How Cowardice and Anti-Semitism Stopped One of the Earliest Anti-Nazi Films from Getting Made

In 1933, Herman Mankiewicz—a writer and producer with a successful career at MGM—authored a screenplay for a movie called The Mad Dog of Europe, set in Transylvania (an obvious stand-in for Germany) and focusing on two families, one Jewish and the other Christian. Deeply scarred by his service in World War I, a member of the latter family then falls under the influence of a deranged former housepainter named Adolf Mitler, and melodrama ensues. Mankiewicz teamed up with the producer Sam Jaffe to make the movie, but their efforts, which continued right up until 1939, were thwarted at every turn, as Sydney Ladensohn Stern recounts:

Although the studios’ top executives were almost all Jewish, they were well aware of anti-Semitism’s prevalence in American culture and the dangers it posed to them. While leaders in other industries were praised for fulfilling the American Dream, successful motion-picture business executives were routinely portrayed as ignorant, jumped-up former garment merchants—“pants pressers, delicatessen dealers, furriers, and penny showmen,” as Karl K. Kitchen wrote in Columbia, the official Knights of Columbus magazine. . . .

They were maligned as greedy capitalists whose sensational products corrupted wholesome Christian Americans, especially during a time when the Depression fueled so many resentments. They knew that if they depicted Nazi abuses, they risked being branded as warmongers, trying to pull the United States into a European problem to help their co-religionists.

Even as Mankiewicz and Jaffe had little luck finding backers, they soon encountered more active opponents, including Will Hays, the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA):

Hays summoned [Jaffe] and Mankiewicz to his office and accused them of greed: they were exploiting “a scarehead situation for the picture which, if made, might return them a tremendous profit while creating heavy losses for the industry.” Then he asked, even if they were to find a studio willing to rent them production facilities, how could they exhibit the film if all the major theaters refused them? . . .

As Jaffe set up an office and hired the playwright Lynn Root to work on the script, a number of Jewish organizations mobilized. They, too, wanted Americans informed about Hitler and the Nazis, but they wanted the word spread by non-Jewish messengers. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which had been organized in 1913 specifically to combat anti-Semitism, joined studio heads and the MPPDA in actively opposing the realization of Mad Dog. They feared it would provoke accusations of Jewish warmongering, and they worried that if it failed commercially, it would demonstrate American apathy to Hitler or even pave the way for pro-Nazi films.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: ADL, American Jewish History, Anti-Semitism, Hollywood, Nazi Germany

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy