Business as Usual

J. Hoberman

  • BuyHollywood and Hitler, 1933-39 by Thomas Doherty
    Columbia, 429 pp, £24.00, April 2013, ISBN 978 0 231 16392 7
  • BuyThe Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler by Ben Urwand
    Harvard, 327 pp, £19.95, August 2013, ISBN 978 0 674 72474 7

‘It’s easy not to be a Nazi when no Hitler is around,’ Hans-Jürgen Syberberg commented in his filmed interview with the aged, unashamed Führer-familiar Winifred Wagner in 1975. Eighty years after Hitler came to power in Germany, is it possible to imagine the world when the Third Reich was new? Before September 1939 and even after the Second World War began, the West was full of enablers and apologists. Hitler’s American admirers included Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst and Charles Lindbergh. General Motors, DuPont and IBM did business with the Nazis. So did MGM. It’s no shock to see democratic politicians cosying up to Saudi autocrats, or Rupert Murdoch or the Walt Disney Company ingratiating themselves with China’s authoritarian rulers. Business is business. But it is disconcerting if not appalling to learn that throughout the 1930s, some major Hollywood studios, despite being heavily populated by Jews and popularly identified with them, continued to distribute their movies in Germany and even pandered to the Nazi regime.

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