Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Hollywood’s Unknown Rescuer

Before Schindler’s List, an L.A. studio boss saved hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust. Why was he alone?

Print Email
Carl Laemmle aboard the Leviathan in the 1930s. (Bettmann/Corbis)

On Dec. 27, 1938, a young woman in Berlin named Johanna Rockmann sat down and wrote a desperate letter to a stranger in California. In the immediate aftermath of Kristallnacht, it was clear that things were only getting worse for Germany’s remaining 550,000 Jews, of whom Rockmann was one. Appeals to Americans with influence or money, whose names and addresses could be culled from newspapers or encyclopedias, were one of the few avenues for escape that most German Jews had left. “With the greatest desire of my life I take the liberty to address you,” she wrote, in fluid English script. “I politely address my petition to you, asking you for your kind assistance in getting to a transatlantic country. At the same time, I may be permitted to ask you for an affidavit.”

The man to whom she addressed her plea was Harry Warner, one of Hollywood’s Warner brothers. President of the studio that bore his family name, he was ranked by Fortune as the second-most-important man in the film business—a man with production schedules to meet and high-powered egos to manage and little time left over to help people he didn’t know.

What Rockmann needed from Harry Warner was something quite involved: a signed and notarized guarantee of financial support that she could offer to U.S. consular authorities as proof that she would not become a burden to the American public. Such an affidavit, signed by the head of a major Hollywood studio, would seal her application for a precious visa that would allow her to escape from Nazi Germany.

To further her case, Rockmann described the 14 years she spent working as a bookkeeper for a lighting-supply company, Siegel & Co. She added that she was fluent in foreign languages and also a diligent housekeeper and seamstress. “Hoping you will be kind enough to consider my petition for which I will always be thankful to you,” she concluded. Below her signature, she added a postscript—“Please turn over!”—whose final exclamation point belied her anxiety. On the reverse side of the page, she wrote that the Dominican Republic was allowing refugees to land as long as they had $50 in hand, so if Warner was not inclined to offer an affidavit, perhaps he would loan her the cash? “I will return you the money with my thanks after my admittance,” Rockmann pledged.

Nowhere did Rockmann make reference to the one thing she shared in common with the powerful studio chief in California: their Jewish heritage. But she addressed the letter to H.M. Warner—the initials for Hirsch Moses, the name Warner was born with in Poland. The missive, mailed in care of Warner Bros. Studio, Los Angeles, Cal., USA, made it to Warner’s office and eventually into a manila folder marked “1938 correspondence” that today sits with the rest of the Warner Bros. archives, which reside in Los Angeles, at the University of Southern California.

That the Jews of Nazi Germany responded to the gathering storm clouds in Europe by writing to strangers halfway around the world is a measure of how dire their circumstances were. But these desperate correspondents weren’t fantasists. For the most part, they were educated, sophisticated city people trying everything they could to save their own lives.

Warner Bros. was one of the first American studios to stop doing business with the Reich, in 1934—the same year Irving Thalberg, Louis B. Mayer’s right-hand man at MGM, famously said, “Hitler and Hitlerism will pass, the Jews will still be there.” The Warners, meanwhile, became known as the most anti-Nazi studio heads in Hollywood, with Harry—the oldest and most observant of the Warner brothers—assuming the role of elder statesman.

But could the powerful Jewish moguls of Hollywood’s Golden Era—people whose successors have been happy to leverage their political clout and star power for causes from electing presidents to ending the conflict in Darfur—done more to save their co-religionists from the Holocaust? The answer is yes. Just how much more the Jews of Hollywood could have done is shown by the deeds of another studio boss whose personal sense of urgency and activism outstripped even that of the Warners, but who never made it into the history books as one of America’s most important Holocaust rescuers. His name was Carl Laemmle.


Carl Laemmle is well known to historians as one of the most important studio heads of Hollywood’s Golden Era. A German-born Jew who got his start in the garment business, he managed in middle age to jump from being a mid-level schmatte salesman to founding Universal Pictures. Unlike other studio bosses, who wanted to leave Europe behind them, Laemmle stayed in touch with life in the country he left. He underwrote the reconstruction of his hometown, Laupheim, following World War I and was appalled and frightened by Hitler’s rise to power. Unlike most Western leaders, and most Jews, in Hollywood and Europe alike, Laemmle had no illusions about who Hitler was and what he had in mind—for Germany, for Europe, and for the Jews.

Continue reading: The powerful Jewish studio bosses of Hollywood

Laemmle also had more reason than most powerful Hollywood Jews to take Hitler’s actions personally: He still had close relatives living in Germany. And when the Nazis came to Laupheim, they put Hitler’s name on streets and buildings that had been dedicated in his honor. “Mr. Hitler comes to power, and all of a sudden Laemmlestrasse was no longer Laemmlestrasse,” a former employee, Joseph Roos, told interviewers from the Shoah Foundation in 1995.

Laemmle immediately brought his siblings and their extended families from Germany to Los Angeles and soon began pestering friends and acquaintances to accept his help in getting visas so they could leave, too. “In 1935, my father went to visit him in Zurich at the hospital, and he said, ‘Wilhelm, you have to get out of Germany,’ ” Max Obernauer, the son of Laemmle’s closest childhood friend, told the Shoah Foundation in a 1997 interview. “He felt that all the Jews of Germany were going to be exterminated, and he felt that whatever he could do on his own he would do to save as many lives as he could.” In 1936, he sold Universal Pictures and, at 70, was more or less retired from the film business, with an estate worth $4 million—about $65 million in today’s dollars. He told interviewers that he planned to improve his poker game, and he also invested in racehorses.

But Carl Laemmle’s response to the impending mass extermination of European Jewry—an event that he foresaw with rare clarity—united his high position and personal capacities in a way that made him America’s most important Holocaust rescuer after Varian Fry, the American who ran the European operations of the Emergency Rescue Committee (and who was the subject of a Tablet Magazine feature by novelist Dara Horn). By 1938, Laemmle was spending, in his estimation, 80 percent of his time trying to rescue Jews, one by one, herding people through the visa process from his hilltop Beverly Hills compound like the Noah of Benedict Canyon. All in all, he quietly rescued, in his estimation, more than 200 Jews from the Final Solution. The actual numbers may be far higher.

Laemmle wasn’t entirely alone. In November 1938, the director Ernst Lubitsch and film agent Paul Kohner established the European Film Fund, through which they issued affidavits and provided financial assistance to newly arrived refugees. For the most part, those associated with the group helped fellow intellectuals and artists, many of them friends and former colleagues. But, according to historian Martin Sauter, they also collaborated with Varian Fry to find additional people they could help. And it wasn’t only Jews who volunteered to provide affidavits: According to Salka Viertel, a writer and protégé of Lubitsch who gave Greta Garbo elocution lessons, the list of those who wrote affidavits for the EFF included Dorothy Parker and her fellow parodist Donald Ogden Stewart.

‘I, for one, feel that every single Jew who is in a financial position to help those badly in need should do so unswervingly’

But Laemmle proved willing to devote equal energy to people who were not famous, nor likely to become so—people like Margerete Levi, from Stuttgart, whom Laemmle had never met but whose aunt, he told the State Department, he had once promised a favor.  The obstacles in Laemmle’s path were not insignificant. According to documents retrieved from the National Archives by Laemmle’s German biographer, Udo Bayer, the retired studio boss spent months engaged in terse correspondence with the American consul general in Stuttgart, Samuel Honaker, and his deputies, who doubted that Laemmle would follow through on his promises to provide support to people like Levi in the absence of any blood relationship. In one, Laemmle told Honaker he would provide her with letters of introduction to his friends in New York, who would find her a job if he asked. “I, for one, feel that every single Jew who is in a financial position to help those badly in need should do so unswervingly,” he wrote in August, 1937, from Beverly Hills. Laemmle said the same in a subsequent letter to Cordell Hull, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of State, whom he personally lobbied for a general relaxation of the rules governing the acceptance of affidavits by consular officials abroad. “Your consuls,” he wrote in April of 1938, “can give the law a little more liberal interpretations which I think, under the circumstances, is permissible.”

That same year, Harry Warner was also working hard to push American policymakers to save Jewish refugees from Hitler ­but from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. In October 1938, after hearing that the British were considering restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine, he immediately sent a telegram to his brother Jack in London, instructing him to go see U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy for help. Warner sent a second missive directly to President Roosevelt—addressed “My dear president”—asking him to personally intervene. (The stress of the episode, according to Warner biographer Michael Birdwell, put Harry Warner in the hospital with bleeding ulcers that same month.)

Continue reading: Alone in Hollywood

Two weeks later, Jack Warner traveled from London to Paris. There he learned that the German-born sister of one of his employees, Joseph Westreich, had been seized from their parents’ home in Frankfurt and deported to Poland. Westreich’s sister Rosalie recalled Warner’s response. “He said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ and fortunately my brother had the presence of mind to say yes, if you give an affidavit, my sister might be able to emigrate to the United States,” she told an interviewer for the Shoah Foundation. “So, he went to the American consulate in Paris, and being Jack Warner he didn’t need any of the formalities that were necessary in those days.” Warner quickly filed an affidavit. Regina Westreich arrived in the United States safely, before the war broke out.

Through September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and war was declared between Britain and Germany, Harry Warner continued trying to open the door for large numbers of refugees. His strategy was informed by his years as a movie tycoon who had helped build an empire based on influence and leverage. He sent a film crew to Alaska as part of a plan to convince Roosevelt to resettle Jewish refugees in the territory in a real-world antecedent of the fictional mise-en-scène of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union. (After the war, Warner lobbied Truman—unsuccessfully—to revisit the idea as a means of moving Jews out of the DP camps in Europe.) His studio produced a short film, The Nine Million, to promote the idea of lifting American immigration quotas for refugees from fascism. Warner Bros. also put out the explicitly anti-Hitler Confessions of a Nazi Spy, despite intense opposition from the censors responsible for keeping American films politically neutral.

There’s no question that the Warners—and Harry Warner in particular—cared about the fate of Europe’s Jews, far more than most of their fellow Jewish studio heads. While Harry Warner was lobbying Roosevelt, the producer David O. Selznick, always hesitant about being too publicly Jewish, was busy burning down a studio backlot for Gone with the Wind, which swept the 1939 Oscars. That year, Louis B. Mayer was the highest-paid executive in America, a man who, for the price of his annual dues at Hillcrest, the Jewish country club just south of Beverly Hills, could have sent 60 German Jews like Johanna Rockmann the $50 they needed to land in Santo Domingo. Instead, in June of 1939, he hosted a delegation of German reporters on the MGM lot, in an effort to maintain his favor with the Nazi regime; MGM was among the last three American studios to have their hugely profitable distribution rights in the Third Reich revoked, in 1940.

Yet the Warner archives contain no hint, aside from the survival of the letter itself, of whether Harry Warner ever responded to his supplicant Johanna Rockmann. Her heartrending plea for an affidavit wasn’t the only one Warner received. On Jan. 22, 1939, another letter came, this time from Vienna, newly annexed into Nazi Germany. “I came across the speech you held lately in Hollywood and it made a great impression on me,” wrote Sigmund Zucker, a 52-year-old engineer, whose British-born wife Gladys had, unfortunately, adopted Austrian citizenship, trapping them both with passports issued by Hitler’s Reich. “By helping me with an affidavit, you would be doing a good deed to a worthy man.” He attached a small black-and-white photograph, presumably of himself: a handsome man with dark hair brushed back, wearing a suit with a waistcoat and a white handkerchief. He was not smiling.

If Warner did attempt to rescue the Zuckers, he was only partially successful. According to passenger manifests kept by Britain and Australia, the couple left Southampton, England, for Australia in May 1939, stopping in Ceylon en route. Johanna Rockmann wasn’t so lucky: On Jan. 29, 1943, she was deported from Berlin to Auschwitz, where she was killed the following month.

It’s impossible to know how many Hollywood moguls and stars received appeals from strangers like Johanna Rockmann and Sigmund Zucker. As the situation deteriorated in Germany, the country’s trapped Jews became desperate enough to ask the ultimate favor from people they barely knew—in letters that in some cases still exist, buried in archives and in family correspondence. Doctors wrote to colleagues they’d met at medical conferences decades earlier, asking for help. Others scoured the Manhattan phone books, available at the Berlin public library, for people with the same surname—an idea popularized in an underground handbook written by Joseph Wechsberg, a Czech journalist who fled Germany via Montreal. “If you were an American Jew of German ancestry then you were going to get these appeals,” said Laurel Leff, who in writing about the New York Times and its coverage of the Holocaust came across affidavit requests sent to the Sulzberger family by people claiming distant family relationships. “People found themselves in this situation where if they did nothing they could die, and all they could do was write these pathetic letters.”

Along with committing to future financial support, American visa regulations required an affiant to provide proof of assets—arguably easier, or at least more palatable, for a retired mogul or a contract writer than for the working head of a large corporation, or for the head of a family trying to make ends meet. “A lot of people said no,” Leff said. “That’s the dirty secret.”

But, as Carl Laemmle’s story shows, they could have said yes.


Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

marjorie says:

fascinating story.

PhillipNagle says:

The knowledge of the Holocaust was wide spread, but those willing to act were few. One who refused to do anything was FDR, and yet Jews remained loyal to this evil man and his party. A true mystery.

    Carla Sarett says:

    It is a mystery that persists to this day….a legacy of evil, untold.

      fred capio says:

      I recommend a very good book that describes in great detail the “pari delicto” crimes of FDR and the State Department. In my opinion a “must read” for all Jews. “The Abandonment of the JEWS – America and the Holocaust 1941 – 1945″ by David S Wyman (Wyman also has an interesting web-site)

        philly gal says:

        May I suggest another good read about pre war Germany and the American Germany who was anything but pro Jewish…..”In the Garden of the Beast:” by Erik Larson.

Carla Sarett says:

A great piece, and once again, I can only read this in Tablet Magazine!

Jacob Arnon says:

FDR was no savior, but anyone who thinks a Republican President would have
done better is deluding themselves. Besides a Republican President would
never have gone to war against Germany.

Antisemitism was as strong among among Republican voters as among Democratic ones with this
difference. The antisemitism in the Republican Party was at the top
while among Democrats it was at the bottom.

    Bullshit, If Wilkie had won in 1940 we would have still gone to war.

      Jacob Arnon says:

      Bullshit, back Pearlman. Wilkie would not have gone to war if his Republican colleagues would not have agreed. That party was full of isolationists and antisemites like Charles Lindbergh.

      You like so many pro Republican Jews don’t know much about antisemitism in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

        philly gal says:

        I am a proud republican and also the child of a survivor…I know more than I ever want to know about the war. …the democrats have their fair share of haters obama among them.

          Jacob Arnon says:

          I never argued that Democrats didn’t have among their supporters many, many antisemites. I am only saying that it’s ignorant to believe that a Republican President would have been acted to save Jews.

          We will never know how a Republican President would have acted. It’s my belief and I am speculating here a Republican President would have done whatever he could to avoid a war in Europe. He might even have sent Lindbergh to negotiate with Hitler.

          Beatrix17 says:

          Jacob, We got into war because we were attacked by Japan and Germany and Italy declared war on the US two days later. It didn’t matter if our leader was a Dem or a Rep. Lindbergh ceased to matter as well.

          Jacob Arnon says:

          Bea, you are assuming that Germany would have declared war on a sympathetic Republican as he did on a Democratic one who was also an ally of the British.

          Beatrix17 says:

          Germany declared war because they were the allies of the Japanese who had already attacked us. Germany always hoped to win over the British. He was astounded they didn’t side with him.

          Jacob Arnon says:

          Bea, by 1941 even Hitler would have had to realize that Churchill would rather spend a few years in hell than ally himself to Germany and that most Brits felt the same way.

          Germany did have an alliance going with Japan but he also had an alliance going with Stalin. Both of these miscreants honored alliances only when they were useful. Roosevelt a pro labor Democrat was an anti-Nazi and Hitler knew it. Ergo his declaration of war. The other factors were important but not decisive.

          Beatrix17 says:

          By 1940, England and Germany were at war. They were officially enemies. In June of 1941, Hitler invaded Russia. That was the end of their pact. In Dec., 1941, the sides were divided between the Axis powers, Japan, Russia and Italy, and the Allies, England and, after Pearl Harbor, the USA.

          When Japan attacked us their allies, Germany and Italy declared war on the USA. This was not a casual pact, it was a firm alliance that held until the end of the war.

          The Republican party was American, not an ally of the Nazis. Some people on the right thought the Nazis were okay just as during the cold war, some people on the left thought the commies were okay. Very few went over to the other side.

          Jacob Arnon says:

          Bea, the Republican party in the late 30’s was an isolationist party. I never said it was a party sympathetic to the Nazis although many of its members were.

          There were many leftists during the cold war who were sympathetic to the Communist ideal but those sympathetic to Russia were booted out by people like Hubert Humphrey.

          While both the right wing pro Nazi and left wing pro Stalinist Russia were equally repugnant there is no way equate the two because on the left as I said thee were many anti-Stalinist Communist on the left. There was no comparable system on the right since all Nazis were either pro German or anti-Nazi. Nazism is not a coherent ideology as is Communism. The closest thing to Communist ideology would be Christian ideology (or Islamic) with their many systems. (This made the left more dangerous than the right since some pro Stalinist element hid behind the anti-Stalinist label)

          In any case, I don’t thing we will agree on whether the Republican party would have gone to war with Hitler after Pearl Harbor, I think not. I think they wold have tried to fight only the Japanese and come to some understanding with the Nazis in Europe. You think yes, lets leave it there.

          Beatrix17 says:

          I lived through WW2. There is no comparison to the amount of
          loyalty people feel after they’ve been attacked and what loyalties or lack of them you feel during a cold war. Once we were attacked , there was no separation in loyalties of Republicans or Democrats or determination on the part of Americans to destroy the Japs, the Nazis and at first the Italians. (Later, Italians overthrew Mussolini until the Nazis took over).

          You’re making things up based on your beliefs today and during the cold war. This has nothing to do with how people felt during WW2. There was no compromise, no negotiation, no hesitation about using 2 atomic bombs to bring the bastards to their knees. We were going to use the bombs against Germany until they surrendered.

          Jacob Arnon says:

          Bea, if you lived through WW2 you would know that Republicans had more Jew haters in their ranks then Democrats. Are you that naïve that you think that the Republicans would have behaved the same way towards Jews on the home front as did the Democrats?

          In any case, living through doesn’t mean that you can see the whole picture better than someone who has studied the period.

          Take care, Bea. I will not respond any more on this subject.

          Beatrix17 says:

          What are you talking about? Republicans were on the home front, and were side by side with my father, uncles, and cousin who fought in the front lines. against the Japs and the Germans.
          And who could have treated Jews any worse than Roosevelt who let 6 million Jews die rather than allow Jewish people into America. He wouldn’t even bomb the railroads so the Nazis couldn’t take Jews to the camps.
          Republicans hated Roosevelt. They felt he was a traitor to his class. But that wasn’t the battle every day people were fighting.
          I don’t know what you’ve been studying—The Jim, Jane and Spot version of WW2, but so much of what you’ve said has been inaccurate.

          Jacob Arnon says:

          Enough, Bea. Have a great life.

          Beatrix17 says:

          I’ll have a great life if I can add a few more things. I’ve lived
          through the war; you’ve studied it. Jacob, we’ve all studied it: In school, in books, magazines, newspapers, TV shows, online blogs and movies. It wasn’t a secret. It will continue to be studied as long as there is an America. And it’s especially important now while those of us who lived through it are still alive.
          I appreciate that you an intelligent man and I hope your studies are productive.

    Agreed. FDR may have been no savior, but he was hardly evil, as someone upthread has said. There was virtually no political will in either party to do something. A President Landon or a President Willkie would have had the same lack of political will FDR apparently had as to saving the Jews. In fact, an argument could be made that the GOP had MORE anti-Semites than the Democrats did at the time.

    philly gal says:

    Oh you are so wrong…if anything the democrats are not any better than the worst racists…they are the modern day slave masters . Their treatment of the blacks is abysmal. They keep them down by telling them they need the government to take care of them…not giving the message that the republicans do…if you work hard and study you can achieve anything you set out to do….just look at obama….supplying the muslim brotherhood with F-16’s and abrahm tanks….and then having the nerve to suggest that Israel go back to the ’48 armistice lines. His vile treatment of the Prime Minister of Israel is abhorrent as is his arrogance.Thank G-d I am one Jew who has been free of the shackles of the left….Roosevelt ,according to Morganthal,was throwing away the memo’s about the concentration camps that he was forwarding to him. Have you ever asked yourself WHY Roosevelt closed the doors of the U.S. to the Jews that were trying to flee the nazi’s? What about the infamous St. Louis?. And why was he so hesitant in bombing the railroad tracks that led to the concentration camps.? Do you think it was because he loved Jews?Time to grow up Jacob…you are siding with the devil.

      Jacob Arnon says:

      “Oh you are so wrong…if anything the democrats are not any better than
      the worst racists…they are the modern day slave masters .”

      How silly, Philly. Have you forgotten that Republicans have had control of the White House for most of the 80’s a good part of the 21st century. Are you telling me that they liberated Black people in all those years?

      Besides, you really must believe that most Black people are stupid or inferior because they keep voting for Democrats.

      Your post is all over the place and is incoherent, Mr. Gal.

tendilla says:

It was the almighty “dollar uber allas” that kept MGM & the rest from helping their landsman escape the GAS!!!
I hope they paid for it in the end!!!


Noahson says:

Although Dorothy Parker’s mother was a Gentile, Parker considered herself Jewish — and she was Jewish enough for Hitler to have murdered her.

Contemplative observer says:

Harry Bingham, who assisted Varian Fry, also deserves a mention in this context.

Baba_Metzia says:

Anti Semitism in the USA through the end of the Second World-War was rampant.

Martin Dies Jr. in the House of Representatives went on a Jew bashing tirade, arguing that “This war is a Jewish War,” a slogan taken right out of the mouth of Joseph Goebbels. His speech was so vitriolic that the Congressional Register had to be edited in order to “not offend the sensitivities of the public.”

Father Coghlin and other anti Semitic voices were filling the radio airwaves. The press went out of its way to identify Jews as Jews–for example, Hank Greenberg, the baseball great, was always referred to in the press as “the Jewish . . . ,” (a practice which ended soon after the end of WW-II).

Still, where was the average Jew? Where were the wealthy within the Jewish community when the SS Saint Louis and its human cargo were trying to find a port of safe haven? Sunning themselves on Miami Beach–ninety miles away, totally oblivious to the scenario.

In 1944, Jewish leaders such Rabbi Stephen Wise stood in front of a filled to capacity crowd at the old Madison Square Garden in New York, and insisted that the only way to help save Europe’s Jews–other than the Jews of Hungary, most were already dead–is to win the war (a line taken directly from Roosevelt’s talking points).

Bottom line: Jews in position of authority, Jewish spiritual leaders (other than the Orthodox), Hollywood moguls, Jewish industry leaders, Jewish Philanthropists and those Jews close to Roosevelt, could have done more.

Like the propaganda promulgated today (which insists that we as Jews ignore over three and one-half thousand years of our history and “trust the world ‘s good graces for the safety and security of Israel”), a Progressive American agenda and environment contributed to the death of European Jewry. The number of Jews here who refused to take the path of puppets and useful idiots were few at best. And the American Jews of today who have not learned from history are no better.

The Israelis give the “Righteous Gentile” title to the non Jews who helped rescue Holocaust victims. Frankly, they should also have an award for American Jews who did likewise–the numbers are significantly fewer!

    Jacob Arnon says:

    “Still, where was the average Jew? Where were the wealthy within the
    Jewish community when the SS Saint Louis and its human cargo were trying
    to find a port of safe haven? Sunning themselves on Miami Beach–ninety
    miles away, totally oblivious to the scenario”

    I agree that Jews in that nightmarish period acted like scared rabbits and didn’t challenge the US government to do something real to help Jews.

    After the war they acted like brave souls who helped Jews. A few did but most didn’t. Now some of their children join anti Israel groups for ‘humanitarian reasons.”

    Here is a very interesting talk on Jews and anti-Antisemitism.

    check this out too:

    This will tell you the reality of Jewish life in the US in the 30’s and 40’s.

My late father in 1938 wrote from Vienna to one of the motion picture studios and he asked for help for himself and his three brothers to come to America. My father was professionally trained in interior decoration and he offered his services as a set designer or in some related field. He never received an answer, as far as I know, However his letter was later found by a friend of mine who bought a collection of such letters that were offered at auction. My friend gave me a copy of the original letter in German together with an Englsh translation My father and his brothers were able to eventually leave Austria and my father took refuge in Shanghai during the war before coming to Canada.

Allison, This piece is great and sheds light on the uneven American Jewish response at the moment when so many in Europe desperately needed help.

erevrav says:

may all the assimilated whores of the golden calf rot in motherfucking hell forever with their nazi spawn ……..

deserteagle says:

11 per cent that were snuffed had no idea they were Jews. Let that be a lesson to the liberal camp who think a pro palastinian stance will keep their throats from being slit, a loaded eagle will. Do you think Noam Chomsky WOULD BE SPARED BY THE TALIBAN.

Allison, Just got a chance to read this excellent article. I’ve always wondered whether it was callous indifference or the fear of seeming “too Jewish” that stymied Hollywood moguls pre-war reactions to events in Europe. Your story is another crucial piece of the puzzle.

susan meyers says:

a long time ago when i was about 12 my grandmother showed me a photo of a really pretty young woman. she said that this girl had looked through NYC phone books and found our last name, deckinger, and traced the family history. by the time my grandparents were able to muster the resources to bring her here she was gone. apparently fleeing before german troops into checkoslovakia. they never heard from her again and i have not been able to find any information at all.

Beatrix17 says:

Jacob, I’m surprised at you.

Jacob Arnon says:

Why because I don’t turn the other cheek?


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Hollywood’s Unknown Rescuer

Before Schindler’s List, an L.A. studio boss saved hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust. Why was he alone?