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In early 1940, Walt Disney was thinking of taking his studio public
and asked Ford for his advice on the enterprise. Ford expressed his admiration
for Disney because he was a successful Protestant in the film business-
a field dominated by Jews. However; Ford warned, Jews also controlled the
stock market, and Disney would be wise to sell his company outright rather
than lose it to "them" one piece at a time. Disney, who may have had anti-Semitic
leanings of his own, thanked Ford for his advice.279
It was not always in just his private circles that Ford would reveal
such views. After interviewing Ford in 1941, a reporter for the Manchester
Guardian later said, "The best thing he would say about the Jews was that
you couldn't do without them. The Gentiles wouldn't work if the Jews weren't
here."280 Public opinion polls also showed that the majority
of Americans, as high as 80%, still connected Henry Ford with anti-Semitism.
With the American declaration of war in December of 1941, it was decided
to present a new image of Ford to the American public. This was largely
due to the efforts of Edsel Ford. Edsel was instrumental in converting
the Ford Motor Company into a major arms producer for the allies, and had
made efforts to court the Jewish community for years. He and his son, Henry
Ford II, now took upon themselves the campaign against unauthorized distribution
of The International Jew.
By this time, Ernest Liebold had been removed from responding to Ford's
letters. This was largely due to the efforts of his rival, Harry Bennett.
Liebold had told Gerald L.K. Smith that the employment of Bennett had been
the worst thing to happen to the company. Bennett, for his part, made endless
efforts to get Liebold fired. According to Bennett, he was the one who
brought Liebold's "highly inappropriate" letter responses to Ford's attention.
"Mr. Ford was furious to see what kind of stuff Liebold had been sending
out," Bennett reported. "He instructed me to see to it that Liebold wrote
no more letters."281 Ford told Bennett
that he would not fire Liebold because that would please too many people
he did not like. Bennett, however; thought the truth was that Ford was
afraid of Liebold.
It was not just
Liebold about whom Ford was growing suspicious. When reflecting on Bennett
himself, Ford was heard to lament, "The Jews and Communists have been working
poor Harry until he's almost out of his mind."282
He was even heard to remark of Hitler; "Well, by God, we're through with
him. He's just power-drunk, like the rest of them."283
Liebold was eventually fired early in 1944, victim of one the periodic
purges of the Ford Company. Bennett would not have much longer before his
time also came. His removal was one of the first acts commissioned by Henry
Ford II when he gained control of the company in 1945.
As part of the effort to clean up the Ford image after Pearl Harbor; Edsel
and, suprisingly, Bennett, set up a meeting between the elder Ford and
Richard E. Gunsadt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Gunsadt
wrote a letter for Ford that was then sent to Sigmund Livingston, the League's
founding member. The letter; dated January 7, 1942, was later published
in newspapers across the country. It was meant as a public repudiation
of anti-Semitism on behalf of Ford. This time, it was, presumably, sent
with Ford's actual signature. The letter stated, in part, that "In our
present national and international emergency, I consider it of importance
that I clarify some general misconceptions concerning my attitude towards
my fellow citizens of Jewish faith. I do not subscribe or support, directly
or indirectly, any agitation which would promote antagonism against my
Jewish fellow-citizens. I consider that the hate-mongering prevalent for
some time in this country against the Jew is of a distinct disservice to
our country, and to the peace and welfare of humanity." The statement went
on to reiterate Ford's disassociation from the articles of The Dearborn
Independent, decried racial hatred as an effort "to weaken our national
unity," and urged citizens not to give aid to hate groups. The letter ended
on an ironic note, for one signed by Henry Ford: "It is my sincere hope
that now in this country and throughout the world, when this war is finished
and peace once again established, hatred of the Jew, commonly known as
antiSemitism.. .will cease for all time. "284
following month, Ford attorney, l.A. Capizzi, threatened the Ku Klux Klan
with legal action if it did not desist from further publication and distribution
of The International Jew. The Klan replied that it already had halted the
effort; it did not wish to issue "controversial articles" during wartime.
Capizzi also wrote Mexican Government official Miguel Aleman. In his letter;
Capizzi informed Mr. Aleman that Spanish translations in Mexico City and
Pueblo were works of the "German propaganda department," that any intimation
of Ford being the author was a "gross misrepresentation," and that assistance
in halting distribution of "this harmful exhibition of deceit" would be
greatly appreciated.285 That same month,
William J. Cameron, of all people, condemned anti-Semitism as "scurrilous
stuff, a vestige of tribal barbarism, the negation of humanity, intelligence,
and Christianity" on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour.286 This was
quite a change in tune, coming from the man who had accused the Jews themselves
of such things for years. The absence of Ernest Liebold as Ford's secretary
and the weakening health of the nearly eighty year old Ford were beginning
to be reflected in company policy. The Ford Motor Company was now actively
pursuing an end to The International Jew as it never had before.
By the mid 1940's,
Ford had suffered two strokes. He was to have his third, and most severe,
attack in May of 1945. According to witness Josephine Gomon, it happened
as Ford watched uncut footage of the Majdanek Concentration Camp in the
Ford Auditorium. "He never recovered his mind or physical strength," Gomon
later reported.287 After this, Ford claimed
that government agents were after him and made sure that his chauffeur
If Ford made
any connection between the grisly concentration camp footage and his own
actions, it was only re-enforced during the Nuremberg Trials. The leader
of Hitler's Labor Front, Robert Ley, wrote a letter to Ford from his cell
as he awaited trial. In view of their mutual interests, Ley wrote, he would
like to work for Ford after he was released. After all, he added, he had
done nothing more in the past few years than engage in anti-Semitic activities.288
Ley was later to hang himself.
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279. Marc Eliot, Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince (New York: Birch
Lane Press, 1993),136.
280. Lee, 122.
281. Bennett, 174.
282. Allan Nevins and Frank Hill, Ford: Decline and Rebirth (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963), 262.
283. Bennett, 213.
284. New York Times, 12 January 1942, 12.
285. New York Times, 1 February 1942, 35.
286. Sward, 462.
287. Lee, 137.
288. New York Times, 10 October 1945, 8.