The Hollywood Grande Dame Who Rescued Jews from Nazi Europe and Gave Them a Place to Call Home

After having modest success on the German and Austrian stage, the actress Salka Viertel settled in Los Angeles with her husband in 1928, where her home became a sort of salon for Central European refugees. Thanks to her friendship with Greta Garbo, she was able to support herself as a screenwriter while playing a small but significant role in Hollywood history. Her memoir has recently been reissued, along with a newly published biography of her by Donna Rifkind titled The Sun and Her Stars. Mark Horowitz writes in his review:

Viertel, a builder of bridges, was instrumental in getting the voices [of this group of anti-Nazi, mostly Jewish refugees] heard. Her house on Mabery Road in Santa Monica, a short walk from the beach, was “filled with the dispossessed,” Rifkind writes, “drawn to her compassion and her European cooking.” There, they rubbed shoulders with studio grandees and, under her prodding, discovered common ground.

She had acquired her ingathering style years earlier, in a far corner of the Habsburg empire, where her prosperous Jewish parents maintained an open house, welcoming a steady flow of friends and visitors through the front door while distributing food and money to indigent Jews and starving peasants through the back.

In Los Angeles, Viertel provided a substitute home for those, like herself, who had lost their original one. But these were no ordinary refugees trooping through her living room. If she at times comes across as something of a name-dropper (and she does), can you blame her? The regulars at her Sunday parties included Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Leon Feuchtwanger, Arnold Schoenberg, and Jean Renoir.

She [also] donated regularly to the European Film Fund, a Hollywood charity that rescued Hitler’s Jewish victims even as the U.S. government shut its gates. . . . The essence of her politics was charity and hospitality—a legacy from her mother. . . . The mitzvah of hakhnasat orḥim, Rifkind says, “the taking in of guests,” was her credo.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Hollywood, Immigration, World War II

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus