|Leon L. Lewis|
Leon L. Lewis|
September 5, 1888
May 21, 1954|
Pacific Palisades, California
|Known for||Anti-Nazi Spymaster|
|Spouse(s)||Ruth Lewis (d. 1967)|
Leon Lawrence Lewis (September 5, 1888 – May 21, 1954) was an American attorney, the first national secretary of the Anti-Defamation League, the national director of B'nai B'rith, the founder and first executive director of the Los Angeles Jewish Community Relations Committee, and a key figure in the spy operations that infiltrated American Nazi organizations in the 1930s and early 1940s. The Nazis referred to Lewis as "the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles."
Lewis was the son of Edward and Rachel Lewis, German Jewish immigrants who migrated to Wisconsin. He grew up in Milwaukee and attended the University of Wisconsin and George Washington University. Lewis graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1913.
After graduating with his law degree from the University of Chicago, Lewis accepted the position of national secretary of the Anti-Defamation League, and began to work on discrimination cases in the Midwest. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Lewis enlisted and served in the Army infantry and Army intelligence in Germany, France, and England during and after the war, rising to the rank of major. In 1919 he returned to the U.S. and resumed his work fighting Antisemitism for the ADL in Chicago and other parts of the Midwestern United States. Lewis and his family moved to Los Angeles in the late 1920s, where he founded the Los Angeles Jewish Community Committee (later known as the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee), from which he launched a major anti-Nazi spy ring and intelligence gathering operation, receiving funding from all of the Hollywood studio moguls and working in cooperation with local and federal authorities. His work as spymaster resulted in the successful prosecution of multiple American Nazis before and during World War II, and the prevention of many acts of Nazi sabotage and assassinations on the West Coast of the United States. Lewis served as executive director of the Community Relations Committee for 17 years, after which he returned to his law practice.
Lewis married Ruth Lowenberg in 1920, and the couple had two daughters, Rosemary Mazlo (1922–1980) and Claire Read (1928–2015). He died of a heart attack on May 21, 1954 in Pacific Palisades, California.
- Rosenzweig, Laura (2017). Hollywood’s Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 9781479855179. https://nyupress.org/books/9781479855179/.
- Ross, Steven (2017). Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781620405642. https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/hitler-in-los-angeles-9781620405642/.
- "Leon L. Lewis". New York Times. p. 15. May 22, 1954.
- Goodyear, Data (September 25, 2017). "The Nazi Sites of Los Angeles". https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/25/the-nazi-sites-of-los-angeles.
- "Leon L. Lewis, Jewish Leader, Succumbs at 65". May 22, 1954. p. 11. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/22361461/leon_l_lewis_18881954/. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
- Ross, Steven (November 4, 2018). "Eighty years before Pittsburgh, Kristallnacht emboldened Nazis in Los Angeles". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-ross-kristallnacht-anniversary-los-angeles-20181104-story.html.
- Leon L. Lewis at Find a Grave
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