A bombshell book set to hit stores this fall reveals the unholy alliance between Hollywood and Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II.
Ben Urwand’s book, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, is based on archival documents from both Germany and the U.S. Urwand describes how the film industry censored its own product to appease German officials, slashed Jewish talent from its productions and blocked any material that criticized the Nazis.
The Hollywood Reporter’s book excerpts offer chilling details of an overlooked part of film history. In the end, it was all about the bottom line for show business suits.
The Nazis threatened to exclude American movies — more than 250 played in Germany after Hitler took power in 1933 — unless the studios cooperated. Before World War I, the German market had been the world’s second largest, and even though it had shrunk during the Great Depression, the studios believed it would bounce back and worried that if they left, they would never be able to return.
Beginning with wholesale changes made to Universal’s 1930 release All Quiet on the Western Front, Hollywood regularly ran scripts and finished movies by German officials for approval. When they objected to scenes or dialogue they thought made Germany look bad, criticized the Nazis or dwelled on the mistreatment of Jews, the studios would accommodate them — and make cuts in the American versions as well as those shown elsewhere in the world….
In 1937, Paramount chose a new manager for its German branch: Paul Thiefes, a member of the Nazi Party. The head of MGM in Germany, Frits Strengholt, divorced his Jewish wife at the request of the Propaganda Ministry. She ended up in a concentration camp….
Give Us This Night was scored by a Jewish composer, so the studio offered to dub in music by a German composer instead. The General Died at Dawn had been directed by Lewis Milestone,who had also directed All Quiet on the Western Front, so the studio offered to slash his name from the credits.
A similar economic scenario is currently playing out with Hollywood’s ties to China. That country’s government cannot be compared in any direct or even indirect way to Germany circa the late 1930s. Still, Hollywood is once more censoring its product to appease a foreign market, removing story lines that might offend said country’s film officials and overlooking human rights abuses–all to gain access to a new, potentially vast, market.
The Collaboration is set for a Sept. 9 release.