Westbrook Pegler – Film propaganda (9-13-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 13, 1941)

By Westbrook Pegler

New York –
From the preliminary gusts in the inquiry into the political sympathies of the movie industry now proceeding in Washington, it appears that the magnates, most of whom are Jews, are to be charged with the rather serious offense of supporting a policy of the national government, assisting in the national defense to the extent of warning the people of the enemy’s character and methods and depicting recorded history. If the dominant families of the trade were Masons or Catholics, presumably they too would be disqualified on the ground that Masons and Catholics as well as Jews have been persecuted by the Nazi government and therefore cannot be innocent of bias.

In fact, inasmuch as Adolf Hitler has proclaimed the irreconcilable conflict between his German state and the American nation, it follows that no American whatsoever should be allowed to portray the incredible bestialities of the evil force which brought upon the world the worst war in all history and the entire subject would be placed under a great taboo.

Hitler’s horrors challenge fiction

Yet it must be plain that, if the movie industry, under the ownership of the men who foresaw its possibilities and created it from crude and flickering beginnings, had taken this attitude toward the nation’s enemy, they would have been doubly damned as stealthy traitors. They would have been accused of suppressing and falsifying history so as to spare themselves the very dangerous embarrassment which is put upon them now, and some other group of United States Senators would be holding them up to hatred for using the monopoly to betray the nation into the hands of Adolf Hitler and Japan.

Unquestionably, the movies have turned out anti-Nazi propaganda films but no more dreadful anti-Nazi propaganda could be created out of man’s imagination than lies at hand in the record of Hitler’s rise and the international treacheries which made the war, because Hitler himself has thought of everything. The most morbid fictioneer on earth would have been laughed off the lot as recently as 15 years ago if he had shown up with a script predicting the horrors of the Brown Shirt marauders and the cold-blooded brutalities of the Gestapo.

Fiction must respect the possibilities or probabilities and nobody would have believed that any nation which pretended to be civilized could give itself over to such wanton ferocity and such contempt for Christian principles. The dreadful future existed then only in the dark mind of a shrewish fanatic in a greasy raincoat and the German people, who had only then begun to purge themselves of the crimes committed in their name by their fallen Kaiser, would have been protected from so slanderous a blow by public incredulity everywhere.

The most powerful propaganda against Nazi Germany is to be found in the daily record of events in Germany since Hitler began to rise, in the Führer’s open speeches, in Mein Kampf and in the conduct of his nation toward Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France. No fictioneer invented the horrors of the concentration camps, the anti-Christian regime imposed on the German people themselves in their daily life at home, the conspiracy with communist Russia which touched off the war, or the recent persecution of French families as a means of compelling their fugitive sons in the unoccupied zone to surrender for death by torture.

No material for pro-Nazi films

The betrayal of Norway’s Christian hospitality to starving German post-war children who returned as unsuspected friends in civilian clothes and slaughtered a nation which had saved their lives is a chapter which the movies and the publishers of books and magazines would have rejected on the ground of silly improbability until this very horror came to pass.

I saw Charlie Chaplin’s pretentious and clumsy master-effort, The Great Dictator, and thought it was one of the worst films of all time, but only because the little poseur had gone artsy and, personally, had turned in a miserable job. It wasn’t that he had exaggerated the evil of Hitlerism because the mind of man could think of no beastliness that is not in the record. The other so-called propaganda films I did not see but I can discuss them at least as freely as those Senators who haven’t seen them either, and I will just take the position that, whatever they depicted, they could not have exceeded the horrors that have been recorded in the news and verified and not merely admitted by the Nazi government but defended.

There is no dark, mysterious reason why we have had no pro-Nazi films. The reason is that in all the record of Hitlerism there isn’t enough favorable material to make a short.

If that is the type of entertainment that these Senators want Hollywood to produce, then it is they who are asking for false and misleading propaganda, because any such work would flout history.