Professor Neil Baldwin - Shoah (2017) & Confessions
Preparing this Introduction to selections from my book Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass
Production of Hate (PublicAffairs, New York, 2001), translated by Georges Bensoussan and
Guillaume Dreyfus for the special issue of the Revue d’histoire de la Shoah, I am overtaken by a cascading sense of history.
The seeds for the Ford book were planted twenty-five years ago while I was writing a biography of the inventor, Thomas Edison, who was a close friend, kindred spirit
and supporter of the Detroit auto-maker.
Archival excavations for Edison: Inventing the Century led me to fireside conversations the two men had on their pastoral Appalachian and New England camping trips during and after World War I, when they shared a common bond: anti-semitism.
Edison’s critique was stereotypical and measured, as befitting a captain of industry -- more Jew-animosity than Jew-hatred. However, Ford was vociferous and xenophobic in his belief that “The Jew” was the source for “the world’s problems.”
I finished writing Henry Ford and the Jews on September 13, 2001, a cataclysmic moment in America and around the globe; and, obviously seeking solace, I concluded that my book was “an object lesson taken from an era in our country’s dark underside…” and chose to insist that “similar behavior on the scale of Henry Ford’s manifested today by a figure with equal public visibility and power is well-nigh inconceivable.”
My vision through rose-colored glasses has been clouded over the ensuing fifteen years, culminating in the pernicious American Presidential campaign during which I write these
Let me contextualize how my research supports the editorial intention of the Revue: the
intellectual roots for Mein Kampf. You will read in the passages that follow that “Heinrich” Ford was a role-model for the ascendant Adolf Hitler from his days in Munich at the dawn of the 1920s.
Displayed upon the coffee table in the reception room of National Socialist German
Workers’ Party headquarters were free copies of Ford’s “investigation of the Jewish Question,” an anthology of articles from The Dearborn Independent, his personal newspaper: Die international Jude, ein Weltproblem: Das erste amerikanische Buch uber die Judenfrage, herausgegeben von Henry Ford.
Indeed, as historian Norman Cohn declared in his classic work, Warrant for Genocide, “The International Jew probably did more than any other work to make The Protocols of the Elders of Zion famous.”
By the winter of 1926, in the second volume of Mein Kampf, Hitler praised “a single great man, Ford, [who], to [the Jews’] fury, still maintains full independence…[from] the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred
and twenty millions.”
I cannot rewind earlier thoughts to excise my idealistic wish at the conclusion of Henry Ford and the Jews. However, I welcome the opportunity presented by the editors of Revue d’histoire de la Shoah to offer this corrective: I see now that my mistake, back in 2001, was to believe that the received tradition of anti-semitism, taproots sunk into the swamps of the Middle Ages, could be conclusively “historicized” in the atmosphere of hysterical alterity, paranoid “Orientalism,” and distancing of “the Other” that pervades our mediatized, accelerated world.
On the contrary: Anti-semitism is a latent, poisonous river that can over-run its banks in any culture and at any time.
- Neil Baldwin. September, 2017.
[Here is the brief introduction, as requested, for The Bolshevik Menace excerpt (pp.80-85)]
The Dearborn Independent, a rural newspaper reborn and expanded as “The Ford International Weekly” with the motto “The Chronicle of the Neglected Truth,” was founded by Henry Ford as a platform “to stir ambition and encourage independent thinking…[against] the Dark Forces…and these Bolsheviki messing up our industries and disturbing our civil life.”
In 1920, eager to “find an evil to attack, go after it, and stay after it,” the Independent began a series of articles focusing a spotlight upon “the Jewish Question” featuring serialized passages from the notorious anti-semitic tract, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ernest Gustav Liebold ,Ford’s private secretary and closest confidant, and the driving ideological force behind the Independent, insisted that “If the Protocols had not been authentic, we never would have published them.”
Edwin G. Pipp was the seasoned investigative journalist Ford hired away from his post as an
editor at the Detroit News to run the Independent. In defiance of Pipp’s protestations, the
Protocols-based articles quickly dominated the editorial pages of the paper.
But Liebold won the inevitable power-struggle, and Pipp was forced out, fearing that his former friend’s legacy as a technological innovator would be stained, and that history would instead remember Henry Ford as a man “set against a race that is a part of [our] nation.”
[Here is a brief “Contributor Note.”]
Neil Baldwin began his tenure a decade ago as the Distinguished Visiting Professor of History at Montclair State University, in New Jersey, and currently serves as Professor of Theatre & Dance, and Director of The Creative Research Center (www.montclair.edu/creativeresearch).
In addition to books on Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, he is the author of biographies of William Carlos Williams and Man Ray, and he is currently at work on Martha Graham: When Dance Became Modern, under contract with Alfred A, Knopf, Publishers.
Confessions of a Revisionist Historian: Trump Made Me Do It
by Neil Baldwin
When the Twin Towers fell, I was on deadline from the publisher to finish my book, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass-Production of Hate (PublicAffairs).
I ploughed ahead with the Afterword through a haze of shock. I noted that, beginning in the
1970s, the Holocaust had become a focus of renewed interest in America, as survivors
diminished in number and came forward to bear witness before it was too late, public museums and memorial sites were built, and Jewish identity sought and found a higher profile.
Antisemitism, like a subterranean stream, would remain embedded in all cultures as long as Jews existed. But Jew-hatred in America was moving toward the fringe, I said.
Swastikas on the walls of temples and vandalism in cemeteries were becoming aberrations. Abhorrent views and violent actions were reported and condemned -- bigoted speeches by Louis Farrakhan and Pat Buchanan, the Grenada Hills day-care center attack by Buford Furrow.
White supremacists were scattered in hinterland outposts; members of Aryan Nation groups were huddled in niches of leaderless resistance.
There might have been more hate sites on the Web directed at younger people, but the (still-emerging) Web had not, as feared, become overrun with hate-group recruitment appeals.
Born in the heartland twenty-seven days after the Battle of Gettysburg, auto-maker Henry Ford was a homegrown, xenophobic, moody, barely-educated, libelous capitalist, obsessed with his brand, suspicious of the banking system.
Admired by Hitler, he blamed the “wire-pulling International Jews” for instigating World War I, and declared that “History is more or less the bunk.”
Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass-Production of Hate, was a cautionary tale from an era in
America’s dark underside on the brink of fading from our nation’s collective memory. Modern day Jews, I said, were engaged, accepted, and enfranchised.
“Similar behavior on the scale of Henry Ford’s, manifested today by a figure with equal public visibility and power,” I wrote, on September 13, 2001, was “well-nigh inconceivable.” Looking back sixteen years later, from this post-Charlottesville vantage point, I realize that my historian’s objectivity was swayed in the wake of 9/11. I had been traumatized into living with hope.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, our great nineteenth-century philosopher of self-reliance, said:
“Institutions are the lengthened shadows of individuals.” I never imagined that in my lifetime the institution and embodied values of the American presidency would become so perilously
Donald Trump has proved me wrong.