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Business and the Holocaust
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©The Hanover Historical Review 1999.   Used by permission.
Power, Ignorance, and Anti-Semitism:
Henry Ford and His War on Jews
by Jonathan R. Logsdon
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          Madame de Shishmarov had brought The Protocols to Ford's attention through the efforts of his personal secretary and general manager of The Dearborn Independent, Ernest G. Liebold. Liebold had been discovered by the Ford Industry as a teller at a Dearborn bank in 1912. He soon rose through the ranks and became responsible for; among other duties, signing Ford's checks, responding to Ford's mail, controlling access to Ford, and acting as Ford's personal spokesman to the press. Liebold, whose father had emigrated from Germany, possessed a cold, rigid, "Prussian" personality. Ford once related that Liebold made his eight children march around the dinner table in military fashion and, when they had reached their places, would shout "Sitzen sie!"33 When an employee once wished him a "Merry Christmas," Liebold looked up, paused a moment, and grumpily responded, "Well, all right."34 Liebold acted as Ford's "chief executioner;" dirtying himself in work others would not touch. According to Frank Black, an associate on the Independent, Ford liked Liebold because he carried out orders: "He was one of the persons Mr. Ford could ask to do things he wouldn't ask other people to do. Mr. Ford knew the others weren't hard enough... "35 Liebold certainly made no effort to hide his role, explaining that he made it a rule not to have any friends in the company: "You are then in the position where you don't give a goddamn what happens to anybody."36 Ford himself defended Liebold and his cold personality with the explanation that you don't "hire a watchdog to like people." 37 Unlike many of Ford's associates, who went along with his anti-Semitic directives only with reluctance, Liebold approached the campaign with great enthusiasm. His anti-Semitism was no secret at the Ford Company. He once had a box full of 100 swastika pins shipped to his office from Germany.38 He was later quoted as saying of the Independent campaign, "When we get through with the Jews, there won't be one of them who would dare raise his head in public."39 It became Cameron's job to write the articles while it was Liebold's job to supply the "evidence."

          In order to accomplish this, Liebold set up a special detective agency for Ford at 20 Broad Street, New York City. Ford poured thousands of dollars into the operation, which was designed to investigate the private lives of prominent and suspected Jews. In other cases, liberal Gentiles were investigated in the effort to trace their "Jewish backers." Some of the detectives employed were former Secret Service agents. Others were quite prominent in government affairs, such as C.C. Daniels, brother of the former Secretary of the Navy, and Dr. Harris Houghton, former head of New York City's Army Intelligence-Gathering Bureau.40 The rest were made up of ex-cons, amateur detectives, racist fanatics, and, in surprisingly large numbers, exiled White Russians. Liebold would often correspond with the agents in coded messages. "ACADAM," for example, meant "Mr. Ford says, 'OK.'"41 All of the operatives were identified with a code number. Liebold was 121X, while Ford was, presumably, No.1. The budget for the agency was quite extravagant. The chief of staff alone received a salary of $1000 a month; for the single week of April 23, 1922, his expenditures ran to the sum of $678.42 The average correspondent, it was reported at the time, "if he digs deep and earnestly, will be amazed at the elaborate spy system in Henry Ford's organization. The spy system of the Kaiser's German Government had nothing on it."43

          The most notorious employee of Ford's detective agency was Boris Brasol, a Russian monarchist who had immigrated to the United States in 1916. Brasol was a rabid anti-Semite who once boasted that he had written books "which have done the Jews more injury than would have been done to them in ten pogroms."44 Brasol was a former member of an anti-Semitic society known as the Russian Black Hundred. In 1911, Brasol and his fellow Black Hundred members had attempted to blame the gang related murder of a youth named Andrey Yuchinsky on an innocent Jewish boy. The boy, Brasol claimed, had killed Yuchinsky in order to drain his blood for ritual purposes. After a two year ordeal, the boy was finally declared innocent by the courts, much to Brasol's eternal disappointment. After arriving in America, Brasol was able to gain a high level of influence in the U.S. Government. He was appointed to a position in the Department of Justice during the tenure of Henry C. Doherty. He was utilized by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer as an "authority" on Russian radicalism. Brasol also had connections to Dr. Harris Houghton, a member of U.S. Army intelligence. It was Dr. Houghton's Russian secretary, Natalie De Bogory, whom Brasol had translate The Protocols into English.45 Brasol represented an extremely sinister aspect of the Ford detective agency. As an anti-Semite, he verged on the psychotic. "There are going to be the biggest pogroms and massacres here and elsewhere," he once bragged, "I will write and I will precipitate them."46 Brasol was "officially" employed by Ford for two years, but remained in contact with him until 1939. He would later become a writer for the anti-Semitic priest, Charles Coughlin, and a Nazi agent, visiting German officials "to give rather than receive advice."47

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End Notes

33. Bennett, 85.

34. Nevins and Hill, 13.

35. Jardin, 208.

36. Nevins and Hill, 13.

37. Collier and Horowitz, 98.

38. Gelderman, 223.

39. New York Times 26 March 1927, 4.

40. Lee, 22.

41. Lee, 23.

42. Sward, 148.

43. E.G. Pipp, The Real Henry Ford (Detroit: Pipp's Weekly, 1922), 32.

44. Roy Carlson, Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America (NewYork: E.P. Durton, 1943), 204.

45. Lee, 28.

46. Ibid., 46.

47. Carlson, 207.


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