Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Seventy-five years ago, in 1940, the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced that Brooklyn’s population has increased by 1,166,582 since the turn of the century to 2,698,285.

The 42nd annual volume of the American Jewish Year Book issued by the Jewish Publication Society of America stated that America had 4,771,000 Jews, 3.69 percent of the country’s population.


On the other side of the ocean, more than 200,000 Polish Jews were confined into the Lodz ghetto. On April 9, 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, and a month later the Nazis marched into Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. On May 17, the Germans invaded France.

As western Europe was being overrun by the Nazis, Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain in May. On June 14, 1940, the Nazis marched into Paris; six days later the French army surrendered.

Around the same time, the Soviets began their arrests and deportations of 198,000 Jews to Siberia.

The day after the Nazis entered Paris, Harry Danning had a memorable day.

The New York Giants’ Jewish catcher thrilled Giants fans by hitting for the cycle. Danning singled, doubled, tripled, and homered as the Giants bombed the Pirates 12-1 at New York’s Polo Grounds.

Hank Greenberg

On September 9, 1940, an Italian bombing mission destroyed many homes in Tel Aviv. The raid killed 112, including fifty-five children, and wounded 151. The London Blitz also began in September.

German planes targeted the heavily Jewish East End district of London. An estimated 2,000 planes virtually destroyed the Jewish quarter. Many survivors loaded their possessions on their backs and sought shelter in central London’s schools, hotels, and public buildings.

While people in London were looking for safety, Americans hummed the new tunes of 1940: “All or Nothing at All,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

The baseball season ended as the Germans continued to pound London. Harry Danning finished the season with a .300 batting average and 13 home runs. Outfielder Morrie Arnovich was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the National League- leading Cincinnati Reds. Arnovich, who was born into an Orthodox family in Superior, Wisconsin and who had two cousins who were rabbis, was a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday as the Reds inched closer to the World Series.

In the American League, Hank Greenberg’s 41 home runs and 150 RBI topped the league and helped lead the Tigers to the World Series. Greenberg, who hit .340 in the regular season, batted .357 in the Series, while Arnovich was hitless in his lone appearance at the plate as the Reds won in seven games.

Mel Allen and Red Barber were teamed to call the plays in the World Series on radio. Allen, who’d changed his surname from Israel, was 27 at the time and in his first year as voice of the Yankees. Barber, 32, was the former play-by-play man of the Cincinnati Reds before assuming the same position with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Four days after the World Series ended on October 12, 1940 – Yom Kippur – the Nazis proclaimed the formation of the Warsaw ghetto. The Nazis delighted in announcing decrees against Jews on Jewish holidays.

But the news in America that day focused on cowboy movie star Tom Mix, who was returning to Hollywood from a personal appearance tour when his custom-built automobile skidded off Route 80 in Arizona and crashed into a ravine, killing the expert horseman and idol of millions.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was shocked at the untimely death of his friend, who had marched in Roosevelt’s inaugural parade atop his famous horse Tony.

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Author, columnist, Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years and interviewed many legends of the game before accepting a front office position with the Detroit Tigers where he became the first orthodox Jew to earn a World Series ring (1984).