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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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          In a lawsuit in June of 1923, Herr Auer testified that "Henry Ford was to have been received like a king if he ever came to Munich" and that credible sources had informed him that "Henry Ford played a big role in the National Socialist party." One of Hitler's principal lieutenants, Christian Weber; confirmed the first part of Auer's statement in his subsequent testimony: "The festival reception for Ford, if he had come to Munich, would have been for Ford the anti-Semite." However; he denied any financial support, declaring that, "The party has not yet received a single penny from Ford..."156

          This did not mean that the idea never entered Hitler's mind. In a 1937 memoir entitled, I Knew Hitler, a former associate of Hitler's named Kurt Ludecke claimed that he had been sent to America in 1924 to raise money for the Nazi party. While in New York, Ludecke met up with Siegfried and Winifred Wagner; son and daughter-in-law of the famous anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner. The couple was in America to gain new support for Wagner's symphonies after they had been condemned during the anti-German war years. Ludecke and the Wagners traveled to Detroit together to meet with Ford and gain financial assistance for the Nazis, whom, it turned out, Winifred enthusiastically supported. Ludecke was able to obtain a private meeting with Ford through Liebold. As he relayed the struggle of the Nazi party, Ford paid close attention, occasionally interjecting, "I know.... Yes, the Jews, these cunning Jews...." However; according to Ludecke, his final response was less than enthusiastic. "If I had been trying to sell Mr. Ford a wooden nutmeg," Ludecke wrote, "he couldn't have shown less interest in the proposition.... Ford was deeply interested in what I had to tell, but he was not at all interested in what I had to ask.... He became immediately very wary when I pressed towards my goal with frank requests for money. The more I mentioned the word, the more Henry Ford cooled down from idealist to businessman...."157 Ludecke later received a telegram from Cameron with Ford's final decision: "The proposal will probably not be entertained." Ludecke dutifully reported back to Germany and an "irritated and nervous Hitler to inform him of the mission's failure.158

          A different account of the Detroit venture, however; was revealed in an interview with an elderly Winifred Wagner in the 1970's. According to Frau Wagner; she had met with a very enthusiastic Ford a few days before his meeting with Ludecke. "The philosophies of Ford and Hitler were very similar;" she recalled. "Ford was very well informed about everything going on in Germany.... He knew all about the National Socialist movement.... Ford told me that he helped to finance Hitler with money from the sales of automobiles and trucks that he had sent to Germany." Frau Wagner claimed that, when she informed Ford that Hitler was still in need of money, he made a remark about being willing to support a man like Hitler who was working to free Germany from the Jews.159

          Upton Sinclair accused Ford of using Prince Louis Ferdinand, a grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, as an agent to transfer funds to Germany. Ferdinand was employed by Ford for two and a half years during the 1920's. Through him, three hundred thousand dollars had supposedly been forwarded to the Nazi treasury.160 Sinclair; however; offered no sources or evidence for these claims. In 1933, a Congressional Committee investigated allegations that Ford had financed the Nazi Party, but was unable to prove anything conclusively.

          While the question of Ford's possible financial assistance to the Nazis remains a mystery, his aid to them through influence remains indisputable. When news of Jewish boycotts reached Hitler; he declared, "The struggle of international Jewish finance against Ford has only strengthened the sympathies of the National Socialist party for Ford and has given the broadest circulation of his book, The International Jew."161According to Nazi aide, Felix Kersten, Heinrich Himmler claimed that Ford's book had opened his eyes to the Jewish danger.162 Significantly, Ford was also the only American to be mentioned in Hitler's political testament, Mein Kampf- a book that owed much of its philosophy to The International Jew. "It is the Jews who govern the stock exchange forces of the American Union," Hitler stated in its pages. "Every year makes them more and more the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred and twenty millions; only a single great man, Ford, to their fury still maintains full independence."163

          However; even Ford could not always match the rabid fanaticism of the National Socialists. When it was revealed that Ford planned to give $7 million in war profits back to the government, the Nazis complained that he should have used the money "to fight the Hebrew boarders of Wall Street, who are more responsible than anyone else for Germany's economic misery. "164

          It is interesting to note that it was not just the Nazis that Ford was accused of financing. In 1927, it was reported that Ford had loaned $3,000 to a Hungarian anti-Semite named Laszlo Vannay. According to The New York Times, Vannay was "one of the most fanatical leaders against the Jews during the white terror in 1921."165 In an interview in the Magyarsag, Vannay claimed to have received the loan after complying with a request that he send proof of his anti-Semitic activities. He had sent Ford various newspaper articles and a copy of charges made against him by the Hungarian Attorney General for his anti-Semitic activities. 166 He also claimed that Ford had promised further support. In the weeks after Vannay made these claims, the Ford office received hundreds of similar requests for backing from other Hungarian anti-Semitic groups.

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End Notes

156. New York Times, 23 June 1923, 13.

157. Kurt Ludecke, I Knew Hitler: The Story of a Nazi who Escaped the Blood Purge (NewYork: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937), 197-200.

158. Ludecke, 273.

159. Pool and Pool, 126.

160. Sinclair; 235.

161. Pool and Pool, 90.

162. Poliakov, 254.

163. Adolf Hitler; Mein Kampf (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1943), 639.

164. Indiana Jewish Chronicle, 26 October 1923, 1.

165. New York Times, 28 April 1927, 4.

166. Ibid.

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