Louise Adler’s Sydney Morning Herald review of two books on Hollywood, Hitler and the Jews (“Silence of the Movie Machine”, Spectrum, 25-26 January 2014, pp. 30-31) contains a number of unfortunate misleading and unsupported statements. She summarily dismisses widespread criticisms of Ben Urwand’s book The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler as “turf envy” without dealing with their substance. She strongly supports Urwand’s charge of how the Hollywood moguls, the majority of them Jewish, “collaborated” with the Nazis, arguing that objections to the word “collaboration” are only “niceties”. Thus, she follows Urwand’s line of equating genuine collaboration with the Nazis (witness the activities of the numerous puppet governments set up by conquering Nazis of deporting Jews and other minorities to their deaths) with ill-advised business measures by American businessmen.
For one whose life revolves around the printed word (Adler is the chief executive of Harvard University Press), to make a political point (presumably that Jewish moguls were self-serving and immoral), Adler appears remarkably willing to ignore the significant political implications of what the term “collaboration” meant in the World War Two context.
But Adler goes even further than Urwand does. In one convoluted sentence of her review, she appears to accuse “the American Jewish leadership” of “exacerbating the fate of European Jewry”. The full sentence reads:
To keep the German market open, Hollywood executives yielded to American moral censoriousness, abetted by the timid, small-target strategy of the American Jewish leadership in fear of home-grown anti-Semitism and exacerbating the fate of European Jewry, a government policy of appeasement and vociferous interference by local Nazi representatives.
This statement veers uncomfortably close to “blaming the victim” (or at least, the victim’s cousins) for the Holocaust, ignoring the facts that the cautious American Jewish leaders of the time felt extremely vulnerable and insecure, and thus were virtually powerless in the face of significant world events. For more information on this topic, don’t rely on Adler, but look instead to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the books The Emergence of American Zionism by Mark A. Raider and Uneasy at Home: Antisemitism and the American-Jewish Experience by Leonard Dinnerstein.
Finally, note that contrary to the Herald review, Thomas Doherty’s book Hitler and Hollywood, 1933-1939 (which is also reviewed in the same article, although in less detail) is published by “Columbia University Press”, not “University of Columbia Press”.