Between 1920 and 1927 Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent
published weekly articles on "The International Jew: The World's
Foremost Problem." This American hero of the Industrial Age also
spent much energy and money on the translation and publication of
the infamous forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as well
as many other anti-Semitic tracts. In HENRY FORD AND THE JEWS, Neil
Baldwin tells the story of anti-Semitism in the early 20th century
through the biography of Henry Ford.
However, this is not a biography in the usual sense. Ford is only
ostensibly the subject of this book. In reality, Baldwin has
documented some of the subtle, and not so subtle, anti-Semitism
that infested American culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. He
sheds light as well on American socio-cultural history and on some
of the figures who industrialized the nation.
Henry Ford was nurtured by the public school textbooks penned by
William Holmes McGuffey. These books along with the general climate
around him instilled in Ford the stereotype of Jews as the greedy
and perverse Shylock. This bigoted view was not atypical, as
Baldwin illustrates, and was reinforced for Ford as he grew up and
even in his adult life by his social circle, which included Thomas
Edison and Charles Lindburgh.
This is a part of American history not taught in school: American
icons, such as Ford and Edison, discussed in relation to their
contributions to anti-Semitism in the United States (and in Ford's
case in Germany also). The book, however, is not slanderous.
Instead, it is brutally honest about cherished figures. Baldwin
also shows the spirit of freedom and forgiveness exemplified by
American Jewish leaders and communities and those non-Jews who
stood in their defense. Henry Ford II, Ford's grandson, is a
notable figure as he begins to repair the damage done by his
grandfather's beliefs and actions --- after his grandfather's
retirement and death.
The Henry Ford/Adolf Hitler connection is, to say the least,
disturbing. Baldwin is careful to delineate between influence and
direct support. Baldwin asserts that Hitler hung a portrait of Ford
in his office and read all his publications, yet notes that there
is no evidence suggesting that Ford contributed monetarily to the
Nazi Party (although he received a medal of honor from them, and
Fords were produced in Occupied Europe throughout the war).
The details of not only Ford's story but of anti-Semitism in
America will be surprising for those who have never read nor
researched them before. Baldwin does include some of the long
history of Judeophobia in Europe and the U. S. but assumes at least
a nominal familiarity with the topic and its vocabulary. Overall,
the book is accessible to readers; it is intelligent and
provocative but not overly academic in tone. It captures a man who,
upon reading, becomes a conflicted figure, one whose ingenuity and
creativity unfortunately coexisted with his hatred and
HENRY FORD AND THE JEWS is a frightening tale. It may not be the
best written nonfiction you will read, but its subject matter is
important and it will change how you look at Henry Ford and modern
American cultural history.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011
Henry Ford and the Jews the Mass Production of Hate