Comedian Bob Hope (1903-2003) was one of a number of prominent entertainers who volunteered to take part in a fundraising event at Madison Square Garden for the Bergson Group’s Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. The “Show of Shows,” held on March 13, 1944, attracted a full house of more than 20,000 attendees, including 150 servicemen whose tickets were paid for by the famous Jewish boxer (and decorated World War Two hero) Barney Ross.
In addition to Hope, the celebrities who agreed to perform that evening’s skits and comedy routines included Gracie Fields, Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Zero Mostel, Molly Picon, and others. Milton Berle served as master of ceremonies. Musical numbers were performed by Paul Robeson, Perry Como, the Andrews Sisters, the Xavier Cugat Band, and the Count Basie Band, among others.
Actress Helen Hayes recited a Ben Hecht poem about the Nazi massacres. Emergency Committee chairman Dean Alfange, in his keynote address, said that it was “the duty of the Christian world to help these stricken people in this black hour of their misery and distress.” Peter Bergson, in his remarks, appealed to Allied officials and Jewish community leaders to “brush aside political considerations at a time when thousands of us are dying daily.”
According to the New York Times, the Show of Shows “netted $80,000,” a substantial sum for that era.