Wyman Institute letter in the N.Y. Times: Marlon Brando and the Holocaust

Text Of A Letter Published (In Slightly Shortened Form) In
The New York Times Sunday Magazine, January 9, 2005:

Dear Editor:

Daphne Merkin (Dec. 26) writes that Marlon Brando “liked to dabble in half-baked political stands.”  But his first political cause was far from half-baked.  In 1946, the 22 year-old Brando co-starred in “A Flag Is Born,” a Ben Hecht play that raised funds to bring Holocaust survivors to Mandatory Palestine in defiance of British restrictions.   In the play, which spent ten weeks on Broadway before traveling to numerous other cities, Brando’s character criticized the international community for standing by silently while the Nazis were “mak[ing] a garbage pile of my people.”  As a gesture of solidarity with the cause that the play was promoting, Brando performed for the minimum Actors’ Guild wage.

Brando championed the Jewish people’s cause offstage, as well, joining his acting coach, Stella Adler, in  the American League for a Free Palestine (better known as the Bergson Group).  Brando became, as he put it, “a kind of traveling salesman” for the group, speaking at  its meetings and rallies around the country.  In city after city, the young actor spoke about the international community’s silence during the Holocaust, the plight of Holocaust survivors languishing in Europe’s Displaced Persons camps, and the need for a Jewish state.


Dr. Rafael Medoff
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies