Amram Scholar Series Presents: Steven J. Ross

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Date(s) - Sunday, November 19, 2017
10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Washington Hebrew Congregation


The chilling, little-known story of how Jews in Los Angeles thwarted Nazi plots against America from 1933 to the end of World War II is the focus of an Amram Scholar Series lecture by eminent film historian Steven J. Ross on Sunday, November 19 at 10:30 am at Temple. This lecture is based on his latest book, “Hitler in Los Angeles.”

“No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world,” Professor Ross says. The Nazis plotted to kill the city’s Jews and sabotage the nation’s military installations along the Pacific Coast. Plans existed to hang 20 famed Hollywood figures, including Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, James Cagney, and Jack Warner, and to machine-gun as many Jews as possible in the then-largely Jewish neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

To foil these plots, Leon Lewis – a daring Jewish lawyer who had helped found the Anti-Defamation League – mounted a counter-espionage operation comprised of military veterans and their wives who infiltrated every Nazi and fascist group in the city. Often rising to leadership positions within them, this courageous ring of spies uncovered the Nazi plans at a time when many law enforcement authorities in Los Angeles actually sympathized with Nazi and fascist movements. As a result of his successes, the Nazis would come to call Lewis “the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles.”

The son of two Holocaust survivors, Professor Ross teaches at the University of Southern California and directs its Casden Institute for the Study of American Jewish Life. He is the recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Film Scholars Award.

Mr. Ross’s lecture is made possible with the support of Leo & Elizabeth Goodman Public Issues Endowment Fund.