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June 05, 1981 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-06-05

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72 Friday, June 5, 1981


Henry Ford Story: The Anti-Semitism, the Apology,
the Tongue-in Cheek, $5-a-Day and Other Deceptions

(Continued from Page 12)
men . . . He was convinced
that our money machinery
was badly in need of atten-
"If Edison was anti-
Semitic, as his notes to
Ford indicate, then it ap-
pears to be the unique
form of the disease to
which Mme. Schwimmer
refers in Ford's case —
economic anti-

The 'following two ex-
cerpts from the Lee book
offer direct reference to the
results of the venom:
"The Ford dealers could
not ignore the Dearborn In-
dependent's campaign, first
because it led to an unoffi-
cial boycott of the purchase
of Ford vehicles and sec-
ondly because they were
pressured into selling the
nublication for Henry Ford.
je -mish individuals and
:inns immediately stopped
buying Fords. Many gentile
firms stopped buying Fords
as well. some out of sym-
pa by for the Jews and
others to appease Jewish
"When a 400-car parade
-rs.,-as assembled in Hartford,
Connecticut, to honor Al-
beit Einstein and Chaim
Weizmann, the order went
out that there would be 'pos-
Aively no Ford machines
permitted in line.'
"While the boycott had
little effect in rural com-
munities where Ford's
sales were strongest, it
w: :,s clear that it was de-
vastating sales in the
major metropolitan areas
with significant Jewish
populations. There was a
dramatic drop in total
Ford sales in late 1920,
and while some of the de-
cline could be laid to a
decline in the economy
that year, a measure had
to be attributed to the
Jewish boycott.
"Even the humorist Will
Rogers quipped that the
boycott may not be a com-
plete success yet — but it
will be as soon as someone
learns how to make a
cheaper car.'
"Dealers reacted. Many of
them, like Gaston Plaintiff,
a New York sales manager
and personal friend of Ford,
wrote letters complaining of
the sales decline. Henry
Ford's only answer was, 'If
they want our product,
they'll buy it.'
"Liebold was far more
sarcastic in his responses to
the dealers. When a Vir-
ginia dealer, E.C. Lindsay,
wrote to say that his Jewish
landlord was threatening
eviction because of the arti-

cles, Liebold replied, 'Does
it not appear to you that a
Ford agent should own his
building to place him be-
yond the exertion of such
pressure! We naturally ex-
pect, and our agents must
also feel, that the Jews will
endeavor to make victims of
them whenever possible.'
"In an even more reveal-
ing letter to Mr. Plaintiff,
Liebold wrote that 'the mat-
ter has gone too far for us to
stop and consider now just
where it is wrong. This has
been carefully weighed
and considered long before
we started. If anything we
are publishing is untruth-
ful, the Jews have thus far
failed to show it . . . I have
found that the moment we
open ourselves and extend
interviews to the Jews, it is
only used for the purpose of
misquoting and publicity
which has no bearing what-
ever on the issue and at-
tempts to deride the indivi-
dual members of our organ-
ization. So far as Mr. Ford is
concerned, he has nothing
to say to anybody. The mat-
ter is being handled entirely
by the organization of the
publishing company, and so
long as Mr. Ford personally
keeps out of it, I am confi-
dent that it can be brought
to a successful end.'
* * *
"The fear of another court
trial and the possibility of
having to take the stand
was, of course, an induce-
ment to settle the fight.
Most observers, however,
thought that Ford simply
wanted to sell more cars.
The Model T's life had
ended, and Ford was about
to bring out an entirely new
car. He couldn't afford to af-
front any segment of the
market now, especially with
Chevrolet making major
gains on him.
"Will Rogers probably
said it best: 'Ford used to
have it in for the Jewish
people until he saw them in
Chevrolets, and then he
said, 'Boys, I am all wrong."
"An answer that is per-
haps as good as any of these
comes from William
Richards, who pointed out
the Astrologers' Guild of
New York statement that
Ford should no longer in-
sult people because Jupiter
and Uranus were over his
Neptune, and Mercury was
in his third house.
"On the day the retrac-
tion appeared in the Dear-
born Independent, Henry
Ford celebrated his 64th
birthday. It appeared that
now, at an age when most
men retire, he was setting
aside old prejudices and

perhaps mellowing toward
life. Nothing could have
been further from the truth.
The Sapiro trial and retrac-
tion only served to. end
Ford's public anti-Semitic
attacks. It marked the end
to his open hostility, intro-
ducing a new period in
which Ford would continue
to influence the course of
anti-Semitism for two more

* * *

Louis Marshall
and Henry Ford

A study of the Ford role in
U.S., Jewish and world his-
tory is incomplete without
the detailed account of the
condemnations of the anti-

Ford agreed to make a com-
plete recantation and apol-
ogy. Louis Marshall wrote
out a long penitent state-
ment which Ford signed
without readng.
"Marshall, whom the
Dearborn Independent had
characterized as 'short,
stocky and agressive,' and
as 'America's Jewish
enigma,' described a meet-
ing with Ford to his son,
with unenigmatic enjoy-
" 'On Thursday morning
at 9:30, Mr. Henry Ford by
pre-arrangement called on
me at the office and we
spent a most interesting
hour together. He said that
he felt better now that he
had relieved his mind of the
burden of the 'great mistake
and blunder that he had
made' in his anti-Jewish
publications . .
"Ford also invited Mar-
shall to see his new Model A
`and asked me to select any
of his products that I might
desire.' Marshall, however,
declined, saying he pre-
ferred to walk."

* * *


Semite by Louis Marshall
and the story relating to the
auto magnate's apology. It
is detailed in "Louis Mar-
shall: Selected Papers and
Addresses," the two-volume
historical account issued by
the American Jewish Publi-
cation Society.
Surprisingly, many of the
important aspects of the
Ford case contained in the
Marshall documentaries
have not been fully utilized
by any of the Ford biog-
raphers and analysts.
There is, for example,
very little in any of the
books and essays about the
indirect involvement of the
then President Warren
Gamaluel Harding. Mar-
shall, in an important letter
in the possession of this re-
viewer, credited President
Harding with having been
responsible for a delay of
about three years in Ford's
anti-Semitic enmities until
President Harding's death.
In her interesting book
"Poor Cousins" (Coward,
McCann and Geoghegan) in
which she evaluates the
"Yahudim," the German
Jews as contrasted by the
East Europeans, Ande
Manners has the following
about a meeting between
Louis Marshall and Henry
"But when Jews stopped
buying Ford cars and when
a Jewish lawyer in Detroit
sued him for $1,000,000,


Charles Madison's
Personal Experience

An autobiographical
monograph by Charles
Madison, appearing in the
current issue of the Michi-
gan Quarterly Review, re-
lates an experience with the
Ford Motor Co.
Madison, an eminent
author of several books, an
authority on Yiddish litera-
ture and the Jewish press,
who for more than 30 years
was a book editor for Henry
Holt and Co. and later Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, was
orphaned at 12, became the
supporter of his brothers,
worked at all kinds of odd
jobs, shoeshining and in fac-
tories, learned lathe work
and earned at least as much
as 22 cents an hour at the
Dodge plant.
In search for much needed
income, he turned to the
Ford Motor Co., when the
notorious "$5 a Day" an-
nouncement gained na-
tional notoriety. In his



self-portrait entitled "My
Seven Years of Automotive
Servitude," in the Michigan
Quarterly Review, Madison
relates the following:
"Due to my YMCA
courses and a speech clinic I
attended the next year, my
savings were very low, and
the need of additional in-
come gradually turned my
attention to Ford's widely

publicized policy of paying
$5 a day for eight hours of
work. Publicity about
Ford's largesse had brought
thousands of men from all
over the country to High-
land Park.
"Reading about the
brutal handling of these
applicants and knowing of
the slave-driving methods
of the factory, I for a time
fought back the temptation
to seek work there. I liked
the atmosphere at Dodge,
even though it meant two
more hours of work at al-
most half the pay. But the
urge to earn more money
was soon strong enough for
me to yield to temptation.
"One cold Monday morn-
ing I took the streetcar to
Highland Park and hurried
to the employment office. A
long line of men was already
waiting for the door to open.
When it did, the crush to
enter was fierce, but guards
forced the men to keep in
line and await their turn.
Since many of them were
without experience as
machine or assembly oper-
ators, most of them were re-
jected in quick order.
"When my turn came, my
experience as a lathe oper-
ator and my previous em-
ployment with the company
impressed the interviewer
and he hired me. Pleased
with my success, I went to
see the foreman at Dodge
Brothers, and explained to
him my need of additional
income and told him of my
gratitude for his friendly
behavior toward me. He
shook his head in regret,
told me I'd be sorry, and
generously stated that
when I was ready to return
he'd see what he could do for
"I found the Ford plant
greatly reorganized, and I
was assigned to a lathe in a
new section. The harried
foreman told me that my
operation had been timed by
an efficiency expert to pro-
duce a certain number of
finished parts per day. I
timed myself to see what I
could actually do, and
realized that I might
achieve the quota only if all
went well and I worked
without letup the entire
eight hours.
"No allowance was made
for lunch, toilet time, or tool
sharpening. I refused to dis-
allow necessary delays, al-
though I managed to keep
the machine going while
munching my sandwich.
When I failed to produce the
assigned quota of finished
parts, the foreman scolded
"The next day another ef-
ficiency timekeeper with a
stopwatch was assigned to
observe my work. After an
hour of making notes as I
worked he told the foreman
I was too slow in placing the
part in the machine and was
making no effort to speed
up. I defended myself as best
I could, asserting that it was
humanly impossible to keep
up the expected pace. I was

annoyed enough to accept
dismissal without regret,
but no action was taken
against me. I continued to
work at a fast pace, but
made no real effort to pro-
duce the assigned quota.
"I later concluded that the
speedup policy was in-
tended to get the maximum
production out of the work-
ers by requiring them to
produce their operation -- t
a high rate of speed wi•
ever actually meeting trie
demanded quota. Ruch as I
resented a policy I consid-
ered inhumane, I tried to re-
sign myself to it in the hope
of earning $5 a day. I was
therefore shocked and
angered when my first pay
envelope revealed that I
was being paid 25 cents an
hour or $2 a day.
"When I questioned the
foreman about this, he told
me blandly that the ar-
rangement was to begin
paying $5 a day only after a
worker had been with the
firm six months and had
proved his ability to main-
tain his quota requirement.

"The unethical nature of
this policy outraged me, and
I told him I was quitting at
once. Much as I wanted to
earn the higher wage I re-
fused to yield to the com-
pany's duplicity. The deci-
sion to quit gave me a feel-
ing of pleasant relief, as if I
had freed myself of an un-
pleasant burden."
Incidentally, the issue of
the Michigan Quarterly re-
view from which the above
is culled was a 350-page edi-
tion which has already gone
into a second printing. This
issue was edited by Dr.
David L. Lewis, professor of
the business history at the
University of IVIichigan.

There is no doubt about
the total abandonment of
the anti-Semitic in the Ford
Empire. Edsel Ford's rejec-
tion of his father's hatreds;
Mrs. Edsel Ford's interest in
and concern for Jewish
causes, represented in her
annual gifts to the United
Jewish Appeal and the De-
troit Allied Jewish Cam-
paign; and the Edsel Fords'
son Henry Ford II's deep
interest in Israel and his
generous gifts to the Allied
Jewish Campaign — all at-
test to a new era in Fordism.
Interest in the Fords is
never-ending. The new gen-
eration is the socially-
minded, denudim ; a past
marked by policies tha' ‘,
their effects on A.merka
and world affairs. The prej-
udices still linger in the
legacies that were trans-
ferred from Dearborn,
Mich., to the anti-Semites
in several countries --- in a
form called Protocols — and
to Saudi Arabia in the Pro-
tocols as well as the revived
ritual murder libel.
The lessons are apparent.
The facts hopefully will give
light to generations benefit-
ing from the errors of the

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