The Hollywood film industry maintained close ties with the Third Reich and collaborated with the regime, according to a new book written by Harvard University doctoral student Ben Urwand. He charges that Hollywood’s major studios not only passively accepted Nazi censorship, but also further actively collaborated with Hitler’s propaganda machine to protect their interests in the German market.
In the book “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler,” Urwand, whose maternal grandfather and grandmother were Jews who hid in Hungary during the Holocaust, reveals documents that have never before been made public.
The book offers evidence that heads of large Hollywood studios, some of them Jews, edited films, scene by scene, at the request of senior Nazi officials. The results were films that could easily have been used as Nazi propaganda. One document even suggests that Hollywood sent money to Germany to produce munitions.
“Hollywood [in the 1930s] is not just collaborating with Nazi Germany, it’s also collaborating with Adolf Hitler, the person and human being,” Urwand told The New York Times.
The fact that the Nazi regime intervened in the Hollywood’s film industry is known and documented, but Urwand suggests that the relationship between Hollywood and the Third Reich was much deeper and long-lasting than previously known, that this warm relationship continued until the beginning of the 1940’s.
According to Urwand, collaboration with the Nazis began in 1930, when Carl Laemmle, a Jew who headed Universal Studios, agreed to far-reaching changes in “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930) after Nazis who watched the movie rioted.
Later on, in January 1938, the German offices of Fox studios sent a letter with a request to receive Hitler’s opinion about several movies. The letter ends with the salutation “Heil Hitler.” In 1939, MGM studios hosted ten editors of Nazi newspapers on a studio tour.
Urwand says he found a total of nearly 20 films aimed at American audiences in which content was influenced by senior Nazis. The most important point, he says, is that Jewish characters were almost entirely erased from films.
Another discovery included notes by Hitler’s adjutants recording his reactions to the movies he watched each night. He loved Laurel and Hardy but hated “Tarzan.”