~ 1 ~
This paper traces
the anti-Semitic activities of automobile manufacturer Henry Ford. Ford
first voiced his anti-Semitic leanings in 1915, around the time of his
"Peace Ship" episode. Eventually, his belief that the "International Jew"
was the source of the world's problems led him to conduct a campaign against
them in the pages of his newspaper; The Dearborn Independent. The articles
in Ford's newspaper blamed the Jews for everything from the Bolshevik Revolution
and the First World War to bootlegged liquor and cheap movies. They also
accused the Jews of conspiring to enslave Christianity and destroy the
"Anglo-Saxon" way of life. The articles were later gathered into book form
and published under the title: The International Jew: The World's Foremost
Problem. This book was translated into 16 languages, and was to have a
profound influence upon the growing Nazi movement in Germany. Eventually,
Ford publicly apologized for the articles in light of a legal suit. However;
he continued to express his anti-Semitic beliefs in his private circles.
In the 1930's, he hired many fascist sympathizers, accepted an award from
Hitler; and engaged in business ventures in Nazi Germany. In the 1940's,
the Ford Motor Company was transformed into a more tolerant organization
through the efforts of Ford's son and grandson. However; Ford himself never
abandoned his deep-rooted anti-Semitism. His anti-Semitic literature can
still be found in great abundance, more than fifty years after his death.
While Ford is considered to be a great man by many Americans, he spawned
an ugly legacy of hatred and bigotry that still has ramifications today.
has been described as being a disease of the soul. It is a prejudice that
has gained particular notoriety in the 20th Century- the century of Treblinka
and Auschwitz. However; this phenomenon of hate has not just been confined
to the continent of Europe. In 1920, a small newspaper in Dearborn, Michigan
began publishing a series of articles entitled: "The International Jew:
The World's Foremost Problem." The newspaper was owned by the famous automobile
manufacturer; Henry Ford. Through a combination of influence, power; and
ignorance, he was able to unleash the largest and most damaging campaign
against Jews ever waged in the United States.
By 1915, the
Great War had been going on for well over a year. Henry Ford's attitude
towards the conflict was well known to the public. He had told the Detroit
Free Press that he would give all of his money to stop it and that the
building of armaments by the U.S. was "wasteful and war breeding."1
At the time, the 52 year old Ford was one of the richest and most popular
men in America. More than half of the automobiles in the nation came from
the Ford Motor Company. Many Americans saw him as a champion of the working
class; the previous year; he had made national headlines by raising the
minimum wage for his workers to $5 a day. It came as no surprise when a
steady stream of pacifists soon began courting Ford, hoping to utilize
his finances and his prestige. One such hopeful was a Jewish Hungarian
named Rosika Schwimmer; who called upon Ford in November of 1915. Mine.
Schwimmer proposed to Ford her plan to stop the war by sending a delegation
of pacifists to Europe on a chartered "Peace Ship." Ford was enchanted
with the idea, and organized a group to book passage on a Scandinavian-American
vessel, the Oscar II. Before he set sail, Ford granted an interview in
which he proudly boasted, "We're going to stop the war... We're going to
get the boys out of the trenches by Christmas."2
At the same time, however; Ford admitted that that he did not exactly know
where the ship was going. Nor did Ford reveal any specific plans of the
operation. The ship eventually docked in Oslo, Norway on December 18, 1915.
No one greeted the ship in the freezing temperatures of -12 E Ford gave
his first, and only, press conference of the "campaign" four days later.
It was a confusing speech in which Ford mainly talked about a new tractor
he had on the market. He expressed his belief that it would be wiser for
the munitions factories of Europe to produce tractors instead of weapons.
One newsman sarcastically noted that Ford "must be a very great man indeed
who permits himself to utter such foolishness."3
Ford then booked passage on the first steamer returning to New York and
returned the next morning, weakened by a nasty cold. The ill-conceived
Peace Ship venture, which accomplished nothing, soon ended in disaster
One of those
who came to Ford's defense in the aftermath was Philadelphia rabbi, Joseph
Krawkopf, who declared that it was better "a thousand times to be branded
a fool in the service of humanity than be hailed a hero for having shed
rivers of blood."4 Ironically, Ford had
made a strange statement to Mine. Schwimmer before their Peace Ship departure-
a statement that she found "cheap and vulgar." "I know who caused the war-
the German-Jewish bankers. I have the evidence here," Ford declared, slapping
his pocket. "Facts. I can't give them out yet because I haven't got them
all. But I'll have them soon."5
1. Carol Gelderman, Henry Ford: The Wayward Captalist, (New York: Sr.
Martin's Press, 1981), 93.
2. Robert Lacey, Ford: The Men and the Machine, (New York: Ballantine
Books, 1987), 148.
3. Anne Jardin, The First Henry Ford: A Study in Personality and Business
Leadership, ~Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970), 129.
4. Lacey, 154.
5. New York Times, 5 September 1927, 17.