Hitler in Los Ange­les: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hol­ly­wood and America

  • Review
By – April 24, 2017

In Hitler in Los Ange­les: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hol­ly­wood and Amer­i­ca, his­to­ri­an Steven J. Ross reminds us how vul­ner­a­ble Amer­i­can Jews were to the pro­pa­gan­da that emanat­ed from Nazi Ger­many. Joseph Goebbels’s pro­pa­gan­da net­work con­tin­u­al­ly pro­mot­ed the idea that Amer­i­can Jews were deter­mined to push the Unit­ed States into a war with Nazi Ger­many. But it wasn’t only groups con­ceived by the Nazis in Ger­many, such as the Friends of New Ger­many and the Ger­man Amer­i­can Bund, who agi­tat­ed against Jews; there were also native anti-Semit­ic groups such as Pelley’s Sil­ver Shirts. Anti-Jew­ish big­otry could even be found in the halls of Con­gress, where Theodore Bil­bo, John Rankin, Mar­tin Dies, and Louis McFad­den, among oth­ers, open­ly spewed their hatred of Jews.

Ross’s book focus­es on the activ­i­ties of Leon Lewis, an attor­ney and com­mu­nal leader who led the fight against the Nazis in 1930s Los Ange­les. Ear­li­er than most, Lewis saw the dan­ger to Amer­i­can Jews from the growth of pro-Nazi groups like the Friends of New Ger­many. He was sur­prised at the indif­fer­ence of law enforce­ment agen­cies like the FBI — who pre­ferred to mon­i­tor Reds rather than Nazis. But in fact, In Los Ange­les many police offi­cers were anti-Semit­ic; a num­ber of them were sup­port­ers of the Klan. To pub­li­cize the threat of these Nazi and fas­cist groups, Lewis, lat­er joined by fel­low activist Joseph Roos, recruit­ed a ring of spies to infil­trate the Nazi net­work in L.A. His suc­cess in pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion to law enforce­ment agen­cies thwart­ed the sab­o­tag­ing efforts of the Nazis in Navy ship­yards and mil­i­tary bases, as well as an assas­si­na­tion plot direct­ed toward Jews in the enter­tain­ment indus­try. Lewis and Roos’s suc­cess in awak­en­ing law enforce­ment to the Nazi threat — includ­ing the J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI — caused the Nazi lead­er­ship to label Lewis the most dan­ger­ous Jew in Los Angeles.”

Ross has writ­ten a riv­et­ing book that will enlight­en read­ers as to how sus­cep­ti­ble Amer­i­can Jews were to the spread of anti-Semi­tism on the eve of World War II.

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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