Max Wallace is a Canadian journalist and historian specializing in the Holocaust, human rights in sport, and popular culture. He is also an award-winning filmmaker, and long-time human rights activist.
Winner of the 2018 Canadian Jewish Literary Award  (Holocaust category.) Published by Penguin/Random House, this work focuses on the heroic actions of a Swiss-based rescue committee headed by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple, Recha and Isaac Sternbuch. Before the war, Recha smuggled thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany into Switzerland, aided by St. Gallen police Captain Paul Grüninger, a man often known today as the Swiss Schindler. Grüninger was fired and Recha was arrested in May 1939 after Swiss authorities learned of their extensive underground smuggling operation. After the war began, the Sternbuchs were primarily responsible for communicating news of the Final Solution to the west in 1942 after they received a coded cable about the Nazi genocide from a source inside the Warsaw Ghetto a month after WJC counsel Gerhart Riegner sent a similar cable to New York which was kept secret until its contents could be verified by the US government. In 1944, the Sternbuchs learned that the former President of Switzerland, Jean-Marie Musy, had intervened to free a Jewish couple from a Nazi concentration camp in France. Recha Sternbuch subsequently enlisted Musy – a devout Catholic and fascist sympathizer – to negotiate with the architect of genocide, SS Chief Heinrich Himmler, who he knew from anti-Communist circles before the war. After the war began to turn against Germany, Himmler was known to have harboured hopes for a separate peace whereby the western Allies would unite with Nazi Germany against its common ideological enemy, the Soviet Union, to stamp out Bolshevism. Representing the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Sternbuch Rescue Committee, Musy, who was horrified to learn about the Nazi genocide, travelled to Germany to meet with Himmler in November 1944. At this meeting, he cultivated Himmler's delusion by falsely informing him that the West was open to such an alliance but only if Germany first ended the genocide against the Jews. Less than three weeks later, on November 25, 1944, Himmler gave the order to destroy the crematoria and gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau where more than 1.1 million Jews had been murdered since 1942. The Hungarian Jewish rescue leader, Reszo Kasztner, claimed he was shown a written order issued by Himmler, also on November 25, "prohibiting the further killing of Jews." Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer has described Himmler's Auschwitz decree as the end of the "planned, systematic and total extermination of the Jews." Many historians previously believed that Himmler ordered the Birkenau murder apparatus destroyed to hide evidence of Nazi crimes in advance of the approaching Soviet Red Army, even though the Germans left behind more than 7,000 inmates when they evacuated the camp two months later. In 1974, Bauer took issue with this theory at the first Yad Vashem Institute symposium on rescue operations. "There are those who claim that the order was the result of the advance of the Soviets and Americans, etc," Bauer told the gathering, "but it can also be assumed that the advance of these forces might have led to exactly the opposite result, ie. it could have hastened the extermination process." For the first time, Wallace's book presents evidence linking Himmler's decree to these secret negotiations after the author discovered documents housed in an Orthodox Jewish archive at New York's Yeshiva University linking Himmler's orders to the Musy negotiations. Among these documents is a cable sent by the Sternbuchs through the Polish diplomatic code to the Vaad ha-Hatzalah in New York on November 20, 1944 detailing Musy's negotiations with Himmler. The cable informed the Vaad that Musy had received a "promise to cease extermination in concentration camps." On November 22, the Sternbuchs sent another cable revealing that the Papal nuncio in Switzerland had "received a promise that the slaughters will cease." Three days later, Himmler ordered the destruction of the Auschwitz extermination apparatus. The book also documents a dramatic battle during the final months of the war between Himmler, still seeking a separate peace with the western Allies, and Adolf Hitler, who wanted to take "every last Jew down with the Reich." Abetted by western intelligence officials, the Sternbuchs and Musy engineered a massive deception which saw Himmler countermand orders from Hitler to dynamite the concentration camps and to agree to allow officials from the International Red Cross into the camps to deliver food and medical supplies on the condition that they agree to remain in the camps for the duration of the war. During the final weeks of the war, these negotiations also resulted in an extraordinary meeting between a Swedish representative of the World Jewish Congress, Norbert Masur, and Himmler, deep inside Germany on the night of Hitler's birthday, April 20/21,1945. After leaving this meeting, Himmler met with the head of the Swedish Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, and offered a German surrender on the western front. When Hitler learned of this "betrayal" by one of his most trusted lieutenants less than 48 hours before he committed suicide in the Führerbunker, he ordered Himmler's arrest and excommunication from the Nazi Party. The Canadian Jewish News described Wallace's book as "an impressive piece of scholarship and a compelling chapter of Holocaust history." The book was also a finalist for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize for the best work of literary non-fiction.
This work, published in 2003 by St. Martin's Press about the Nazi sympathies of two American icons, received a cover endorsement by two-time Pulitzer-prize winning historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. In the book, Wallace details the close collaboration between aviator Charles Lindbergh and automotive pioneer Henry Ford and traces the evolution of their sympathetic views on Nazi Germany. As the first unauthorized biographer ever to gain access to Lindbergh's archives at Yale University, Wallace presents details of the flier's many trips to Germany during the 1930's and his increasing admiration for Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. He reveals evidence that the Germans used Lindbergh as an unwilling dupe to vastly inflate German air estimates at a time when the German air force was much weaker than it pretended. The book argues that Lindbergh's well publicized description of German air superiority played a major role in the west's decision to appease Hitler at Munich in 1938. Only weeks after the Munich agreement, the Nazis presented Lindbergh with their highest civilian honor, the Order of the German Eagle. The book describes Lindbergh's prominent role as a leader of the isolationist movement after the commencement of the second world war in Europe and as a spokesperson for the America First Committee lobbying to keep America out of the war. It also details Lindbergh's eugenic and anti-Semitic views, culminating in his infamous Des Moines speech on September 11, 1941 in which the isolationist spokesperson claimed that "The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish [sic] and the Roosevelt Administration." Instead of agitating for war, he declared, "the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences." When the speech was reported the next day, it set off a wave of revulsion by the media and the public that turned Lindbergh into a national pariah. President Roosevelt told his secretary of Treasury, "If I should die tomorrow, I want you to know this. I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is a Nazi." The book also explores Henry Ford's Nazi sympathies and his central involvement in the most notorious anti-Semitic campaign in American history when Ford bought The Dearborn Independent and used the newspaper to blame the Jews for most of the world's troubles. From 1920-1927, the newspaper introduced Americans to a variety of virulent anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, including the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Wallace traces the mysterious evolution of Ford's anti-Semitism which puzzled many observers at the time because Ford had displayed no previous anti-Semitic tendencies. On the contrary, he was known to be benevolent to his Jewish employees and to his neighbour, Detroit's most prominent Rabbi, Leo Franklin. The book reveals evidence proving that Ford's private secretary, Ernest Liebold, had been a German spy during World War One and who was largely responsible for turning Ford against the Jews by convincing him that Jewish communists were conspiring to unionize his company. Liebold also used the Independent as a vehicle to blame Jews the defeat of Germany in World War One and for the rise of Bolshevism. A series of articles trumpeting this theme was translated into German and published in book form as The International Jew. The book was later cited by many Nazis as deeply influential, including the leader of the Hitler Youth, Baldur von Schirach, who testified at the Nuremberg Trials, "I read it and became anti-Semitic." Hitler hung a portrait of Ford over his desk at his Munich headquarters and told a Detroit columnist that he regarded Ford as "my inspiration." Ford is the only American mentioned in Hitler's manifesto, Mein Kampf. Like Lindbergh, the Nazis presented Ford with Germany’s highest civilian decoration, the Order of the German Eagle, on his 75th birthday in 1938.
As a former music journalist, Wallace coauthored the international bestseller Who Killed Kurt Cobain? with Ian Halperin in 1998 (described as a "judicious presentation of explosive material" by The New Yorker). Much of the book explores the phenomenon of the 68 copycat suicides following the death of Cobain in April, 1994.
Published in 2004, Wallace wrote Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain with Halperin, which reached the New York Times bestseller list. The book presents explosive tapes recorded by Beverly Hills Private Investigator Tom Grant, who was hired by Courtney Love to find her husband after Kurt Cobain went missing from a Los Angeles drug rehab facility in April 1994. Among the tapes is a recording of Cobain's entertainment lawyer Rosemary Carroll, godmother to the couple's daughter Frances Bean Cobain, casting doubt on the official suicide theory and revealing Carroll's belief that the suicide note was "forged or traced." On the tapes, Carroll also revealed that Cobain was in the process of divorcing Love at the time of his death.
Written in 2000, this book covers Muhammad Ali's long battle against the US government over his stand against the Vietnam War. Ali wrote the foreword. In 2013, the book was adapted into a movie directed by two-time Oscar nominee Stephen Frears, starring Danny Glover, Christopher Plummer and Frank Langella. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2013.
Wallace is also a documentary filmmaker whose first film, Too Colorful for the League, about the history of racism in hockey for CBC TV, was nominated for a Gemini Award. The film documents a crusade to enshrine the black superstar Herb Carnegie into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Wallace has also contributed to the BBC and the Sunday New York Times. His second film, Schmelvis, about the Jewish roots of Elvis Presley, had a US theatrical release and played in more than 75 film festivals around the world. In the 1990s, Wallace was the director and co-founder of both the Ottawa Folk Festival and the Ottawa International Busker Festival when employed as station manager for CKCU-FM, Canada's largest community radio station.
Wallace is a former Executive Director of the Anne and Max Bailey Centre for Holocaust studies in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. During the 1990s, he worked for several years with Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, recording the video testimonies of Holocaust survivors. For more than a decade, he has been researching Holocaust-era rescue operations and secret negotiations with high level Nazis during the waning days of World War 2 to prevent the annihilation of the remaining Jews of Europe.
Wallace was a prominent activist in the anti-Apartheid, Fair Trade, and peace movements and worked with Ralph Nader founding the Quebec Public Interest Research Group in the 1980s. He also worked as a clinical instructor at the Osgoode Hall Poverty Law program (PCLS) and as a community legal worker. He is currently active in issues around food security, affordable housing, and environmental education. He continues to promote the International Victory Gardens Network ("Plant a Victory Garden, help win the war against hunger") that he started in 2001, helping to bring urban agriculture and food security to marginalized and socially isolated communities throughout the world in the spirit of the World War II victory gardens which helped the Allies win the war. In 2009, he won the David Suzuki Foundation's "David Suzuki Digs My Garden" contest for best organic ornamental garden in Canada. He is also Parliamentary Liaison of the Drop the Fee Campaign, aiming to eliminate the Refugee Processing Fee that serves as a barrier to countless immigrants and refugees in Canada.
- In the Name of Humanity: The Secret Deal to End the Holocaust (Penguin/Random House Canada and Skyhorse USA, 2018)
- The American Axis: Ford, Lindbergh, and the Rise of the Third Reich (St. Martin's Press, 2003)
- Who Killed Kurt Cobain? with Ian Halperin in 1998
- Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. the United States of America (M. Evans & Co., 2000)
- Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain with Ian Halperin (Simon & Schuster, 2004)
- 1985: Shared the Rolling Stone Magazine Award for Investigative Journalism.
- 2001: Nominated for a Gemini Award for writing and producing CBC TV documentary Too Colourful For the League.
- 2018: Shortlisted for 2018 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature (History Writing) for In the Name of Humanity
- 2018: Won the 2018 Canadian Jewish Literature Award (Holocaust Literature Category)for In the Name of Humanity