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The Anti-Semitic Attacks on Sarah

In response to:

The Divine Sarah from the October 14, 2010 issue

To the Editors:

I was surprised that, in his agreeable review of my recent biography of Sarah Bernhardt [“The Divine Sarah,” NYR, October 14], Graham Robb writes:

Gottlieb’s biography is part of a series titled “Jewish Lives,” but apart from some bigoted remarks by journalists in the United States and Australia, and anti-Semitic demonstrations during her tour of Russia, there appears to be surprisingly little to report on the subject.

In his trawl though the text, Mr. Robb must have skimmed over two passages about Bernhardt’s reception in Montreal.

In that intensely Catholic and deeply anti-Semitic community she was the object of violent attack, and was actually threatened by riffraff at the railroad station and at her hotel.

And in reference to an appearance several years later in that city:

Playing La Sorcière in Montreal, she would once again be the target of verbal and physical attacks encouraged by the current archbishop, who found this reproach to the Inquisition blasphemous: rotten eggs pelting the stage, stones and sticks pounding her carriage on the way to the railroad station, cries of “Kill the Jewess.”

I call attention to these passages (and there are others) not to be contentious but to make it clear to readers that Bernhardt was frequently in the line of anti-Semitic fire, which she stoutly defied—even, perhaps, with a certain relish.

Robert Gottlieb
New York City

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