News & Advocacy

Recording Now Available: Santa Monica Mosaic: Safe Haven

April 21, 2022

The Santa Monica Conservancy presented Santa Monica Mosaic: Safe Haven, a webinar in our Santa Monica Mosaic series, on Sunday, April 10. Join author and Hollywood historian Donna Rifkind as she gives an illustrated presentation about the exiled Jewish artists who settled in and around Santa Monica Canyon during World War II.

Discover the journey of screenwriter Salka Viertel, who was born in Sambor, which is known today as part of western Ukraine. A close friend and collaborator of Greta Garbo, Viertel hosted numerous Sunday afternoon salons at her cozy home on Mabery Road, creating an artistic refuge for literary and Hollywood figures like Thomas Mann and Charlie Chaplin.

On the other side of the canyon, German-Jewish author Lion Feuchtwanger and his wife Marta hosted fellow emigres at stimulating social gatherings at their residence, Villa Aurora. Today, Villa Aurora is an artists residence and “stands as a memorial to all the artists and intellectuals who found refuge from Nazi persecution and had tremendous impact on the cultural life of the United States’ West Coast.”

Featured speaker:

Donna Rifkind, a Santa Monica native, is the author of The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood, which was nominated for a 2020 National Jewish Book Award. She also wrote the afterword for the re-issue of Salka Viertel’s 1969 memoir, The Kindness of Strangers, in a new edition published by NYRB Classics in 2019. Donna’s book reviews and essays appear frequently in Commentary, The American Scholar, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and many other publications. She was a finalist for the 2006 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle and served as a panel moderator at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival for many years.

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