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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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         Ford's attitude towards Jews may have been common for the era of his youth and early adulthood. However; his decision to transform it into a personal crusade was a quirk unique to Ford alone. It was a distinct trait of his to publicize his beliefs, however bizarre they many be. And Ford had a lot of strange beliefs. He once told reporters that milk was unhealthy after it was touched by air. He had investigators produce a 22-page report to determine whether the Mary of the rhyme "Mary had a Little Lamb" had actually existed.133 He was convinced that oilfield workers possessed uncommonly healthy heads of hair. As a result, he instructed his houseman to soak razor blades in kerosene and water in an effort to create a type of "hair tonic."134 When informed by Thomas Edison that a chemical in cigarette paper "rots the nerves," Ford banned all tobacco products from the Ford company and launched an attack on smoking in the press. "Study the history of almost any criminal," he stated in one interview, "and you find an inveterate cigarette smoker."135

          It is interesting to note that Ford was well ahead of his time in other respects. He supported the women's suffragette movement and campaigned for it in the pages of his newspaper. He also hired more black workers than all of the other car manufacturers combined. In a practice unheard of at the time, Ford often had black foreman placed in charge of white workers in his factories.136 Ford had his prejudices, but they appeared to be reserved solely for the Jews.

          Ford's authorized biography, The Amazing Story of Henry Ford by James Martin Miller; came out the same year as Ford's autobiography. It devoted a full 7 chapters- 94 pages- towards defending Ford's position on the Jews and recycling the allegations of the Independent. Like Ford's autobiography, the book was a bestseller. Its author later wrote, with remorse, to Jewish lawyer Samuel Untermyer:

"I wrote a book about Ford, unfortunately; sent to do it in the heat of the Ford presidential talk. I tell about his anti-Jewish propaganda, quoting him in that book. I was with him a great deal. Ford personally knew all about the attack on the Jews made in The Dearborn Independent. I never had a visit with him, at lunch or dinner; when he did not talk about the Jews and his campaign against them."137 Miller would disassociate himself from Ford in a much more significant way later
on.

          One of Miller's defenses of Ford in his book was that he "employs 4,000 Jews, and is doing more to industrialize the Jew and make producers, rather than consumers of them, than any other force in the world."138 This statistic was often used by Ford to ward off charges of anti-Semitism, though, as he noted to Judson C. Welliver in Review of Reviews, he saw that they were workers and did not get into office jobs.139 Even then, Jewish workers were not always in a guaranteed situation. Foreman William Klamm recalled that there was a policy not to have Jewish boys working in the shop: "Of course, it wasn't outspoken, but you knew it when you were told to 'Fire that Jewish fellow over there."140 Ford's paranoia even controlled the materials his workers used. "Don't ever let Mr. Ford see you using brass," new employees would be told. "It's a Jewish metal."141

          Ford treasurer Frank Klingensmith was fired after suggesting to Ford that he may need to borrow money from New York bankers during a postwar economic slump at the company. According to Liebold, "Klingensmith used to line up with a lot of Jewish bankers down there and that's what Mr. Ford didn't like. When Klingensmith got to advocating that we ought to borrow money, why, Mr. Ford thought that those fellows put him up to it."142 Warren C. Anderson, director of European operations, was fired after complaining that Ford's campaign had resulted in a virtual boycott" of Ford cars overseas.143 Then, there was Ernest Kanzler; the best friend of Edsel Ford and one of Ford's brightest executives. Kanzler was one of the few people to try to persuade Ford to update the Model T., of which the public was rapidly tiring. Ford declared that Kanzler was getting "too big for his britches" and had executive Ray Dahlinger spread the false rumor that Kanzler was Jewish. When word got back to him, Kanzler simply remarked, "A lot of brilliant men are Jews." However; his days were numbered. He was fired when Edsel was sent out of the country on a business venture.144

         Although The Dearborn Independent had halted its anti-Semitic articles in January of 1922, it did not cease totally in slandering the Jews. References to them were still occasionally sprinkled among its pages. However; they were less obvious than before. The headlines now read "Einstein Theory Declared a Colossal Humbug" and "A Modern Disraeli" but did not specifically refer to Jews. The Detroit Jewish Chronicle made the claim that Ford had merely switched from the "crude" Russian anti-Semitism, "which appealed to the basest passions of drunken peasants," to the more subtle German anti-Semitism, "the intellectual method."145

          More significant and damaging, however; was the publishing of a number of articles from the 1920-1921 campaign in book form. Collectively titled The International Jew, the articles were spread over four volumes which averaged 250 pages and which sold for $0.25 apiece. Volume I was subtitled "The World's Foremost Problem," Volume II: "Jewish Activities in the United States," Volume III: "Jewish Influences in American Life," and Volume IV: "Aspects of Jewish Power in the United States." As stated in the preface to Volume I, the reason for publishing these books was to meet the large number of public requests; "The demand for back copies of the paper was so great that the supply was exhausted early, as was a large edition of a booklet containing the first nine articles of the series."146 The books would eventually be condensed into a single volume also entitled The International Jew. It was through these publications that Ford's message was able to reach an enormously large global audience.

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End Notes

132. Michael Seizer (Ed.), Kike! A Documentary History of Anti-Semitism in America (NewYork: The World Publishing Company, 1972), 42-43. Richards, 163.

133. Barbara Kraft, The Peace Ship (New York: Macmillan, 1978), 283. Gelderman, 230.

136. Lacey, 235.

137. Lee, 74.

138. James Martin Miller; The Amazing Story of Henry Ford (Chicago: M.A.Donahue and Company, 1922), i.

139. Richards, 95.

140. Collier and Horowitz, 105.

141. Ihid.

142. Jardin, 209.

143. Ibid.

144. Collier and Horowitz, 121.

145. Indiana Jewish Chronicle, 5 October 1923, 4.

146. Tolerance, 12 August 1923, 12.


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