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Mainstream, VOL LV No 44 New Delhi October 21, 2017

Nazism and the American Automobile Giant

Monday 23 October 2017, by Arup Kumar Sen

Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company (FMC) in America made a revolution in the world of automobiles by manufacturing the Model-T car, a low-price “people’s car†, and innovating assembly line technology, a technology of mass production. These innovations made Henry Ford a household name in America. He is described as a hero in the textbooks written for American schoolchildren. But, there is a dark side of the success story of Ford.

Henry Ford was a committed anti-Semitic. By the beginning of the 1920s, Ford published a series of ninetyone anti-Semitic tracts, each one introduced by a Protocol, blaming the Jews for virtually all of the world’s ills. In December 1922, a reporter from the New York Times took an interview of a relatively unknown German politician, Adolf Hitler. The reporter found Henry Ford’s portrait prominently displayed on the walls of Hitler’s personal office. To put it in the words of the reporter:

“The wall behind his desk in Hitler’s private office is decorated with a large picture of Henry Ford. In the antechamber there is a large table covered with books, nearly all of which are a translation of a book written and published by Henry Ford.â€

The book referred to by the reporter was Henry Ford’s famous book, which incorporated his anti-Semitic writings, The International Jew. When the work was translated into German, leaders of the Nazi Party were captivated by Ford’s philosophy. Subsequently, it was made into a propaganda film by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. Through the veteran German publication, Hammer, Henry Ford became a household name in German Rightwing radical circles. It was Hammer that translated Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic book into German. By April 1927, Hammer reported a circulation of 90,000 copies of the German translation of the book.

According to Prince Louis Ferdinand, Hitler told him over lunch in 1933 that he was “a great admirer of Ford’s†and would do his “best to put his theories into practice in Germany†. In fact, Nazi engineers and industrial managers adapted the technological and functional aspects of Fordism. Assembly lines and vertical integration had considerable appeal in Germany after 1936 for industrial rationalisation. On July 30, 1938, on the occasion of his 75th birthday, Henry Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, created in 1937 by the Nazi leadership to honour its allies abroad. Mussolini was the first recipient of the Cross. It may be mentioned in this connection that when Thomas Watson, the key person of IBM, was honoured with the Merit Cross of the German Eagle with Star in 1937, he publicly conveyed to Hitler his “pride in and deep gratitude for†the award.

Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line technology was adapted by the Nazis in the concentration and extermination camps. The “Nazis used the processes of mass production... to murder some 6 million people†. ï ®

Sources

1. Antony C. Sutton, Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler: The astonishing true story of the American financiers who bankrolled the Nazis, Chapter 6, Clairview Books, 2010.

2. Daniel Warsh, ‘The Silent Partner: How the Ford Motor Company Became an Arsenal of Nazism’, a Senior Thesis submitted for Honours in History, University of Pennsylvania, 2008.

3. Marilyn A. Dyrud, ‘Engineering Ethics and Corporate America: The Case of Ford Motor Company’ in Proceedings of the 2015 Conference for Industry and EducationCollaboration, American Society for Engineering Education, 2015.

4. Stefan Link, ‘Rethinking the Ford-Nazi Connection’ in Bulletin of the GHI, Fall 2011.

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