Does ‘The Collaboration’ Overstate Hollywood’s Cooperation With Hitler? - the Hollywood Reporter
I consider Urwand’s charges slanderous and ahistorical — slanderous because they smear an industry that struggled to alert America to the menace brewing in Germany and ahistorical because they read the past through the eyes of the present.
The trouble begins with the title on the marquee. “Collaboration” is how you describe the Vichy government during the Nazi Occupation of France or Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian double-crosser whose name became synonymous with treason. To call a Hollywood mogul a collaborator is to assert that he worked consciously and purposefully, out of cowardice or greed, under the guidance of Nazi overlords.
In the 1930s, the Nazis were not yet the Nazis of our history, our imagination. They had not yet started World War II, they had not yet implemented the Holocaust and they had not yet become what they are now: a universal emblem for absolute evil. From our perspective, the rise of Nazism looks like a linear trajectory, a series of accelerating events terminating inevitably at the gates of Auschwitz.
Today, any dealing with the Nazis seems unimaginable. In the 1930s, it just wasn’t.
Perhaps most importantly, a fixation on the mechanics of the import market ignores the action on the homefront—a story of passionate anti-Nazi activity in Hollywood. No Popular Front group in the 1930s did more to alert Americans to the looming threat from Nazism than the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League for the Defense of Democracy (HANL). Founded in 1936 and numbering some 5,000 artists-activists from all ranks of the motion picture industry, HANL worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the menace of Nazism—holding rallies, broadcasting radio shows, and doing its best to inject anti-Nazi sentiments into Hollywood cinema (no easy task given the obstacles set up by the internal and external censors who always sought to denude American cinema of overt political content).
It would be unfortunate if the headlines about Hollywood “collaboration” were to tar the reputations of those moguls who stood tall and firm against Nazi ideology.