Hitler's "Great Man": Reversing the Legacy

Hitler's "Great Man": Reversing the Legacy

In 1925 Adolf Hitler published his notorious two-volume manifesto titled Mein Kampf (My Struggle). It was an autobiographical book written in prison. This publication outlined Hitler’s ideology and aggressively promoted nationalism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Communism. The book became a central element of Nazi propaganda.

It is difficult to disagree with Erich Fromm who in his fundamental work The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness characterized Hitler as a narcissist and extremely authoritarian person. Fromm meticulously analyzed Hitler’s life, his parents, early years and adulthood and unearthed many specific features of Hitler’s personality. One of these was Hitler's defective sense of reality. The Nazi dictator lived in a mixture of the world of fantasy and the real world.

The book Mein Kampf perfectly reflects Hitler’s inability to perceive facts adequately. It is all the more interesting to find in this book a statement about an icon of the American automotive industry. Accusing the Jews who according to Hitler “govern the stock exchange forces of the American Union” and characterizing them as “more and more the controlling masters of the producers” the Nazi dictator mentions the “only a single great man, Ford” who supposedly “still maintains full independence.” Do the words about Henry Ford belong to reality? Why did Hitler decide to mention him in the book?

In fact, Hitler not only believed that Henry Ford was independent, but also that he was a "great man." There are very few people in the world today who would like to have their names found in Hitler's publications, with the adjective "great" clearly indicating Hitler's favor.

How did the American legend Henry Ford win the admiration of Hitler?

The answer is startling.

Ford’s Dark Legacy

Sadly, the greatness, success, and talent that the pillar of American engineering undoubtedly possessed, did not prevent him from living in a reality no less distorted than that of Adolf Hitler. Ford's world was a realm of idealistic illusions and either naive fantasies or a fanatical belief in pink unicorns. How do we know that? Let us learn some facts about Henry Ford's life.

He bought a newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, which was actually heavily dependent on its new owner. After Ford took control of the newspaper, every Ford dealership in the country was required to stock and distribute The Dearborn Independent to its customers. Ford was publishing articles in that newspaper where he promoted his ideas about supposed Jewish power and its alleged harm to the American society. Circulation of The Dearborn Independent eventually reached 900,000. Ford's publications were read far beyond America. Historians believe that even some Nazi leaders were influenced by these publications. Even Hitler himself stated that he considered Henry Ford to be his inspiration. Racists and nationalists still use Ford's ideas today.

Ford's book "Aspects of Jewish Power in the United States," which was based on articles Ford had written earlier, contains highly anti-Semitic content and extraordinary statements about Jewish people. Because of Ford's fame, readers accepted many of his ideas. Ford relied heavily on harmful stereotypes about a perceived Jewish influence, but his authority gave these statements credibility in the eyes of his readers. In reality, however, his charges were highly biased and ridiculous. Later, "Aspects of Jewish Power" was published in Germany and praised by the Nazis. Of course, the publication of this book contributed to the cause of the Holocaust.

Changed Mind

Because of a lawsuit, opposition from Jewish groups, American politicians, and some Christians, and a boycott of Ford products, Ford decided to close his newspaper. He publicly apologized and ostensibly changed his views, although many historians believe he did so under economic and reputational pressure.

People reacted differently. Some accepted the apology, others remained silent. Some used humor and irony, such as The Happiness Boys, a popular radio show of the early 1920s, who recorded a ditty:

Since Henry Ford Apologized to Me

I was sad and I was blue
But now I'm just as good as you
Since Henry Ford apologized to me
I've thrown away my little Chevrolet
And bought myself a Ford Coupe
I told the Sup'rintendent that
The Dearborn Independent
Doesn't have to hang up where it used to be
I'm glad he changed his point of view
And I even like Edsel too,
Since Henry Ford apologized to me

My mother says she'll feed him if he calls
“Gefilte fish” and Matzah balls
And if he runs for President
I wouldn't charge a single cent
I'll cast my ballot absolutely free
Since Henry Ford apologized to me.

New Era

In 1945, Henry Ford II, a grandson of Henry Ford, became the head of the Ford Company. His attitude toward the Jewish people was completely opposite. Henry Ford II actively supported the American Jews. He is also known for his support of the State of Israel. Henry Ford II reportedly expressed apology for his grandfather's anti-Semitic position.

ford article iii

Even earlier, around 1940, the Ford Motor Company began to change its previous policy of prohibiting the employment of Jews. Hiring practices changed and many professionals of Jewish background were employed at Ford Motors. The anti-Semitic edifice carefully constructed by Henry Ford has completely collapsed. The final nail in the coffin came in 2014, when Mark Fields, an American Jew, became president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

Today, Ford cooperates with Jewish groups, for example the fordfund.org website features information about Ford's partnership with Yad Ezra, a Jewish organization that provides kosher food to needy Jewish families in southeast Michigan.

Who knows I may even buy an Edsel (or a Ford F-350) since Henry Ford II apologized to all of us.

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