Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate
“A revealing, meticulously researched, detailed and comprehensively reported book about hate, its causes and consequences – particularly important in these times.”
– Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action
“Both my anger and my surprise grew steadily as I delved ever more deeply into Henry Ford’s story and psyche. Neil Baldwin has done a wonderful job of uncovering a forgotten dimension – not just of corporate history, but of American history. This is an important book that deserves to be widely read.”
– Bryan Burrough, author of Barbarians at the Gate
A visitor to Nazi Party headquarters in Munich in the winter of 1922 would have immediately observed a large table covered with copies of the German edition of The International Jew by Henry Ford, and a framed photograph of the industrialist-author hanging on Adolf Hitler’s office wall. In Henry Ford and the Jews, biographer Neil Baldwin reveals the complex tale of how “Heinrich” Ford promoted a virulent brand of antisemitism, disseminating his point of view through a privately-published newspaper, The Dearborn Independent — and how the Jewish American community responded with alarm and courage.
Born on July 30, 1863, Henry Ford was raised on a prosperous farm near Dearbornville, Michigan. His early intellectual growth was dominated by The McGuffey Reader, a popular schoolbook featuring Shakespeare’s Shylock, and traditional scriptural interpretations condemning Jews for not accepting Jesus Christ as the son of God. Countless young people of the Populist era absorbed these stereotypical messages but never embraced rabid antisemitism.
Henry Ford was different.
The same formidable will power and organizational instincts that led to Ford’s renown and success as the inventor of the automobile assembly line, the same obsessive determination and singular focus that created the Ford Motor Company, resulted in the destructive mass production of hate. With America heading into World War I, Ford’s media campaign took off, and continued well into the 1930s, as he published The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, The International Jew, and, for ninety-one consecutive weeks, an uninterrupted series of venomous essays in The Dearborn Independent. Declaring “I know who caused the war,” Henry Ford became ever more convinced that these “parasites, these sloths and lunatics…apostles of murder,” the “German-Jewish bankers” were liable for society’s ills.
With access to previously-uncited oral history transcripts, archival correspondence, and unpublished family memoirs, Neil Baldwin painstakingly interprets Henry Ford’s bizarre statements, erratic deeds and halting apologies. He examines the influential, conservative biases of the men at the inner circle of the Ford Motor Company, and carefully recounts the painful ideological struggles among an elite Jewish leadership reluctantly pitted against the clout and popularity of “The Flivver King.” And he traces Ford’s unmistakable impact upon the growing antisemitic movement in Europe during the anxious decade leading up to World War II.
Henry Ford and the Jews is the tragic, cautionary story of an American entrepreneur on a misguided mission.