Page 38

6

Larchmont Chronicle

JaNuary 2018

SECTION TWO

In Full View: Fascism and Nazism in Los Angeles, 1933-1945 The map, spread across two pages, shocked me. It appears at the beginning of USC history professor Steven J. Ross’s latest book, “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America” (Bloomsbury, 2017). The map, based on 1948 cartography by the Automobile Club of Southern California, illuminates downtown Los Angeles and a few miles to its west, as well as Hollywood. The map’s legend tells the story: a swastika (10 sites), Star of David (five Jewish resistance sites), an omega (Aryan resistance, three sites), an F (fascist, 12 sites) and an O (two meeting hall sites). An inch equals a half-mile. Using this scale, my ruler tells a story: The Wilshire Boulevard Temple (still on Wilshire), was, in the 1930s and 1940s, located almost equidistant between two anti-Semitic and fascist

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organization sites, the Silver Shirt Meeting Hall, and the America First Headquarters.

Home Ground by

Paula Panich

The map was a signal that I would read every page of this complicated story. [Author Ross spoke about the book at Chevalier’s Oct. 30.] Non-Jew spies Los Angeles attorney Leon Lewis (office: 626 W. Seventh St.) is the hero of this history. A Jewish man and an interpreter of the unfolding events of his time, Lewis organized a spy ring of non-Jews who risked their lives to infiltrate Nazi and fascist organizations in Los Angeles from 1933,

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when Hitler was elected chancellor in Germany, to the end of World War II. Lewis and his committee kept meticulous notes later used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Congressional committees to bring suit against American Nazis and others. But Lewis and others who tried early on to bring evidence of plots against Los Angeles Jews to local and federal law enforcement were stymied at every turn. Fascist and Nazi sympathizers were rampant in the sheriff’s department, the police departments, the district attorney’s office and the FBI. The sympathizers were not necessarily (though some were) partial to Hitler and Germany, but were anti-Semites who believed communists and Jews were equivalent and were the major threats of the time. Plots uncovered Lewis and his spies uncov-

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ered plots in various organizations: one to kidnap the leading Jews in Hollywood in order to hang them in a forest (Louis B. Mayer was usually at the top of any enemy list); another to form fake pest control companies MOVIE MOGUL Louis B. Mayer, here with to insert poison Joan Crawford, topped many enemy lists. gas into Jewish Lives in danger homes; yet another to drive Leon Lewis knew his life and through Boyle Heights, spraythe lives of his family members ing the streets with gunshots, were in danger. He persevered, killing as many Jews as posvigilant until the war ended and sible. beyond, fighting also for the civil I could read only a few pages rights of blacks, Mexicans, and at a time of “Hitler in Los Anthe Japanese. He later moved his geles.” family from 845 Keniston Ave. to My husband’s Jewish family Pacific Palisades. He died at 65 of arrived in Los Angeles in the a heart attack on May 21, 1954. late 1930s. What were they Ross writes of Lewis: “Despite thinking? I will never know. besting local Nazis and fascists, he could not stem the spread of anti-Semitism in Los Angeles.” Halfway through reading this book I read a profile (Nov. 26, 2017) in the “New York Times” of a self-professed young Nazi in Ohio entitled “In America’s Heartland, the Voice of Hate Next Door.” The reporter summarizes what his subject had said: “The election of President Trump helped open a space for people like him, demonstrating that it is not the end of the world to be attacked as the bigot he surely is . . .” As the 29-year-old commented on being a Nazi: “You can just say, ‘Yeah, so?’ and move on.” It’s the big shrug. What may lie beneath our own time also haunts.

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LC 01 2018  

Local news for Hancock Park • Windsor Square • Fremont Place • Park LaBrea • Larchmont Village • Miracle Mile • Los Angeles, local news, Lar...

LC 01 2018  

Local news for Hancock Park • Windsor Square • Fremont Place • Park LaBrea • Larchmont Village • Miracle Mile • Los Angeles, local news, Lar...