Hollywood’s repression of the facts about Jewish persecution continued even during the war years, after all the studios had finally been driven from Germany (MGM and Paramount remained there well into 1940) and America was at war with the Nazis. Despite the courageous efforts of screenwriter Ben Hecht to raise public awareness of the Holocaust while it was happening, there was only one reference to what was being done to the Jews in any Hollywood movie made during the war: a 5-minute sequence of a minor courtroom drama called None Shall Escape (1944), in which Nazis shoot a group of Jewish prisoners who fight back while they are being loaded onto a train. Five minutes was all the studio heads could give to the mass murder of their people, which by then had become common knowledge—in part as a result of Hecht’s full-page newspaper ads and his 1943 Madison Square Garden pageant, We Will Never Die .
Gibson went well beyond a mea culpa tour. He came out of that experience determined to film the Jewish version of Braveheart . He set at Warner Bros a film about Judah Maccabee, who with his father and four brothers led the Jewish revolt against the Greek-Syrian armies that had conquered Judea in the second century . That seminal story is celebrated by Jews all over the world through Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Gibson planned to direct, but the effort was undermined by the decision to hire Joe Eszterhas to write it. The screenwriter’s penchant for making public spectacles of private matters (he famously leaked a conversation when he said ex-agent Mike Ovitz threatened him), and Gibson’s unwillingness to publicly defend himself, doomed the film.