Paul Muni

Justice, on screen and off

Academy Award-winning film director Sidney Lumet, who passed away April 9 at age 86, is remembered for classics such as "Twelve Angry Men," the courtroom drama that challenged racial prejudice and which Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has cited as a major influence on her career.

What is not widely known is that before he became a director, Mr. Lumet, as a young actor, was at the center of a 1940s controversy in Baltimore involving Zionist activists and the fight over racial segregation. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Lumet about that unusual episode in the civil rights struggle.

In the summer of 1946, hundreds of thousands of Holocaust...