“There are too many Jews in Hollywood.”
Martin Dies, chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, 1950
Introduction: As described in an earlier article there was little difference in prevalence and intensity of antisemitism in the United States as compared to Germany before the Second World War. Which leaves the question raised in that blog, “Would the fate of Jews in the United States been different from that of German Jewry had Roosevelt been defeated in 1940?” Even without a Ford or Lindbergh presidency (both admirers of Hitler and National Socialism) the United States, long before Germany, was also interested in applying eugenics to create a racially pure Aryan populace; and; both countries indepenednly created concentration camps to contain perceived internal enemies. However defenders or detractors represent the president’s “policy of inaction” to the unfolding Holocaust, that policy also reflected institutional governmental antisemitism popularly supported by the mood of the country.
At war’s end the United States and the Soviet Union quickly reverted from suspicious allies to open adversaries. Russian antisemitism characterized Jews as “capitalists” and “counterrevolutionaries; in America Jews were called “capitalists” and “communists.”
Red Channels, a 1950 publication claiming to document "Communist influence in radio and television" (Wikipedia)
The association of Jews and Hollywood as a sinister force controlling American opinion is as old as the movie industry itself. In 1921 the following appeared in Henry Ford’s antisemitic newspaper, the Dearborn Independent:
“The motion picture influence of the United States … is exclusively under the control, moral and financial, of the Jewish manipulators of the public mind… the American Public is as helpless against the films as it is against any other exaggerated expression of Jewish power.”
In a 1941 speech political populist and isolationist Charles Lindbergh warned that, "the greatest danger to this country lies in their [Jewish] large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government." Thirty-five years later another American military personality, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Brown told a reporter, “They own, you know, the banks in this country, the newspapers. Just look at where the Jewish money is.” And recently I came across this by an investigative journalist for an evangelical publication: “I love and respect the Jews but I fear their stranglehold on Hollywood comes with grave risks…”
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC): Originally named the House Committee on Un-American Activities, HUAC changed its name in 1945 and was eventually folded into the House Judiciary Committee in 1975. Although it’s described mandate was to investigate "Communist infiltration" into the United States, and the risks posed by "American communists," in choosing Hollywood as its opening act chairman Martin Dies made no secret of his committee’s subtext: “There are too many Jews in Hollywood!”
Congressman John Rankin, a leading member of HUAC also made explicit what was otherwise obscured by governmental legalese. In a House debate Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, wife of Jewish actor Melvin Douglas, asked Rankin which films the committee considered as supportive of the Communist Party. Rankin’s response was limited to naming actors who signed a petition to Congress:
“One is Danny Kaye,” he began. “We found his real name was David Daniel Kaminsky. Then there was Eddie Cantor. His real name was Edward (sic) Iskowitz. Edward G Robinson, his name is Emmanuel Goldenberg.” The final cut was when he added, almost as an afterthought, the name of the congresswoman’s husband: “There’s another one here who calls himself Melvyn Douglas, whose real name is Melvyn Hesselberg.”
Richard Nixon, also a member of HUAC, derisively referred to Helen Gahagan Douglas as, “pink down to her underwear,” a foretaste of Nixon quotes found in his presidential White House tapes.
Even before the bombastic Senator Joe McCarthy assumed Washington’s anti-communist mantle, HUAC was already aggressively badgering its victims. The Hollywood Ten, six of whom were Jews, were denied their constitutional rights by HUAC and appealed to the Supreme Court, which turned down [five years later a justice would condemn the court as serving a “conservative” political agenda in the Rosenberg spy trial]. In response Dies invoked the 1918 Sedition Act against them. The Act, “declared that anyone who was foreign-born (even if subsequently naturalized) could be declared a ‘non-citizen’…”
But expulsion and prison were not the worst possible outcomes to falling into the hands of HUAC.
“The tough guy actor John Garfield (originally Jules Garfinkle) died from a heart attack at the age of 39 on the eve of being called before HUAC. The blacklisted star of the hit radio and TV series The Goldbergs, Philip Loeb, booked himself into an hotel, ordered champagne from room service and then jumped from the skyscraper building window.”
When Broadway actor, J Edward Bromberg, another victim of HUAC, died of a heart attack Lee Grant, a Jewish actress, found herself blacklisted for “speaking at a memorial service for Bromberg. She was told she could get off the list if she named her husband as a communist. She refused.”
Senator Joseph McCarthy (Wikipedia)
Even before Dies announced that Hollywood was just too Jewish, a 1948 survey by the American Jewish Committee,
“found that 21 percent of Americans did believe that “most Jews are Communists,” and that more than half associated Jews with atomic spying [this, three years before the Rosenberg spy trial]. Moreover, according to Aviva Weingarten’s 2008 study, of 124 people questioned by McCarthy’s Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in 1952, 79 [two-thirds] were Jews.”
The implication is hard to miss.
Recent writings in this Series: