Henry Ford, Americana, and a History of Racism and Nationalism

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Bryan Grady, Staff Writer

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This August, thanks to the Charlottesville rallies, many Americans were shocked to learn that our country possessed such a vocal population of white nationalists, racists, and Nazis. Considering the flags seen at the rallies, the torches, and the chants including “Jews will not replace us,” calling these groups racist is accurate.
Some students at MHS blame current events, such as senior Oliver Calder: “This event isn’t unexpected, given that it is in direct correlation with the rise of nationalists in support of Trump.”
However, much of America has been taken aback by the rise of the alt-right, which is a term applied to white supremacists, extreme nationalists, and internet trolls. Many are treating this as a new emergence, as if America was somehow above this in the past, and these ideologies are only emerging due to the current administration, the internet or globalism. These are potential factors, but there are deeper undercurrents at work.
Fear of international forces, other races, and other religions is a long-standing tradition in America. This connects to some of our biggest historical figures. To quote history teacher Mr. Olivier: “You can go back to the Revolution and you can find examples of really prominent Americans that have […] been on the wrong side of history.”
A relevant example of America’s longstanding problem with hate can be shown through one figure: Henry Ford. Born in Michigan in 1863, Ford is remembered as an inspiring captain of industry by many Americans. He was also an inspiration for Hitler and aided the Nazi forces until 1942.
In 1919, Ford purchased the Dearborn Independent newspaper and circulated it through his dealerships. In 1920, the paper began to print a series of articles titled “The International Jew: The World’s Problem.” These anti-semitic articles would go on to be printed in collected volumes. These were translated into German right as Hitler was rising in power.
“You can tell Herr Ford that I am a great admirer of his,” Hitler said. “I shall do my best to put his theories into practice in Germany. […] I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.”
In 1938, Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi Germany, the highest award a foreigner could receive. However, he didn’t just earn it due to the Dearborn Independent.
Quoting The Nation: “German Ford served as an ‘arsenal of Nazism’ with the consent of headquarters in Dearborn, says a US Army report prepared in 1945.”
Ford’s German branch was established in 1925, and was controlled by Ford in Dearborn until 1942.
“Following Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, which set off World War II, German Ford became one of the largest suppliers of vehicles to the Wehrmacht […] By 1941 Ford of Germany had stopped manufacturing passenger vehicles and was devoting its entire production capacity to military trucks,” The Nation said.
Henry Ford, icon of industry, inspired and supplied the actual Nazis.
So remember: hate is not new. Even American heroes may participate in it, and we must do our best to keep from accepting it.

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