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The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler Hardcover – September 10, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674724747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674724747
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

In order to build his case, and to expose what he sees as not merely greed, cowardice, and opportunism on the part of movie moguls but outright collaboration with Nazi officials, Urwand marshals his evidence with the zeal of a criminal prosecutor. What begins, innocently enough, as an attempt to reveal “the complex web of interactions between the American studios and the German government of the 1930’s” very quickly becomes a matter of defending, as best he can, his claim about the vast extent to which Los Angeles- based German consul Georg Gyssling censored American movies and controlled their leading producers. —Noah Isenberg


A tremendous piece of work, fully sustained, building momentum charged by thrillingly detailed storytelling, increasing suspense, and a consistent movement from outrages to atrocities, with a stunning conclusion of heroism and tragedy--and it is as well a devastating RIP to what we've been told, all down these years, about 'the genius of the system.' (Greil Marcus)

Full of startling and surprising revelations, presented in exemplary fashion, without any moralizing or sensationalism. The Collaboration shows how Hollywood and especially the big studios went along with German demands to censor movies not only before but especially after the Nazi seizure of power. (Richard J. Evans)

Urwand...presents explosive new evidence about the shocking extent of the partnership between the Nazis and major Hollywood producers...[A] riveting book...As you turn its pages you realize with dismay that collaboration is the only fitting word for the relationship between Hitler and Hollywood in the 1930s. Using new archival discoveries, Urwand alleges that some of the Hollywood studio heads, nearly all of whom were Jewish, cast their lot with Hitler almost from the moment he took power, and that they did so eagerly--not reluctantly. What they wanted was access to German audiences. What Hitler wanted was the ability to shape the content of Hollywood movies--and he got it...What is shocking and new about Urwand's account is its blow-by-blow description of Hollywood executives tailoring their product to meet the demands of the Nazi regime. (David Mikics Tablet Magazine 2013-06-10)

Urwand draws on a wealth of previously uncited documents to argue that Hollywood studios, in an effort to protect the German market for their movies, not only acquiesced to Nazi censorship but also actively and enthusiastically cooperated with that regime's global propaganda effort. (Jennifer Schuessler New York Times 2013-06-25)

Urwand keeps the jaw-dropping revelations coming in this damning indictment of the complicity of the major Hollywood studios--and their mostly Jewish heads--in the Nazis' campaign to exterminate Europe's Jews...Urwand deserves immense credit for this groundbreaking--and truly unique--take on the WWII era.
(Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2013-07-22)

Offers a keen, unsettling look at the unholy alliance Hollywood made with the Nazis, which allowed both to keep packing movie theaters in Germany up until the outbreak of war...There was pressure on the studios to censor defense of Jews in certain films and suppress films that portrayed Nazis in an unflattering light (The Mad Dog of Europe). The result of this complicated and slippery relationship, as Urwand depicts with subtlety, was the absolute disappearance from film of Nazis and Jews until the end of the decade.
(Kirkus Reviews 2013-07-15)

Urwand's book details in sometimes shocking fashion how the Hollywood film industry, including studios run by legendary Jewish film moguls such as Louis B Mayer, were willing to pre-screen their films for Nazi officials and remove content they found objectionable.
(Andy Goldberg 2013-08-04)

[Urwand] has revealed in terrifying detail how Hollywood was at the whim of the Nazis throughout the 1930s--censoring films and dropping others in a sinister collaboration with Hitler.
(Daily Mail 2013-07-31)

Urwand is tearing down the popular impression that the 1930s Hollywood community stood united in efforts to combat the Nazi regime. Quite the contrary, says Urwand, whose research reveals a shocking level of collaboration (or Zusammenarbeit, i.e. 'working together') between the German government and Tinseltown's studios--many of which were famously headed by Jews...The Collaboration depicts a studio system in which films were submitted for approval to aggressive German propaganda officials, who demanded cuts and changes to material deemed 'detrimental to German prestige'--not only to film versions created for the German market, but for the U.S. and countries around the world.
(Lesley M. M. Blume Vanity Fair online 2013-08-22)

Urwand's investigation of this dark chapter in the history of the American film industry is as intriguing as it is compellingly told.
(Theis Duelund Los Angeles Magazine 2013-09-10)

The Collaboration expertly dismantles Hollywood's rose‐tinted view of history, proving it wasn't standing up to fascism as it has claimed, but eagerly appeasing the Nazis so long as the money was coming in.
(Kyle Ryan A.V. Club 2013-09-06)

[A] provocative book.
(Rosemary Neill The Australian 2013-09-28)

Urwand's book about how Hollywood conducted business with and within Germany after Hitler's ascent to power is a fascinating examination of capitalist amorality in the face of evil. Urwand does a good job of cataloging the ways Hollywood studios--largely headed by immigrant Jewish entrepreneurs--took measures to placate the Nazis so they could continue to show films in Germany throughout the 1930s, until the Nazi invasion of Poland...Urwand has uncovered a very interesting, heretofore unknown, true Hollywood story.
(Philip Martin Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 2013-09-29)

This eminently accessible, often riveting account of a little-understood chapter in American cinema history should appeal to a wide general readership. (Roy Liebman Library Journal 2013-10-15)

[An] eye-opening study of Hollywood and the Nazi elite…The Collaboration unfolds a story that rather knocks the shine off the golden age of cinema…Urwand has done some energetic digging in the archives, quoting letters, memos and newspaper reports to uncover a shameful policy of compromise and kowtowing on the part of the studio bosses. And what lends the story its peculiar irony is that those bosses who did their utmost to appease the crazed ideology of Nazism were by and large Jews themselves. (Anthony Quinn The Guardian 2013-10-16)

Urwand…sheds new light on the way the studio bosses responded to Nazi pressure, from 1933, when Hitler assumed power, to 1941, when the United States entered the war…Drawing on American and German archival material, the author shows that Hollywood began working with the Nazis in 1933. The collaboration was not passive, but voluntary: part of a strategy necessary in order for the studios to maintain their market in Germany--which had more movie theaters than any other country in Europe…Urwand describes how the Nazis tried to shape the very content of American films--and often succeeded. (Samuel Blumenfeld Le Monde 2013-10-11)

Hard-hitting…Urwand has dug deep…and come up with some genuine revelations… The story is quite dramatic, and shameful. (Philip Kemp Times Higher Education 2013-10-24)

[The] revelations in Ben Urwand’s controversial exposé, The Collaboration, are nothing short of astonishing, going well beyond what was known about Hollywood’s timidity during that era. With damning archival evidence, Urwand argues that the studios, motivated by profits, were reluctant to abandon the German market, where American films were popular and Hitler himself was a fan…Urwand’s finely documented account is even more chilling--in large part because the ‘collaborators’ to whom he points were American, and in many cases also Jewish. (Julia M. Klein Boston Globe 2013-10-19)

Impeccably researched and impressively argued, Ben Urwand’s gripping volume systematically reveals the way major Hollywood studios were willing to protect their

financial interests in the German market by appeasing the Nazi regime. Urwand has unearthed remarkable evidence from archives in Germany and America, confirming that the road to hell was paved with a thousand concessions. Hollywood studios went to astonishing lengths not to offend or upset the Nazi regime. What began with minor adjustments to scripts eventually reached a point where projects that were unsympathetic to Germany’s past or critical of the Nazis were simply never made…The studios didn’t just follow a policy of accommodation they became willing partners with the Nazis to reach an understanding of what could be mutually beneficial to both parties. The book is such a revelation because it goes against the grain of commonly held assumptions…Urwand is particularly good at marshalling hard facts and solid evidence that builds into a horrifying indictment of studios that continued to operate in Germany throughout the first eight years of Hitler’s rule…Even as the full horrors of the Nazi regime became apparent to the world, Hollywood continued to offer the hand of collaboration, a fact all the more ironic considering that many of the studio bosses were Jewish…This is a book that challenges every rose-tinted view of Hollywood’s Golden Age. It sheds a piercing light on dark deeds and is an invaluable work of political history that has all the page-turning urgency of a thriller.

(Allan Hunter Glasgow Herald 2013-10-19)

In Urwand’s account of the relationship between the American film industry and the government of Germany in the 1930s, he shows that Hollywood studios put profits ahead of scruples in their dealings with the Nazis. (Lisa Jarvinen Philadelphia Inquirer 2013-11-03)

Urwand’s book uncovers important material about the relationship between the American film industry and the Nazi regime…Readers may or may not agree with Urwand’s conclusion about the perils of Jewish self-denial. But in highlighting it, he provides a useful reminder that scholarship on the Nazi era continues to serve as a mirror in which Jews view themselves. (Gavriel Rosemfeld Forward 2013-11-08)

With great attention to detail, Urwand describes multiple contacts between the studios and German officials, and he apparently breaks some new ground with his descriptions of Georg Gyssling, who became a Hollywood fixture after Hitler came to power in 1933. (Roger Currie Winnipeg Free Press 2013-11-23)

The Collaboration felt genuinely original and eye-opening as Ben Urwand systematically revealed the way major Hollywood studios were willing to protect their financial interest in the German market of the 1930s by appeasing the Nazi regime. The road to hell was paved by a thousand concessions. (Allan Hunter Glasgow Herald 2013-12-14)

Urwand has dug deep in the German archives and found evidence that the Nazis’ business dealings with some of the studios were much closer than previously realized. He also draws attention to the flagrant lobbying of the Nazi emissary to Hollywood. (J. Hoberman London Review of Books 2013-12-19)

A welcome addition to understanding Hollywood’s response to the rise of Nazism. (J. Fischel Choice 2014-01-01)

The book is a fascinating take on the shady politics of Hollywood and should be read by anyone interested in going behind the glamour of 1930s cinema. (Taylor Downing History Today 2014-09-01)

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Robert M. Fells on September 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have decided to revise my review here due to new information - a lot of it - that I was unaware of when I originally wrote this review. Mr. Urwand is a good writer and his book remains fascinating to read, but he seems better suited to the field of fiction rather than non-fiction.

Arthor Urwand seems to depend somewhat on the readers' benefit of hindsight - that everybody knows you can't do business with Nazis - as if this was a no-brainer to everybody in the early and mid-1930s. One of the greatest prophets of Nazi thuggery during that time was Winston Churchill, but many preferred to believe that he was an alarmist and just posturing politically. But more troubling is Urwand's flawed analyses of the few films that the studios did produce in the 1930s to highlight anti-Semitism and the Nazi threat.

THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934) stands as the one significant film produced by a major studio that tackled anti-Semitism and drew a distinct parallel from the 19th century time frame of its story to modern-day Nazi Germany. Urwand correctly observes that the reaction to ROTHSCHILD resulted in the studios swearing off the topic until after the Second World War. The problem is that Urwand blames the film itself for the resulting ban. The author provides an extensive review of ROTHSCHILD, even quoting the film's dialogue to make his points.

Unfortunately, he engages in selective quotes and omits a few others that would give a different impression of the narrative. For example, Urwand complains that in the film's prologue, old Meyer Rothschild is portrayed as a stereotypical Shylock character, seeking to cheat the tax collector by keeping a set of phony books and offering the taxman a bribe. Germany was delighted and used ROTHSCHILD excerpts for propaganda.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Lela Soulier on August 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great companion piece to "The Holocaust in American Film." After reading "The Collaboration" we understand in stark detail how the Hollywood producers COLLABORATED with the Nazi Propaganda Dept. from 1933 to 1939. It wasn't the American Jews who severed the relationship -- it was Hitler, himself. The Hollywood studios at the time really were so "dollars and cents" and they loved their German market which was worth $20K per year (in Hitler dollars.) This book suggests, but does not wallow in, how many "creative "storylines" or how many creative personnel were laid off, including actors, writers, etc. Why? Germany theatre-goers represented 30% of foreign share. The dollars at stake were apparently worthy enough to transcend race and justice issues.

It's my understanding, based on the book, that many Hollywoodites would themselves be shocked by this book. So many thought they were responding to "diplomacy" but few knew they were responding to dollar diplomacy.

There were -- as the book documents - plenty of Jewish producers who were less interested in the "cost of the Holocaust" as in profit margin of the available market of a reconstructed Germany.

Read the book for yourself. If you have a better solution, please speak up.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
When I stroll through my library I see my shelves bulging with books on the Nazi era in history. And yet...I have added a new tome on a new aspect of the evil regime which ruled Germany from 1933-45 bringing death, murder and destruction to millions of people. The book is "The Collaboration" whose topic is the pact Hollywood made in the 1930s to do business with Germany. Like IBM, General Motors and other huge American corporations the Hollywood studios wanted their film product to do well overseas. Germany loved American films including Hitler. The Fuehrer watched films almost every evening enjoying everything from Mickey Mouse cartoons to King Kong to Greta Garbo costume dramas such as "Camille." Even though most of the moguls in Los Angeles were Jewish they still wanted their hand in the rich pie of German revenues.
Ben Urwand of Harvard has done study of this little reported nexus between the movies and the murderous regime in Berlin.
Much of the book deals with separate movies and how they were received in Germany. Hitler had three critical responses to film. A movie was good, bad or "switched off" (meaning that Hitler ordered the film projector to stop running the film of the evening).
The book is rich in interesting quotations. A sampling of them include:
"An important fact about Hollywood movies in this period, however, is that they were extremely popular in Nazi Germany."-p. 7
"The studio heads, who were mostly immigrant Jews, went to dramatic lengths to hold on to their investment in Germany."-p. 9
"Every night before going to bed Adolf Hitler watched a movie. He picked the title himself from a list presented to him at dinner...After the movie, he started to talk again. He quickly gave his opinion of what he had seen."-p.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Gil Rosenberg on September 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A shocking revelation on how Hollywood worked with Nazi propaganda officials to actually craft the films created by Hollywood in the USA between 1933 and up until the US entered the war. In a desperate attempt to placate Hitler's Nazi Germany and preserve Hollywood's market share in Germany and countries occupied or allied with Nazi Germany the Studios were guided by preservation of market share abroad. Careful not to offend German sensibilities Hollywood succeeded to keep it's market share in Germany despite the Nazi monetary laws that restricted the studios from taking their profits out of Germany. The author points out that Hollywood Studio's were actually forced to direct their profits to Germany military war production thereby supporting the Nazi war industry. Hollywood also provided Nazi Germany with entertainment with underlying propaganda with the theme of self-sacrifice for the nation films which Nazi film industry failed to deliver to it;s own nation.

This is a perfect example of what happens when corporations are focused on one thing and one thing only- maximization of profits and satisfying shareholders profits above all else.
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More About the Author

Ben Urwand is a Junior Fellow of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He received his M.A. in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago and his PhD in U.S. History from the University of California, Berkeley. He was born in Sydney, Australia.

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