Stifling discussion of Henry Ford’s antipathy for Jews is dangerous because Ford, whose hatred still escapes many U.S. history textbooks, was a primary source of anti-Semitic writing in the United States. He published the Independent’s anti-Jewish articles as a book titled “The International Jew” and was directly responsible for propagating the worst piece of anti-Semitic propaganda generated in the 20th century, the fraudulent “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
When O’Reilly and Ford’s defenders at his company and his museum refuse to confront Ford’s role in promoting anti-Semitism at home and across the globe and inspiring figures such as Adolf Hitler, they allow Ford’s propaganda to distort our understanding of the past and present alike.
…Ford began his attacks on Jews in 1920, intensifying postwar discontent with the potent conspiracy theories of “The Protocols.” He ordered his dealers to distribute copies of the Independent as they sold cars, and he directed the newspaper to be mailed, unsolicited, to schools, libraries and hospitals all over the country.
…The Ford Foundation’s philanthropy has attempted to address these actions. Its grants for development projects in Israel during the 1950s were seen by contemporary observers as an act of atonement for Ford’s anti-Semitism.
…“What does it accomplish to pretend that this isn’t a part of Henry Ford’s story?”
…The Dearborn Historian article is important precisely because these other local institutions prefer to erase this part of Ford’s legacy. …Our willingness to recognize propaganda and to acknowledge the uglier side of our national story are …critical to the survival of our democracy. Let’s hope that O’Reilly and the Ford Museum curators now understand that when Americans encounter their history, they deserve to know the whole story.