Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Spielberg was asked whether the abuse faced in 1960s California by the young Jewish hero of his new film, autobiographical drama The Fabelmans, was something he recognised today.
Spielberg responded by saying he found the new global rise of anti-Jewish rhetoric and violence “very, very surprising. Antisemitism has always been there, it’s either been just around the corner and slightly out of sight but always lurking, or it has been much more overt like in Germany in the 30s.
“But not since Germany in the 30s have I witnessed antisemitism no longer lurking, but standing proud with hands on hips like Hitler and Mussolini, kind of daring us to defy it.”
The director, who is 76, added: “I’ve never experienced this in my entire life, especially in this country.”
Spielberg has said he only began to fully appreciate and embrace his background in the pre-production on 1993 Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, and told Colbert that he felt increased antisemitism was part of a wider trend of intolerance.
“Somehow, the marginalising of people that aren’t part of some kind of a majority race is something that has been creeping up on us for years and years and years,” he said.
“Hate became a kind of membership to a club that has gotten more members than I ever thought was possible in America. And hate and antisemitism go hand in hand, you can’t separate one from the other.”
Spielberg added that he intended viewers of The Fabelmans to take from the movie a message of hopefulness. Its hero’s tormentors are ultimately exposed as vulnerable and decent in their own ways.
“To quote Anne Frank, I think she’s right when she said that most people are good,” said Spielberg. “And I think essentially at our core, there is goodness and there is empathy.”