Today marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of a play in which a 22 year old Marlon Brando played a holocaust survivor screaming out to the largely Jewish audience “You Jews of America! Where was your cry of rage that could have filled the world and stopped the fires?”
The controversial and emotional A Flag is Born was put on Broadway in 1946 when such questions struck fear into the heart of many a Jew. When the state of Israel was not yet established, and few were the American Jews petitioning on it’s behalf for fear of accusations of dual loyalty.
Notably, the play is a product of Oscar winner Ben Hecht, a firm believer in revisionist Zionism who then went on to write Perfidy, an appalling expose of the early days of the Israeli establishment and Jewish-nazi collaboration which I have never been able to bring myself to read.
Hearing deafening silence of the American Jewish response during the Holocaust, Hecht joined the Bergson Group, a “New York-based activist group that lobbied for the rescue of Jewish refugees and the creation of a Jewish state. ” They did such things as taking out full page ads in NY papers saying ” ‘FOR SALE: 70,000 JEWS AT $50 APIECE GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS’ explaining that three and a half million dollars would rescue the then trapped Romanian Jews”
The play which is comprised of three holocaust survivors’ conversations in a graveyard ends with a raising of an Israeli flag fashioned from a now-dead man’s tallis. The scene apparently sent chills through the audience.
In any case, be sure read the jpost article on it, including famed Hollywood director Sydney Lumet’s quote towards the end.