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Henry Ford: From Slaughterhouse to Death Camp

 Excerpt from Chapter 3 of

Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust

by Charles Patterson, Ph.D.

 (New York: Lantern Books, 2002)    © 2002 Charles Patterson
  All rights reserved.     Used with permission.
Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust by Charles Patterson, Ph.D. "Henry Ford, who was so impressed by the efficient way meat packers killed animals in Chicago, made his own special contribution to the slaughter of people in Europe. Not only did he develop the assembly-line method the Germans used to kill Jews, but he launched a vicious anti-Semitic campaign that helped the Holocaust happen." Charles Patterson, Ph.D.

Part One  |  Part Two  |  Part Three  |  Part Four

The campaign began on May 22, 1920, when Ford's weekly newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, suddenly changed its format and started attacking Jews. At the time the paper had a circulation of about 300,000 8  and was distributed nationally by Ford automobile dealers. 9  At the time nativism and prejudice were very much part of the national climate, with intense racism and anti-Semitism on the rise and the nation preparing to adopt a national origins quota system to stem the admission of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. The anti-Semitism evident in 1915 with the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman in Atlanta, was increasing with the rapid spread of the anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic message of the Ku Klux Klan, which by 1924 had a national membership of more than four million.

During the first phase of Ford's campaign, which lasted until January, 1922, the Independent published a series of ninety-one articles based on the text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic forgery written in the 1890s by an agent working for the Russian secret police in Paris. Boris Brasol, a Russian refugee who had worked for the Czarist government and was promoting the Protocols in America, gave a copy of the Protocols to Ford's right-hand man, Ernest Liebold, who was directing the campaign.10 The Protocols pretended to be a series of twenty-four lectures by the "elders" of Judaism about their secret plan to control the world.

One of the most vicious anti-Semitic tracts ever circulated, it had fueled a series of pogroms against Jewish communities in Russia. The Protocols gained worldwide recognition after World War I when the devastation of the war, the Russian Revolution, and the unrest in Germany gave anti-Semites the chance to claim that an international Jewish conspiracy was behind all the turmoil. As Keith Sward wrote, "no manual on Jew-baiting had more to offer."11

Ford also published four anti-Semitic brochures, each one based on twenty or more of the ninety-one articles that had appeared in the Independent, and a book-length compilation of the articles entitled The International Jew. Although the Independent's criticism of Jews was more sporadic from 1922 to 1924, during that time Ford's anti-Semitic publications were spreading throughout the world. The International Jew was translated into most of the European languages and widely disseminated by anti-Semites, chief among them the German publisher Theodor Fritsch, an early supporter of Hitler. The brochures and The International Jew influenced many readers, writes David Lewis, "all the more because they carried the imprint, not of a crackpot publisher in an alleyway, but of one of the most famous and successful men in the world."12

The Independent's editor, William J. Cameron, edited and updated the text of the Protocols so effectively that the Ford version became the text preferred by anti-Semites around the world, And, thanks to a well-financed publicity campaign and the prestige of the Ford name, The International Jew was hugely successful both domestically and internationally. An estimated half million copies circulated in the United States,13 and the German, Russian, and Spanish translations also reached large numbers of readers.

The International Jew found its most receptive audience in Germany where Ford was enormously popular. When he announced plans to build a plant there, Germans stood in lines all night to buy Ford stock. When Ford's autobiography went on sale in Germany, it immediately became the country's number one bestseller. In Germany The International Jew (or The Eternal Jew as it came to be known there) became the bible of the postwar anti-Semitic movement, with the Fritsch's publishing house printing six editions between 1920 and 1922.

After Ford's book came to the attention of Hitler and his followers in Munich, the Nazis used a shortened version of it in their propaganda war against the Jews of Germany. In 1923, a Chicago Tribune correspondent in Germany reported that Hitler's organization in Munich was "sending out Mr. Ford's the carload."
Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth movement and the son of an aristocratic German father and an American mother (two of whose ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence), said at the postwar Nuremberg war crimes trial that he became a convinced anti-Semite at age seventeen after reading The Eternal Jew.15 "You have no idea what a great influence this book had on the thinking of German youth," he said. "The younger generation looked with envy to symbols of success and prosperity like Henry Ford, and if he said the Jews were to blame, why naturally we believed him."16

Previous   Part Three

8 From 1923 to 1927 the magazine's circulation exceeded 500,000. David L. Lewis, The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American Folk Hero and His Company (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1976), 135.
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Dealers who filled their subscription quotas received Ford cars as prizes, while dealers reluctant to sell subscriptions received threatening legalistic letters insisting they sell the newspaper. Reprints of the newspaper were bound into booklets and distributed to libraries and YMCAs throughout the country. Edwin Black, The Transfer Agreement: The Untold Story of the Secret Agreement Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine (New York: Macmillan, 1984), 27.
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10 Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (London: Serif, 1996), 176-7.
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11 Keith Sward, The Legend of Henry Ford (New York: Rinehart, 1948), 149.
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12 Lewis, Public Image, 142-3.
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13 Robert Waite writes that some three million copies were sold or given away as a public service to high school, municipal, and college libraries. Robert G. L. Waite, The Psychopathic God Adolf Hitler (New York: Basic Books, 1977), 138.
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14 Albert Lee, Henry Ford and the Jews (New York: Stein and Day, 1980), 51.
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15 Robert Wistrich, Who's Who in Nazi Germany (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982), 271.
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16 Lewis, Public Image, 143.
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Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, by Charles Patterson, Ph.D. (New York: Lantern Books, 2002) Copyright 2002 Charles Patterson Used with permission For more information about the book visit

* * * * *

Dr. Charles Patterson has a Ph.D. in Religion from Columbia University.
He is the author of:

Anti-Semitism: The Road to the Holocaust and Beyond    Excerpt - Chapter One

Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust    Excerpt from Chapter Three

From Buchenwald to Carnegie Hall (co-author).

Read more about Dr. Charles Patterson

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