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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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         Recalled one acquaintance of Ford, "Though he hated Jews in theory, he truly loved Izzy Straub, a local store keeper, and I can see them now cackling away like two cronies over a cracker barrel in a general store."110 Ford's company artist, Irving Bacon, remembered a story Ford liked to tell concerning a visit he had made to a pawn shop in Washington D.C.: "The elderly pawnbroker kept looking at me. He said, 'Hey you're Henry Ford, aren't you.' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Well, I been reading that Dearborn Independent of yours. It's all right. It tells the truth about"'111

          The truth is that a few Jews, mainly Ford employees, did give interviews to the press which supported Ford. However, their numbers were so small as be almost insignificant. "He didn't understand why the Jews didn't understand what he was trying to do for them," recalled employee Jack Davis. "Oh, he was so inconsistent!"112

          The hypocrisy of Ford's attitude was clearly evident in his press interviews of the time. In October of 1922, he emphasized "When I do say that I have no hatred in my heart for the Jew I mean it. In fact, I do not blame the Jew moneylender for bunking humanity just as long as humanity lets him get away with it. However, that does not wipe out the fact that the Jew... is the very foundation of the world's greatest curse today- war. He is the 'cause' of all the abnormalities in our daily life because he is the money maniac."113 Other quotes that Ford gave to the press were even less "charitable." In an interview with Judson C. Welliver Ford claimed that "The Jew is a mere huckster; a trader who doesn't want to produce, but to make something out of what someone else produces."114 In an interview with Montreal reporters, Ford stated that the only way to achieve world peace would be "to get the fifty leading Jewish financiers of the world together and render their manipulations of money impossible." In the same statement, Ford referred to Wall Street as a "Jewish Mecca," adding "You know what that means."115 When he received word that some of his tractors had been seized in Berlin, Ford told a Syracuse newsman, "I'll blame it on the Jewish business men- you blame it on anyone you want."116

          Ford amazed Charles W Wood of Collier's with his Jewish obsession. "We have made no references to the Jews," Wood wrote of the session, "yet no interview is complete without one. Naturally, I wanted to side step it entirely. It really can't be done. References to 'the Jews' were sprinkled throughout our entire talk." Among Ford's observations: "When the Jews take hold of anything, it goes down"; "These Jew financiers are not building anything. They wait until things begin to decay; then they get into them.... You will find them injecting their wonderful embalming fluid into it which they call 'finance"'; "You probably think the labor unions were organized by labor, but they weren't. They were organized by these Jew financiers. The labor union is a great scheme to interrupt work. It speeds up loafing. It's a great thing for the Jew to have on hand when he comes around to get his clutches on an industry."117

          Ford had a curious habit of viewing all things that he disliked as being "Jewish." A relative later noted that Ford would call "all the moneylenders of the world 'Jews' regardless of their religion"118 By that same rationale, if Ford liked someone who happened to be Jewish, he would say "Oh, he's mixed, he's not all Jewish."119 Ford would say to interviewers, "No, I have no hatred for the Jew, and those Jews who play hardest at the money game are very much in the minority. "120 In private, to Liebold, however, he would say, "You can't single them out. You have to go after them all. They are all part of the same system."121

          Ford gave two lengthy statements during this period which were designed to explain his attacks. The first was an interview in December of 1921 in which he pinpointed their alleged inspiration: "It was the Jews themselves that convinced me of the direct relation between the international Jew and war. In fact, they went out of their way to convince me." Ford then related that it had taken place during his Peace Ship mission of 1915: "On that ship were two prominent Jews. We had not been our to sea 200 miles before these two Jews began telling me about the power of the Jewish race, how they controlled the world through control of gold and that the Jew, and no one but the Jew, could stop the war. I was so reluctant to believe this and said so- so they went into detail to tell me the means by which the Jew controlled the war, how they had the money, how they had cornered all the basic materials needed to fight the war and all that, and they talked so long and so well that they convinced me. They said, and believed, that the Jews had started the war; that they would continue it as long as they wished and until the Jew stopped the war it could not be stopped. We were in mid-ocean and I was so disgusted that I would have liked to have turned the ship back."122

          Ford went on to explain that he investigated the Jews' allegations when he got back to America and found much to substantiate them. However, "It seemed there was no newspaper in the United States that dared print the truth." Ford then added, rather seif-servingly, "surely some place in the United States there should be a publisher strong and courageous enough to tell the people the truth about the war. If no one else will, I'll turn publisher myself, and I did."123

          Ford's explanation raises some questions. First of all, if the Jews on the Peace Ship truly believed that the war "could not be stopped," then why were they on the mission to begin with? More obviously, there was the recollection Mine. Schwimmer had of Ford's anti-Semitic outburst before the ship had even set sail.

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End Notes

110. John Dablinger, The Secret Life of Henry Ford (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merril Company, 1979), 216.

111. Collier and Horowitz, 104.

112. Herndon, 136.

*113. New York Times, 19 October 1922, 5.

114. Lacey, 234.

115. Indiana Jewish Chronicle, 5 October 1923, 1.

116. Richards, 95.

117. Tolerance, 5 August 1923, 3.

118. Lee, 148.

119. Bennett, 83.

120. New York Times, 29 October 1922, 5.

121. Lee, 34.

122. New York Times, 5 December 1921, 33.

123. Ibid.


*Article Correction. #122. Should read "out", not our. Return to text.

*End Notes #113. Should read New York Times, 29 October 1922, 5. Return to End Notes #113.

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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