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MLive’s fascinating facts about Henry Ford: False claims and glossing over Ford’s connection to Nazi Germany

July 11, 2017

On Friday, July 7, Mlive posted an article entitled, 14 Fascinating Facts about Henry Ford. 

The article, like much of contemporary journalism, centers around superficial aspects of personalities and celebrities. Most of the 14 facts would only interest those who seeks to understand the man and the entrepreneur, facts like where he was born, his interest in planes, his role as a father and that he may have fathered a child outside of marriage.

However, there were two “facts” included in the last of 14 that are worth discussing. One  claims that Ford invented the weekend or more specifically the 8 hour work day, and the other interesting “fact” identified Ford as an anti-Semite. Let’s begin with the 8 hour work day claim.

The MLive article states, “Ford is frequently credited for pioneering the five-day, 40-hour work week – reduced from six days and 48 hours – believing leisure time was not only beneficial and valuable for his workers, but also something to be enjoyed by all social and economic classes.”

This claim is just utter non-sense. Organized labor had been fighting for an 8 hour work day since the middle of the 19th century, with various trades adopting such a policy on a factory by factory basis. However, let us be clear by saying that no industry boss or capitalist ever just invented the weekend or gave workers an 8 hour day. Unions fought to make those gains, through a variety of tactics, including strikes, walkouts, work slowdowns and sabotage. The fact that any industry boss or capitalist ever agreed to an 8 hour work day was simply because it became too much of a financial risk to not grant workers the right to an 8 hour day.

It is no secret that Henry Ford hated organized labor. Ford hated unions so much that he hired former boxer Harry Bennett to head up the Ford Motor Company’s Service Department, “which was designed to suppress union organizing and strikes, and constituted to world’s largest private army, numbering between 3,500 and 6,000 men,” according to Sharon Smith’s book, Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States.

As for the claim that Henry Ford was an anti-Semite, this was true. The MLive post states the following:

“No doubt, Ford was a complicated man, and this is his ugly underbelly. From 1920-27, Ford owned the Dearborn Independent newspaper, which ran anti-Semitic articles dictated by and credited to the industrialist. The articles became a book titled “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem,” a notorious tome that became affiliated with the Reichstag. Ford was reportedly admired by none other than Adolf Hitler, and in 1938, Ford accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a Nazi medal. Ford eventually renounced his writings.”

Henry Ford was indeed an anti-Semite, but the brief commentary in no way does justice to what Ford actually believed and how it impacted his company’s dealing, both while he was alive and after his death.

Henry Ford did own and operate the Dearborn Independent from 1919 – 1927, although his anti-Jewish beliefs had begun before that. When Ford took over the newspaper, he moved it to one of his factories. Henry Ford was also deeply influenced by the book, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. This book claimed there was a global Jewish conspiracy and that was a mix of global finance and global war-making. Ford even re-printed sections of the book in the Dearborn Independent, under a regular heading of, “The International Jew – The World’s Problem.”

Adolf Hitler did speak highly of Henry Ford and did award him a Nazi medal. What the MLive piece fails to mention is that the Ford Motor Company manufactured Nazi pins for Germany, that Henry Ford met with Nazi agents in his Detroit office and that the Ford Motor Company and Nazi Germany enjoyed a rather lengthy relationship all the way through the end of WWII.

According to Christopher Simpson’s book, The Splendid Blonde Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, the Ford Motor Company engaged in what was called the Aryanization of Germany. The Aryanization of Germany included the takeover of formerly-owned Jewish companies or Jewish land by the German state or by companies like the Ford Motor Company. In addition, Simpson documents the use of forced labor by the Ford Motor Company in Nazi Germany.

Edwin Black, in his book the, Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connections to Hitler’s Holocaust, cites a 1945 US Army report, which called Ford, “the arsenal of Nazism” with the consent of the company in Dearborn.

The Ford Motor Company operated factories throughout Germany during WWII, for both automobile manufacturing and for the production of munitions for the Nazi army. (Nazi Nexus) In addition, the Ford Motor company was manufacturing vehicles that were used by the Nazi military up until at least 1944, mostly at their facilities in Detroit/Dearborn. This dynamic is well documented in Charles Higham’s book, Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933 – 1949.

Therefore, eulogizing the person of Henry Ford by the MLive reporter not only presents mostly useless information about one of the first automobile barons in the US, it misinforms the public about the real practices and policies of the Henry Ford and his Ford Motor Company.

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