Sinclair Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here, about a fascist takeover of the U.S. That changed in 1940 with the production of A Mortal Storm, recently restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. It tells the story of a German Professor Roth whose life, and that of his family, is upended by Hitler’s rise to power. Thomas Doherty writes:

Professor Roth (played by Frank Morgan) is an esteemed scholar-scientist, . . . a man beloved by his family, worshipped by his students, and honored by his profession. [But] the professor is “non-Aryan.” “Non-Aryan” is as close as the film will come to designating what the new regime would call professor Roth’s racial type. At no point is he explicitly identified as a Jew; at no point is the word uttered on the soundtrack. Still, one would have to be a very dense spectator indeed not to understand what makes him a born enemy of the Third Reich. Later, when Roth is hauled off and imprisoned in a concentration camp, the sleeve of his prison uniform will bear a conspicuous “J.” . . .

One of the most chilling—and, these days, resonant—scenes in The Mortal Storm takes place in the university lecture hall. . . . He is teaching what he has always taught: the biological unity of all mankind, “the scientific truth” that blood is blood. His once-admiring students are now a squad of menacing brownshirts who will not tolerate his heretical rebuke to Nazi eugenics. They storm out of the lecture hall and call for a boycott of his classes. . . .

As the highest profile of the anti-Nazi films [released between the beginning of World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor], the film was a ripe target of opportunity for the extreme edges of the political spectrum, right and left. . . . In the wake of The Mortal Storm, Nazi officials tersely informed MGM that its pictures would henceforth be banned in the Greater Reich and the occupied countries. Stateside, fifth columnists in the German American Bund sought to intimidate exhibitors playing anti-Nazi films with bomb threats and vandalism. . . . Taking dictation from Moscow, the official organs of the Communist Party USA [in the heyday of the Nazi-Soviet pact] lambasted Hollywood’s anti-Nazi [films] as errant warmongering by capitalist merchants of death. . . .

In Washington, a bipartisan cohort of isolationist U.S. senators eyed Hollywood’s anti-Nazi cycle and saw . . . an insidious propaganda campaign designed to sucker America into the European maelstrom.

Brought before a Senate committee holding hearings about “propaganda” in the film business, Nicholas M. Schenk—the president of Loew’s, which owned MGM—was asked by the isolationist Senator D. Worth Clark if he thought The Mortal Storm “contributed to harmony and national unity.” Schenk retorted, “I don’t think you want unity with Hitler.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Communism, Film, Isolationism, Nazism, World W II

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank