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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 the aftermath of Ford's retraction, a friend recalled asking him over a game of golf why he had started his anti-Jewish campaign in the first place. "I don't hate the Jews," Ford replied, defensively. "I want to be their friends." When the friend inquired further, Ford elaborated: " The Jews have gone along during the ages making themselves disliked, right? They ignored their own splendid teachers and statesmen. Even they could not get their people to mend their obnoxious habits. I thought by taking a club to them I might be able to do it."220

          It is interesting to note that Ford appeared to blame Jews for the rapid changes taking place in America. Old time values seemed to be eroding as people became more "urbanized." In an attempt to turn back the clock, Ford built a museum and a village in Dearborn that celebrated the simple virtues of his youth. He reissued McGuffey's Readers and gathered a massive collection of nostalgic antiques- ironically, with the aid of a Jewish dealer.

          What Ford did not seem to realize, however, was that he was as responsible as anyone for the changes that were taking place in society. His Model T had done much to urbanize America by allowing people to travel farther, faster, and cheaper. The assembly line production that he advocated had undermined the craftsmanship that he now championed. He blamed "monied Jews" as a scapegoat while he was one of the richest and most influential men in America.

          For a while after the apology, however, Ford publicly attempted to heal the wounds that existed between himself and the Jewish community. He utilized approximately 12% of his total advertising expenditures for the Model A on ads in Jewish publications.221 He attended, and was warmly received, at a number of Jewish banquets and receptions. He rekindled his old friendship with Rabbi Leo Franklin and had meetings with Louis Marshall. He snubbed the Nazis during a 1930 visit to Munich. He further refused to see their "shabbily dressed" representative who knocked on his hotel door and ignored their request for a 20,000,000 mark donation, 222 he even stated that he would fire William J. Cameron and donate his anti-Semitic collection of books, magazines, and clippings to Cincinnati's Hebrew Union College. Both of these two promises, however, went unfulfilled.

          Ford had also publicly vowed to halt all printings of The International Jew across the globe. However, this would be no simple matter. Samuel Untermeyer, who had acted as Bernstein's lawyer, underscored their widespread influence soon after the end of the Bernstein suit: "Wherever I went on my recent world tour, even into the most remote corners of the earth, in every county, city, and hamlet, the Ford cars were to be found. Wherever there was a Ford car there was a Ford agency not far away, and wherever there was a Ford agency these vile, libelous books in the language of that country were to be found.... These articles are so fantastic and so naive in their incredible fantasy, they read like the work of a lunatic and but for the authority of the Ford name, they would have never seen the light of day and would have been quite harmless if they had. With that name, they spread like wildfire and became the bible of every anti-Semite.... "223

          Several publishers, including Theodor Fritsch of Leipzig, Andre E deRunge of Sao Paulo, and V.A. Kessler of Berlin, refused to cease publishing unless they were given monetary compensation for losses. By 1933, Fritsch had published 29 editions of the book, and demanded 40,000 marks to stop his enterprise. In reply to the Ford request, Fritsch sent a letter which expressed puzzlement over why Ford would want to destroy such "inestimable mental goods," the publication of which had "remained the most important action" of Ford's life.224 Louis Marshall himself advised Ford not to pay Fritsch off, stating that it would be like "coming into contact with a lion who has tasted blood- he can never be satisfied."225 Instead, Liebold wrote to Edmund C. Heine, the American manager of the Ford Motor Company in Germany, concerning the matter. Heine responded that The International Jew "had strong government backing" and was an important educational tool for the people of Germany "to understand the Jewish problem as it should be understood."226 Therefore, Fritsch refused to stop his publishing venture. This, apparently, was good enough for Liebold, who wrote back, "We understand the matter perfectly and this thoroughly answers our recent inquiry. "227

          In 1932, a Brazilian book company wrote to Ford and requested the publishing rights to The International Jew. Liebold wrote back that such permission was not necessary "since the book has not been copyrighted in this country."228 Liebold conveniently failed to mention that the book was no longer supposed to be circulating. Because of this, the Brazilians published an edition of 5,000 copies of the book before being again notified and asked to cease publication. By this point, a large number of copies had already been sold.

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End Notes

220. Richards, 102.

221. Lewis, 147.

222. New York Times, 26 September 1930, 12.

223. New York Times, 25 July 1927, 1.

224. Gelderman, 235.

225. Ibid.

226. Pool and Pool, 91.

227. Lewis, 148.

228. Ibid.

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