Beginning in August 1933 and lasting until the end of World War II, Jewish attorney Leon L. Lewis used his connections with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans of World War I (DAV) to recruit military veterans — and their wives and daughters — to go under-cover and join every Nazi and fascist group in Los Angeles. Often rising to leadership positions, this daring group of men and women uncovered a series of Nazi plots to kill the city’s Jews and to sabotage the nation’s military installations. Plans existed for hanging twenty Hollywood actors and power figures, including Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, and Jack Warner; for driving through Boyle Heights and machine-gunning as many Jewish residents as possible; for fumigating Jewish homes with cyanide; and for blowing up defense installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories on the day Nazis planned to launch their American putsch.
From 1933 until 1945, while many Americans closed their eyes, Lewis’s operatives risked their lives to stop Hitler’s minions and alert citizens to the dangers they posed to American democracy.
This is the story of those plots, the spies who uncovered them, the men who hired them, and how a small cadre of Los Angeles Jews — including Hollywood actors and studio heads — thwarted Nazi plans to lay the groundwork for Germany’s New Order in America.
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On the evening of March 13, 1934, a procession of limousines pulled into the luxurious Hillcrest Country Club on Pico Boulevard. Forty of Hollywood’s most powerful studio heads, producers, and directors — men such as Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg, Jack Warner, Harry Cohn, and Ernst Lubitsch — came to hear what Leon Lewis considered so important that their meeting had to be held in the utmost secrecy. As they entered the club’s large private dining room and took their seats, each man found several copies of the Silver Shirt periodicals Liberation and Silver Ranger placed in front of him. Leafing through the publications, the Hollywood contingent was undoubtedly taken aback by a stream of vicious articles denouncing the Jewish-dominated movie industry and its immoral leaders. They likely flinched as they read a story blasting Hollywood Jews who would “rip our Divine Constitution to shreds and hand it over, heads bent low, spirits crushed, morale destroyed, to the bulbous nosed lords of international jewry.” They saw similar articles in other issues denouncing them for producing “Filth,” “Debauchment,” and “Anti-Christ Desecration.”
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As the assembled group adjourned to Hillcrest’s club room after dinner on March 13, Leon Lewis knew that to persuade these tough-minded men to donate serious money, he needed to appeal to their self-interest and not just their Jewish loyalties. He planned to frighten them into generosity. Thus far, Lewis explained, he had gathered over 200 reports from his spies. Many of those findings had been disclosed during the course of the German-American Alliance trial. The moguls knew this. What they did not know was that Nazis and fascists had invaded their studios and were firing Jewish employees. Many studio heads had heard rumors about Lewis’s operation, but only a handful knew the full extent of its workings, and fewer still knew how strong the Nazi movement had grown since the summer of 1933.
Excerpted from “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America” by Steven J. Ross. Copyright © Steven J. Ross, 2017. Used with permission from Bloomsbury Publishing.