DOROTHY THOMPSON Biography - People in the News and Media


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Name: Dorothy Thompson                                                                   
Born: 9 July 1893                                                                       
Died: 30 january 1961                                                                   
Dorothy Thompson (9 July 1893, Lancaster, New York - January 30, 1961, Portugal)         
was an American journalist, who was noted by Time magazine in 1939 as one of the         
two most influential women in America, the other being Eleanor Roosevelt.               
She is notable as the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany         
(in 1934), and as the inspiration for Katharine Hepburn's character Tess                 
Harding in the film Woman of the Year (1942).                                           
According to Bennett Cerf in Try and Stop Me (1944), she socked a woman who made         
pro-Nazi remarks in her presence after asking her to step outside. She also             
attended the Bund rally at Madison Square Garden, where she showed her disgust           
by giving the participants the Bronx cheer.                                             
In 1938, Dorothy Thompson championed the cause of a Polish-German immigrant to           
France, Herschel Grynszpan, whose assassination of a minor German diplomat,             
Ernst vom Rath, had been used as propaganda by the Nazis to trigger the events           
of Kristallnacht in Germany. Thompson's broadcast on NBC radio was heard by             
millions of listeners, and lead to an outpouring of sympathy for the young               
assassin. Under the banner of the Journalists' Defense Fund, over $40,000 USD           
was collected, enabling famed European lawyer Vincent de Moro-Giafferi to take           
up Grynszpan's case. The assassination inspired the composer Michael Tippett to         
write his oratorio A Child of Our Time as a plea for peace, and as a protest             
against the persecution of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. His use of Negro           
spirituals to allude to the subjugation of the Jews is particularly innovative,         
and arguably deeply haunting.                                                           
As an American of German descent, Thompson felt it incumbent upon her to                 
organize other German-Americans to speak out against Nazism, and counter the             
publicity given the pro-Nazi German-American Bund. In the fall of 1942, she             
approached the World Jewish Congress, which agreed to pay for such a statement,         
and in the last week of December, 1942, the "Christmas Declaration by men and           
women of German ancestry" was printed appeared in the New York Times and nine           
other major American daily newspapers, signed by fifty prominent German-Americans,       
the most famous being Babe Ruth.                                                         
She married Sinclair Lewis in 1928, the second of her three marriages (her first         
was to Josef Bard). Their son, actor Michael Lewis, was born in 1930. She               
divorced Lewis in 1942.                                                                 
After World War II, Thompson wrote an article in Commentary cautioning American         
Jews about Zionism as it would lead to dual loyalty. The Jewish Oscar Handlin           
rebutted her in the same issue. Later, she became very critical of the newly             
created state of Israel.