How Henry Ford's Anti-Semitic Newspaper Is Still Shaping Hate Today [Updated]

German diplomats award Henry Ford (center) Nazi Germany’s highest decoration for foreigners, The Grand Cross of the German Eagle,in Detroit on July, 30, 1938 for his service to the Third Reich.
Photo: AP Images

Henry Ford is thankfully dead, but his anti-Semitism lives on in the pages of The International Jew, a book he complied in the 1920s out of articles written about people of the Jewish faith in his newspaper the Dearborn Independent.

Dearborn, Michigan wasn’t just the center of Ford’s empire—it was his hometown. Ford Motor Company’s World Headquarters is still located in the city and you can still get a tour of the Rouge River plant, the crown jewel in Ford’s empire and at one time the largest factory in the world.

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Ford is everywhere in Dearborn. His name graces schools, roads, shopping districts and even a car museum dedicated to transportation innovation named after Ford.

He was also an unbridled racist.

This may not be news to you. We’ve documented multiple times Ford’s asshole beliefs. What may shock you (as it did me) was the far reaching implications of Ford’s anti-Semitism, which extend from long before Hitler published Mein Kampf to all the way to today.

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This intensive deep dive was originally published by the Dearborn Historian and republished on Deadline Detroit. The Historian is attempting to face the city’s racist past head on.

A huge part of that past is Ford and his anti-Semitic newspaper:

Under Ford, the Independent became notorious for its unprecedented attacks on Jews. But Ford’s anti-Semitism traveled far beyond the Dearborn borders. Showing the marketing expertise that had catapulted Ford Motor into one of the world’s most famous brands, Henry Ford’s lieutenants vastly widened the reach of his attacks by packaging the paper’s anti-Semitic content into four books. Experts say “The International Jew,” distributed across Europe and North America during the rise of fascism in the 1920s and ‘30s, influenced some of the future rulers of Nazi Germany.

In 1931, two years before he became the German chancellor, Adolf Hitler gave an interview to a Detroit News reporter in his Munich office, which featured a large portrait of Ford over the desk of the future führer. The reporter asked about the photo.

“I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” Hitler told the News.

While Hitler may have felt inspired, many Americans had a different opinion. Ford’s wife and son both distanced themselves from the paper. Boycotts, bad press, and a libel lawsuit forced Ford to close the paper in 1927, but not before he was able to run a 91-week long rant against Jewish people. This Historian’s piece is filled jaw-dropping tidbits like this:

Henry Ford ordered that the Independent not be used to publicize him or the company, though the paper’s nickname was “The Ford International Weekly” and Ford forced his dealers to conduct subscription campaigns. Some dealerships threw a copy of the Independent into newly sold Model Ts. Circulation eventually reached 900,000, making it one of the biggest periodicals in the country.

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And also:

In its first couple of years, Ford sold more than 200,0000 copies of “The International Jew.” His underlings deliberately declined to copyright the content, so other anti-Semites were free to publish the books. That is one reason Ford’s paper and books are widely available today, in printed form and online. With no copyright, it’s nearly impossible to stop their proliferation.

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Which is why you can still find The International Jew on Amazon.com, and why Henry Ford is still spoken about on hate websites, such as Stormfront, where users wonder if his antisemitism was strong enough to outweigh his crimes of, say, providing jobs to black people.

Those are just a few of the shocking turns in this interesting and horrifying story of a man who changed the world, in more ways than one.

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Updated: Wednesday January 30 10:43 a.m. EST The current mayor of Dearborn, John B. “Jack” O’Reilly, ordered the issue of Dearborn Historian containing this deep dive into Ford’s anti-semitism not be sent into circulation, Deadline Detroit reports.

O’Reilly took exception to the cover of the quarterly magazine, which featured a quote from Henry Ford next to a picture of the automotive tycoon. The quote read: “The Jew is a race with no civilization to point to, no aspiring religion, no great achievement in any realm.” As the Dearborn Historian is a publication of the City of Dearborn, the mayor has the prerogative to nix an entire issue. The story can still be found on Deadline Detroit’s website.

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The whole piece is well worth a read, and check it out in full here.

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About the author

Erin Marquis

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.