Henry Ford was a genius at innovation, creating the first mass-produced automobile, which made him rich. However, he also had a stubborn conviction in his own beliefs, no matter how far-fetched.
In 1919 Ford bought The Dearborn Independent, billing it as the Chronicler of Neglected Truth. He wrote opinionated articles, including a 91-week series entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Problem,” which stated that there was a “Jewish conspiracy to control the world.” He told The New York Times in 1922 about how he met two Jews on a ship and they convinced him “about the power of the Jewish race, how they controlled the world through their control of gold and that the Jew, and no one but the Jew, could stop the war.” Ford blamed Jewish financiers for everything from starting WWI to attempting to undermine Ford Company sales. He said in another NYT interview that the Jew “is the cause of all the abnormality in our daily life because he is the money maniac. Once cannot blame him as long as he is able to play his game.”
The Dearborn Independent was distributed throughout the country’s Ford dealerships, reaching a circulation of 900,000 by 1925. Also, because Ford was one of the richest and most influential men in America, everything he said was news. So the word spread about this beliefs and strong anti-Semitism.
In 1922, rumors began surfacing that Ford helped finance Adolph Hiter’s rise to power in Germany. There was a huge influx of cash to Hitler’s campaign, and Ford’s portrait and bound copies of “The International Jew” series were seen in Hitler’s first Nazi Party Office. In his 1925 book Mein Kampf, or My Struggle, Hitler wrote, “”It is Jews who govern the Stock Exchange forces of the American union. Every year makes them more and more the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred and twenty millions; only a single great man, Ford, to their fury, still maintains full independence.” In February 1924, Ford met with Hitler’s representative, Kurt Kudecke, in his home. Hitler was supposed to have said, “You can tell Herr Ford that I am a great admirer of his. . . I shall do my best to put his theories into practice in Germany . . . . I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.”
Facing a $1 million libel suit in 1927, Ford retracted the attacks against Jews he made, writing that he wants to “make amends for the wrong done to the Jews as fellowmen and brothers, by asking their forgiveness for the harm I have unintentionally committed.” He stopped his crusade in The Dearborn Independent. But that didn’t mean his beliefs had changed, he was just not as vocal.
On July 30, 1938, Henry Ford was presented with the Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle on his 75th birthday. He is the first American recipient of the highest honor Nazi Germany could give to any foreigner. In response, American Jews boycotted Ford vehicles. To win them back, Ford made another retraction stating in a letter that “I do not subscribe to or support, directly of indirectly, any agitation which would promote antagonism against my Jewish fellow citizens.”
Some historians have claimed that when Ford saw newsreels of the Nazi concentration camps, it caused one of the strokes that eventually killed him age 83 in 1947.