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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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          The evening before he was scheduled to testify, Ford stumbled through the gates of his home bearing a number of cuts and bruises. He told his shocked wife that he had just been involved in an automobile accident, and was quickly rushed to the nearby Henry Ford Hospital. Constant news bulletins updated the nation on his condition, which ranged from being on the brink of death to rapidly recovering. It was eventually revealed that Ford had suffered no broken bones or internal injury. Although he had a cut on his forehead and bruises on his chest, the attending doctor reported that "the shock of the mishap was the chief thing the matter with Mr. Ford."190

          Ford's account of the accident held that a mysterious Studebaker had forced him off the side of the road. He was then plunged down a fifteen-foot embankment and into a tree, barely avoiding a fall into a nearby river. He would be in no condition to testify for quite some time. Meanwhile, in the words of his doctor; all he could do was wait "for nature to heal him."191 While speculation abounded that Ford had been the victim of a murder plot, Ford himself insisted that the mishap was unintentional and strongly urged that the matter be dropped.

           As sympathizers sent letters of encouragement to Ford and wished him a fast recovery, it was obvious to some that the whole episode was ridiculously suspicious. The only witnesses to the incident were two boys. One had not really seen anything while the other; Carl Makivitz, claimed to have seen the Ford coupe in a ditch, with one man pushing it while another sat in the driver's seat. The account was dismissed by a Ford investigator; who stated, "Malkovitz, a talkative boy, told several stories in his excitement."192 Sapiro, however; publicly stated his belief that the accident was "completely manufactured" as an excuse to keep Ford off the stand.193

           This seemingly obvious conclusion was expanded on years later by Ford's chief investigator of the period, Harry Bennett. "I'm going to find out who knocked you into the river if it takes the rest of my life," Bennett claimed to have told Ford soon after the accident. "Now you just drop this," Ford calmly replied. "Probably it was just a bunch of kids." However; Bennett kept persisting, until Ford cryptically blurted out, "Well, Harry, I wasn't in that car when it went down into the river. I don't know how it got down there. But now we've got a good chance to settle this thing. We can say we want to settle it because my life is in danger."194

          While Ford was at home "recovering," Sapiro had taken the witness stand in the ongoing case. As Ford's lawyers grilled him over his business practices, however; Ford's detectives were making examinations of their own. Some fifty investigators had been put to work tapping phones, wiring rooms, and harassing various witnesses.195 Amazingly, on April 22, Ford's legal team accused the Sapiro counsel of jury tampering. According to the investigators, juror Cora Hoffman had told witnesses before the trial that having her on the case would be unhealthy for "old Mr. Ford." They further alleged that the Sapiro counsel had attempted to bribe her "with thousands" through a man with a "Jewish cast of countenance." An outraged Mrs. Hoffman denied the allegations in The Detroit Times, adding, "It seems to me that someone is trying to keep this case away from the jury. "196

          As a result of Mrs. Hoffman's comment to the press, Judge Raymond declared a mistrial, adding that justice had been "crucified upon the cross of unethical and depraved journalism."197 It appeared to many that justice had, indeed, been crucified- but not because of the press. Sapiro and his attorneys, for one, were convinced that they had been on the road to a winning case. They felt that Ford and his attorneys also realized this, and had sabotaged the trial before such a verdict could be declared. Sapiro had been on his way to victory according to one juror; who declared, "The jury almost unanimously believed that the defense had collapsed and that the plaintiff was justified in bringing the suit. He was in a fair way to get a verdict."198

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End Notes

190. New York Times, 2 April 1927, 1.

191. Ibid.

192. New York Times, 1 April 1927, 1.

193. Indiana Jewish Chronicle, 27 March 1927, 1.

194. Bennett, 93.

195. New York Times, 22 April 1927, 1.

196. New York Times, 21 April 1927, 1.

197. New York Times, 22 April 1927, 1.

198. Ibid.

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