I generally watch Scrubs Tuesday nights, but tonight AMC aired "Hollywood and the Holocaust." Some of the people who participated in the documentary were familiar names. Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum; film historian Neil Gabler; actor and Holocaust survivor Robert Clary (of Hogan's Heroes); Rod Stieger (The Pawnbroker); writer Thane Rosenbaum; directors Sidney Lumet and Steven Spielberg. (According to the credits, Gene Hackman narrated, but I can't say that I heard his voice--or perhaps I just didn't recognize it.) Others who were less familiar were no less fascinating in what they had to say.
I was surprised, and maybe a little embarassed, to learn how little I know about films that deal with the Holocaust, and how they evolved from the 1930s to the present. I'm a daughter of Holocaust survivors (my parents, Polish Jews, lost most of their families in the war; my father lost his first wife and two young daughters), but I've actually seen only a few films on the subject: Holocaust, with James Woods and Meryl Streep (that was the first time I saw her; I was mesmerized by her face and her performance); Sophie's Choice; Schindler's List.
I was interested, but not surprised, to learn that Joseph Kennedy flew to Hollywood to disuade filmmakers from producing anti-Nazi films; that Congress worried about filmmakers stirring anti-German sentiment; that one senator (I can't recall his name) announced that it was the Jews, not the Nazis, who posed a problem for America.
Kennedy's words (according to Gabler, I think) had a chilling effect on filmmakers, and most studio films that did deal with the Nazis never mentioned the word "Jew."
The message was scrubbed to make it palatable to audiences.
Not Charlie Chaplin's message. He braved criticism by producing and starring in (and funding) The Great Dictator. There's a scene in the film where Chaplin, playing Hitler, is balancing a huge balloon of a globe. Dancing with it, flirting with it. Tossing it up into the air and catching it.
Owning it. And then the balloon bursts.