Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

A notorious four-volume publication I acquired this week serves as a stark reminder of how, in the not-so-distant past, anti-Semitism was a socially acceptable, mainstream attitude in the United States. It reached a point, where one of the wealthiest men in the New World unabashedly promoted and published outlandish and imaginary anti-Semitic conspiracies passed off as journalism. There was little, if any, pushback from the general gentile population, either from the Right or the Left.

The International Jew is a set of anti-Semitic books published by the Dearborn Publishing Company, owned and promoted by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. At the time of its publication in 1920, The Ku Klux Klan membership had reached four million, and the U.S. had recently created laws severely limiting Eastern European Jewish Immigration.

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Similar to our day, when the uber-wealthy purchase newspapers to promote and make their views mainstream, Henry Ford in 1918 purchased his hometown newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Shortly afterward, the Dearborn Independent started publishing a series of 91 issues claiming to describe a vast Jewish conspiracy to control the world, create world wars and the like, oftentimes eerily similar to those published in the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ford actually published an English translation of the book, a forgery in which a small group of Jews is said to have determined the fate of the world.

Ford was in a unique position to propagate his views. Aside from his hundreds of thousands of subscribers, he had a network of dealerships for his Ford vehicles, which he used as well to distribute his anti-Semitic publications. Every Ford dealership was said to have carried stacks of his newspapers, and some dealerships would ensure that a copy of Ford’s publication would be placed in every car that was sold.

Due to his prominence and popularity, Ford’s influence tragically carried much further than the United States, influencing Nazi Germany and its leaders. By 1922, it was translated into German. One Nazi Leader, Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth, testifying at Nuremberg said, “I read it and became anti-Semitic. In those days this book made such a deep impression on my friends and myself because we saw in Henry Ford the representative of success, also the exponent of a progressive social policy. In the poverty-stricken and wretched Germany of the time, youth looked toward America, and apart from the great benefactor, Herbert Hoover, it was Henry Ford who to us represented America.”

Hitler, y”s, quoted Ford in his Mein Kampf, and a portrait of Ford hung in Hitler’s Munich office. There were also business connections between Ford and the Nazi state. It is impossible to quantify the harm caused by Ford to Jewish life; it is safe to say that he was a large contributing factor to the closure of the United States to immigrants escaping the Nazi killing machine. In the environment in which Ford thrived, Jews were weary of attempting to influence policy to allow more immigrants entry into the U.S., contributing to the bulk of European Jews being led to their deaths under the Third Reich.

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and JudaicaUsed.com. He can be reached at JudaicaUsed@gmail.com.