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


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University