The Chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler

The Hollywood Reporter has a fascinating book excerpt of “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler” (Harvard University Press, Sept. 9) by Ben Urwand which chillingly shows how far major Hollywood studios went to collaborate with the Nazis during the ten years leading up to World War II.  Apparently, they “let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.”  They also enthusiastically assisted in the Nazis’ world-wide effort to spread propaganda.

The excerpt has some pretty amazing detail, including one example from April 1937.  After author Erich Maria Remarque’s trilogy “Three Comrades” was completed, MGM hired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write a screen play which attacked the rise of Nazism in Germany.   The film was set in the late 1920s, when the Nazis were gaining their brute political force.  However, the German consul didn’t approve of the movie and suggested some changes.  “This screen adaptation suggests to us enormous difficulty from the standpoint of your company’s distribution business in Germany. … [and] may result in considerable difficulty in Europe for other American producing organizations.”

MGM executives capitulated to several German demands.  Eventually, the film’s setting was moved up, had no attack on the Nazis, and absolutely no mention of Jews.  (Rest assured, these cuts didn’t affect the movie’s romantic plot.)  Three Comrades would have been Hollywood’s first explicitly anti-Nazi film.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Urwand said that he found nearly 20 films intended for American audiences that German officials significantly altered or squelched. Perhaps more important, he added, Jewish characters were all but eliminated from Hollywood movies.”

“At this critical historical moment, when a major Hollywood production could have alerted the world to what was going on in Germany,” Urward laments, “the director did not have the final cut; the Nazis did.”

Read the excerpt here.

This article appeared first on National Review here.

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About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • Get’s me thinking

    Are we seeing this same kind of censorship today with the Obama Administration and the media?

  • americanlatina11

    and what is on the chopping block today in Hollywood?…truth, once again.

  • Steve

    Are you sure that’s not actually Charlie Chaplin?

  • Nancy French

    Mostly. :)

  • LuxRex

    Large government + large corporations = corporatism = fascism. Throw in fanatical anti-Semitism, and you have the Nazis. It seems to me, history is starting to repeat itself.

  • Sven2547

    I think it’s disingenuous to say “Hollywood helped Hitler” and then only cite one example of an anti-Hitler film being toned down (which is not the same as supporting him). I don’t think you can see The Great Dictator or Casablanca and reasonably conclude that Hollywood was in bed with the Nazis.

  • Nancy French


    Thanks for the comment…. Actually, there’s an entire book written by an academic at Harvard detailing many many instances. Click through to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.

    Casablanca came out in the 1940s… this article was about the time frame as Hitler rose to power.

    Hope this helps.

  • UnabashedlyChristian

    Since it fails to touch on anything spiritual I can only assume the point of this article was to suggest a connection between Hitler and modern day Hollywood which overwhelmingly supports the Obama administration. It seems from the comment section, at least one of your readers is willing to make that leap. That a Harvard academic wrote a book containing instances of bad conduct doesn’t make broad brush conclusions indisputable. Further, even if said instances of conduct alleged to have occurred more than half a century ago are true it is illogical to draw a line from Hitler to modern day Hollywood, whose writers, directors, producers and actors are predominantly Jewish. Even more inane is the attempt to compare Nazi Germany of the 1930′s with the Obama administration. If Hitler had prevailed the future society he envisioned most certainly would not have included an African American president. Why are evangelical Christians so intent on smearing this president that they are willing to sling any accusation no matter how ludicrous or slanderous? (President Obama, a timid, overly aggressive, socially liberal, Muslim fundamentalist, Christian Nationalist, Nazi, Kenyan communist) At some point the labels begin to cancel each other out.

  • Nancy French

    Dear Unabashed, I disagree with your definition of “anything spiritual!” (Especially since this is about the holocaust of Jews.) At any rate, I was pointing this article out because what a shame it is that Hollywood had the opportunity to reveal to the world what kind of man Hitler was… and squandered it. I said nothing about Obama, of course. If I may, you are the one that’s inserting politics into it…

  • UnabashedlyChristian

    Nancy you may disagree with my definition but that doesn’t change the fact that your article contains not even the slightest hint of a reference to God or faith. Most Christians look for some mention of divinity in spiritual musings. The moguls whose racist attitudes and business practices you lament are all long dead and replaced by people in Hollywood who have painstakingly revealed to the world what kind of man Hitler was. Perhaps you haven’t seen Schindler’s List. So I’m not sure what you hoped to achieve with this post. Even if your intention was not to subtly lead your readers to a political conclusion your article still had that predictable result. (See the comment section.) With all due respect, given your literary pedigree I am inclined to believe your denial is a tad disingenuous.

  • Nancy French

    I didn’t write the book — a guy from Harvard did, probably a Democrat though I have no knowledge of his politics. Normal people — regardless of political persuasion — should be able to lament what happened in Hollywood in the 1920s. Love the fact that Hollywood made Schindler’s List. I actually love movies! Not sure why you are disagreeing with an article that you probably agree with 100%.

  • ETtakeoff

    That Hitler and the Nazis were ignored and in many instances supported by elements within the groups that eventually became their enemies is not particularly new. Nazism was allowed to spread its message of hate and racial purity for many years and it was only when it became a serious economic issue did other nations begin to intervene. Prior to that many groups and countries supported their views the removal of jewish people and other ethnic minorities. Many in the United States held a similar view. For example, the peak of the KKK was the mid to late 1920s and they held very similar views to Nazis. The very same concepts of eugenics that the Nazis utilized were in application here in the US as well, although it never got to same levels of nastiness. So, it does not surprise me that there were some elements in the movie making industry that were pro nazi. The concept was not as alien as history has come to make it seem. The book will be fascinating though, I am sure.

  • PaulNSH

    This is a great article. You’re missing the point, Unabashedly. Before Hitler started invading other countries, Hollywood covered for him. Only after it became impossible to ignore what kind of a man he was did Hollywood do an about-face and portray him in a negative light. Today, Hollywood consistently puts out movies with totally unrealistic plots in order to promote a pro-green anti-Christian agenda.

  • UnabashedlyChristian

    You wrote and submitted an article to the Evangelical channel of Patheos entitled “The chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler” and it is the goal of your piece that concerns me not the book. I live in Texas, the heart of evangelical America and I have heard the sermons and received the anti-Obama/Hollywood emails. So unless one has just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck the title of your piece is hardly indecipherable code to evangelical readers. What I lament is pot stirring meant to inflame Christians and the idea that anyone would be so disrespectful to the memory of the Holocaust that they would co-opt Hitler in order to take a political shot at the Obama administration. Though you eagerly jumped in to correct me you made no attempt to address the political comments submitted by “Gets me thinking” or Americanlatina11. Your silence speaks volumes.

  • Nancy French

    I am not anti-Hollywood. But I do find it interesting that you are trying to decipher my intentions… I’ll go ahead and give you more silence to try to delve into after I post this comment. :)

  • UnabashedlyChristian

    My brother, you’ve just proved my point and I am less concerned with Hollywood’s agenda than I am with the self-inflicted damage Christians are doing to our own reputation. Instead of focusing our efforts on producing fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) we are angrily gnashing our teeth because people don’t like us. There is a reason for that. There will always be an anti-Christian agenda in the world. Our job is to change opinions by reflecting the love and glory of Jesus Christ in our own lives not by bludgeoning unbelievers with inflammatory rhetoric.

  • UWIR

    The Holocaust was genocide directed against the Jewish ethnicity, not the Jewish religion. As of the writing of my comment, UC’s comment is given as being 11 hours ago, while Get’s me thinking [sic]‘s post is given as being 9 days ago. So it’s rather clear to me that UC is not the one who brought politics up.

  • UWIR

    Is the misspelling of the word “gets” supposed to be ironic? It’s one thing to misspell a word in a comment, but in your username?

    “Gee, I think I’ll pick a username that makes me look like illiterate, and post paranoid nonsense about Obama!”

  • UWIR

    That was after Germany had already declared war on the US. And once we at war, Germany didn’t have the leverage of threatening to boycott people who didn’t toe the line.

  • UWIR

    Hmm, between the Sierra Club and the Christian Right, which one thinks it’s okay to kill people they don’t agree with? It’s really disgusting that the Christian Right is on a mission to bully and oppress anyone who doesn’t agree with them, and yet they claim to be in danger of persecution. I’ve found that when Christians talk about an “anti-Christian” agenda, they quite often mean “A refusal to follow Christian mores”. In the minds of Christian extremists, any movie that treats homosexuals as deserving of basic human dignity is “anti-Christian propaganda”.