Henry Ford and the Jews

Neil Baldwin

Read May 2003

Many of us have known, vaguely, that Henry Ford was a rather unpleasant little character, particularly in his views of Jews and World Orders. Baldwin, in a solid piece of reporting, lays out this case in extensive detail. He demonstrates how Ford created his own paper, the Dearborn Independent, as a mouthpiece for some of his most distasteful views; how he forced his car's dealers to compell newpaper subscriptions out of car purchasers; and how he led the publication and dissemination of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the US. Baldwin also highlights the esteem in which the Nazi's held Ford (an impression Ford did nothing to discourage). Baldwin loosely touches on the questionable leanings of Ford's friends and fellow American icons, Edison and Lindbergh, though their stories are better documented elsewhere. The book gives the sense of being thoroughly researched and, while Baldwin has an obvious slant (against Ford), he tries to make a fairly even-handed case, acquiting or tempering the case against Ford in some instances (especially in connection with the Nazi's). One senses a writer who wants to brook no accusation of over-dramatization, thus strengthening his indictment of Ford.

Yet for all this, there's something mildly dissatisfying about Baldwin's account. It's hardly surprising that Ford, or indeed that a good number of his compatriots, held views we now find distasteful. The case I find Baldwin does not make is that this had any serious impact on the public. As the book clearly demonstrates, the Dearborn Independent never grew to be any kind of major publication, and its run lasted only a few years despite Ford's deep pockets. Ford eventually won the disapprobation of numerous editorial sources; even his company and family eventually strove to distance themselves from his views. And the lack of public outrage is, perhaps, surprising today, but less so when you put it in its historical context. At the very least, it seems Ford could have made matters much worse in the US—something he plainly failed to accomplish. Thank goodness.