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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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          Jews responded to the charges Ford leveled against them in various ways. Some, such as author and lecturer John Spargo, instructed fellow Jews to "leave him alone; let him talk. Invite him to the Town Hall and let him tell you why he is opposed to the Jews, if he will."76 Others, such as lawyer Samuel Untermyer; were more vocal in their outrage. Declaring Ford a "mad hatter;" Untermyer violently proclaimed that he was "densely ignorant" on every subject except automobiles and was "blinded by a depth of bigotry that belongs in the dark ages from which he has not yet emerged.... Why can't the people realize that a cheap, petty, ignorant man who has grown rich can get just as crazy as any poor devil of an inmate of a lunatic asylum? The only difference is that is that one is locked up for the public safety while the other is permitted to roam at large to the great peril of the public."

          By mid 1921, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion had been publicly exposed as a forgery. Philip Graves had researched the subject for The London Times and Herman Bernstein had written a book on the subject entitled The History of a Lie.78 Bernstein, editor of The Jewish Tribune, wrote to Ford on the matter; stating that he was "on the wrong track" and was promoting nothing but a fraud. The matter; however; only got as far as Liebold. Regarding The Protocols, Liebold responded, "If you will carefully read our articles, you will find that we have at no time guaranteed their authenticity. We have merely stated what they contain and have paralleled this with what actually took place and are leaving it to the mind of the public to judge."79 In regards to Bernstein, Liebold added that he had no objections whatever to talking with him, "except I have found that the moment we open ourselves and extend interviews to the Jews, it is only used for the purpose of misquoting and publicity which has no bearing on the issue...."80

         In their understandable anger and frustration, Jews began to boycott Ford products in droves. Humorist Will Rogers quipped that the boycott "may not be a complete success yet- but it will be as soon as someone learns how to make a cheaper car."81 Meetings were held in synagogues across the country to come up with ways in which to address the attacks that the Independent was leveling. Every effort on the part of Jews to meet with Ford and clear things up, however; was ignored.

          Many members of the Protestant community were just as baffled by the attacks sanctioned by Ford. The Reverend Charles Francis McKoy of Brooklyn announced from the pulpit that Henry Ford did not represent the true Christian sentiment of America: "If he did, I should be heartily ashamed of my brethren. "82 * Upton Sinclair blamed Ford's ignorance of history, proclaiming that Ford should have studied the history of the Jewish people and then he would have changed his view on these things: "But he never took the trouble...."
Some Gentiles noted that, while Ford was protesting the World War; Jewish soldiers had bravely served their country and earned five percent of the awards given for valor on the battlefield. Other protestors included the famous lawyer Clarence Darrow, Salvation Army head Evangeline Booth, Stanford University President David Jordan, President Woodrow Wilson, former President William H. Taft, and future President Warren G. Harding. These public figures, along with numerous other statesmen, clergymen, writers, lawyers, and professors, signed a document in protest of recent anti-Semitism in the United States that was clearly aimed at Ford.84 Taft went even further; commenting in an address to The Anti-Defamation League that one of the chief causes of suffering and evil in the world was race hatred, "and any man who stimulates that hatred has much to answer for.... How much of the article is due to Mr. Ford's initiative and how much he has yielded to the representatives of others in consenting to its publication, one cannot say. But of course he is responsible for the effect.... "85 The Independent responded with an article entitled "Taft Once Tried to Resist Jews-And Failed," and argued that Taft had "become one of those 'Gentile fronts' which the Jews use for their own defense."86

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End Notes

*76. New York Times, 1 November 1921, 9.

*77. New York Times, 12 December 1921, 33.

78. Sachar, 313.

79. Jardin, 145.

80. Ibid.

81. Lewis, 141.

82. New York Times, 18 October 1920, 14.

*83.    New York Times, 21 February 1921, 11.

84. Poliakov, 251.

85. New York Times, 24 December 1920, 4.

86. International Jew Vol. 2, 209.


*End Notes #76. New York Times, 26 November 1921, 9.      Return to End Notes #76.

*End Notes #77. New York Times, 5 December 1921, 33.      Return to End Notes #77.

*Article Correction #83. The New York Times article reads "Sinclair Lewis", not Upton Sinclair. Return to text.    Return to End Notes #83.

Corrections by Yosef Cohen with the invaluable assistance, courtesy, and research provided by Bruce Brigell from the Skokie Public Library.
Special thanks to Albert S. Cohen, my father, and Janet Holmes for various footnote verifications made at the Gary Public Library.

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