Menu JTA Search

News Brief

Download PDF for this date

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

Tens of thousands of copies of Henry Ford’s “International Jew,” which represents a compilation published in his name in the Dearborn Independent, translated into practically every European language, will have to be withdrawn from circulation, it was estimated here when the news of Henry Ford’s retraction of his anti-Semitic charges and his promise to withdraw these publications was received in Jewish circles here.

The impression that Henry Ford’s influence backed the various branches of the anti-Semitic movement in European countries was a source of deep sorrow to many Jewish communities on the continent where Jewish leaders watched with despair the increasing number of translations made of Henry Ford’s “International Jew,” in which the charge of an international Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world commercially, financially and politically, was expounded on the basis of the so-called “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” long since proven an international forgery.

What purported to be Henry Ford’s “International Jew” was transiated from the Dearborn Independent text into German (by Theodor Fritsch. German anti-Semitic leader and editor of Der Hammer), Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, Swedish, Arabic, Polish and Russian. The distribution of these translations was brought about through organizations like the Hakenkreuzler, the Awakening Magyars and all the national, chauvinistic factions in European states, making anti-Semitism their major policy.

Leaders of all shades of Jewish thought in Europe expressed relief at the announcement that the “nightmare of American backing” for the propaganda and activties of European anti-Semites has been removed and, as a means of preventing the further spread of racial hatred and prejudice, the publications purporting to bear Ford’s name will be withdrawn in the United States. Jewish leaders of the European communities express the hope that this decision of Mr. Ford will also extend to the translations of his “International Jew.”

The entire American press as well as the Jewish press commented widely on the Ford apology. While the overwhelming opinion was that Ford’s apology was to be taken at its face value, there were not lacking voices expressing doubt in the sincerity of the recantation. Particular surprise was expressed by some of the metropolitan newspapers at Ford’s admission that up till recently he was unaware of the nature of the articles and the extent of the damage caused by them.

In the Yiddish press in New York City, “The Day,” and the “Forward,” the only two papers appearing Saturday, commented on the development.

“We also want to believe in Ford’s sincerity,” says “The Day” editorially. “We want to believe in his real recantation and firm decision to right the wrongs which he has done to Jewry both in American and throughout the world. The recantation itself will accomplish much in this regard.

“However, we are not fooled. It is easier to speak of righting the wrongs of the Ford agitation than to really do so. Followers of Ford have been created who will continue the work on their own responsibility. There were created conditions which cannot be changed overnight. The nails which were driven into the body of the Jewish people can be drawn out, but the holes will remain and it will take a very long time until the wounds will be healed. But we have suffered much and are patient indeed, ready to burn our accounts of yesterday. We demand no vengeance, no pound of flesh. What we demand is our recognition in the world as equals among equals. Justice among the just is what we ask. He who denies our foe. He who recognizes our right, to him we stretch out our hand. Today, we stretch out our hand to Ford, or rather we accept his extended hand.

“We do that as Jews. We do that, however, also as Americans. With a real civic pride we are in a position to emphasize today that from now on America will cease rivalry with Hungary and Roumania, will cease to export articles for the anti-Semitic world market. From today on there ceases in America the dangerous agitation against those principles of liberty which have brought upon American the great glory of being the fatherland for all the persecuted and hunted in the world. The strongest tree of American and world anti-Semitism has been uprooted. Let fruit trees grow in its place, to the welfare and glory of our country and as a good example for all countries and all parts of the globe,” the “Day” concludes.

The “Jewish Daily Forward” comments thus: “Mr. Ford’s statement will be received with great joy by all right thinking men throughout the world and particularly by the Jews of the world. The Ford incident clearly showed that there is no place in America for such anti-Semitism as in Europe. The propaganda of the “Dearborn Independent” left no mark on anybody and misled very few. Now comes Ford himself, declaring that all libels against the Jews which were published in the “Dearborn Independent” and in other anti-Semitic newspapers are perfidious lies which were invented by dishonest people with the purpose of harming the Jews.

“Mr. Ford has whitewashed, by his sincere statement, not only his own reputation and the reputation of America, but has also given a death blow to the anti-Semites in all countries. Ford’s words on anti-Semitism and on the Jews will reach all corners of the earth and will everywhere make a strong impression. This is the great, almost historic, significance which Ford’s recantation has for the Jews of the World.”

The “New York Times” states:

“When a man suddenly alters a course which he has pursued for years in a public matter, withdraws his statements and apologizes for having made them, it is inevitable that his motives will be questioned, or at least gossiped about. Even Mr. Henry Ford is not exempt from that law of human nature. There will be no end of wondering what lies behind his present action. But it would be ungenerous to enter into these speculations now. An apology is an apology, and Mr. Ford has made his so complete and handsome that those whom he has long been attacking through his publications will be fain to accept it. One point he does not clear up. He phrases his statement as if his attention had but “recently” been drawn to the grievous wrong which he had done. The fact is, of course, that for several years he has had the matter brought to his notice, both privately and publicly. While it is better late than never to confess having done an injury, it is impossible to overlook the fact that in Mr. Ford’s case it is decidedly late.

“It is the more agreeable for the ‘Times’ to welcome Mr. Ford’s repentance and vows to amend, since it urged such a reconsideration upon him at the time of the Sapiro suit against him for libel. We spoke then of the great opportunity open to him, even if it were not technically at issue in the trial, to clear at once his own conscience and the ignorant minds of those who have been misled by him in his apparent anti-Semitism, persistent and embittered. That trial was aborted as it will be remembered. In it, it would only have been necessary for Mr. Ford to produce in evidence, if called as a witness, the statement which he made public yesterday. That would have freed him from the charge of general race prejudice and hostility, though it would have had nothing to do with the allegations of specific and personal damage. Nor can it be believed that Mr. Ford’s present apology, ample and sincere though it be, will at once undo the damage which his violent and unfounded attacks have caused.

“Nevertheless, so far as Mr. Ford is involved personally, all concerned will be disposed to let bygones be bygones. When a man owns up that he has been wrong and asks forgiveness, there is nothing for it but to take the hand which he extends. It is a kind of confession which is good not only for the soul, but for a man’s repute with his fellow-men. Mr. Ford has now done the handsome thing, making the honorable amends to the extent of his power, and there is no doubt that he will receive a valuable credit in the form of a better opinion of him by the public in general and even by those whom he has allowed his subordinates to vilify and slander,” the “Times” states.

“Whatever reasons Mr. Henry Ford may have had for postponing so long repudiation of the anti-Jewish campaign conducted in ‘The Dearborn Independent’,” the “Herald Tribune” states, “there can be no question about the completeness of his present disavowal and apology. He admits error and promises correction in a manner which handsomely emphasizes his regret and the purpose of his publication to abandon all anti-Jewish propaganda.

“Mr. Ford’s announcement does credit to his courage and sounder second thought. It marks a return to sound American principles. It is not good Americanism to attack anybody on the ground of race or religion. The constitution guarantees freedom of faith. It does not permit legal or political discrimination against religious or racial groups. American citizens are entitled to be treated according to their individual merits and acts, not according to affiliations of race or creed. That is a cardinal American doctrine. It is also a safeguard of American unity and progress.”

Says “The American”:

“Mr. Brisbane wrote moderately when he said that Henry Ford’s amend to a race he had wronged ‘healed a sore spot in our national life.’

“It did more. It set an example in manliness which millions will heed.

“Few deeds are more difficult for folk of strong will than to admit the error in a prejudice. It is the big man who, when he finds that he has been unfair, does everything within his power to atone.

“If the richest and, therefore, in an economic sense perhaps the most powerful man in the world, as he is certainly one of the most useful, can rise to this duty of justice, surely lesser persons should be willing to review and abate biases against their fellow men.

“The good that comes from tolerance is infinite.

“Why should we not all try to get more of it?”

The editorial in the New York “World” declares: “This much can be said for Mr. Ford: that when he realized the absurdity of the campaign which has been waged against the Jews by the “Dearborn Independent” he admitted his error publicly and handsomely. It is fair to say, however, that Mr. Ford’s amazing unfamiliarity with what his own magazine has been doing all these years and his willingness to attempt to avoid resposibility at the expense of his subordinates are anything but impressive.”

“Henry Ford’s apology to the Jews is a remarkable document,” the Sun states. “If it had been offered years ago-a few weeks or months after Ford’s Dearborn Independent began its attacks on the Jews-it would have been accepted at its face value. Mr. Ford’s plea that the multiplicity of his activities kept him ignorant of what his publication was doing would at that time have appeared fairly reasonable. But for Mr. Ford to say now that he has just learned that the Jews regard him as their enemy is, to say the least, astounding. He is “mortified” to learn that his publication has been offering fiction as fact and forgery as evidence.

“Nobody was shocked to discover a few years ago that Mr. Ford could not identify Benedist Arnold and that his knowledge of history was almost nil. But it is hard to imagine Mr. Ford so wrapped in cotton wool that the major activity of his own magazine was unknown to him; that he was as unaware of what the Dearborn Independent was doing as if he had been a Tibetan monk. And if we could imagine such a thing, would it not be distressing to think that a man of Ford’s wealth and prominece was free to back an organ with which some other man incited hatred? Certainly it is unpleasant to find the printing press set up by men so ignorant as not to know, or so callous as not to care, what the press turned out.

“Some good is to be said of the apology. It is better late than never. And it is complete; when Ford finally put his foot on the reverse pedal he pressed down firmly. And it will travel widely. Because of the interest in Ford’s personality the newspapers will carry his apology not only into the limited field of his weekly but far beyound,” says the Sun.

The Post declares: “Mr. Henry Ford has in his character a certain naive quality that makes his acts or words credible no matter how far they may seem to clash with logic or probability. This quality comes out in his statement of this morning, apologizing for the attacks made upon the Jews by his magazine, the Fort Dearborn Independent.

“Nobody but Mr. Ford could be ignorant of a major editorial policy of his own publication. Nobody but Mr. Ford could be unaware of the national and international repercussions of this policy of anti-Semitism. Nobody but Mr. Ford could say that he did not ‘appreciate even the general nature to say nothing of the details of these utterances’ by his own editor.

“Yet Mr. Ford does make these assertions, and, when we remember the almost incredible mental aloofness of his testimony in the Chicago Tribune libel trial, we must feel that we would be unwise to reject even so fantastic a plea of ignorance. Whether he did or did not ‘appreciate’ the Ford Dearborn Independent’s long campaign against the Jews, Henry Ford now regrets it and asks forgiveness from the race which his paper has attacked. This is the important fact. Mr. Brisbance, through whom Mr. Ford’s statement was made, says that it ‘heals a sore spot in our national life.’ This is true. We must all live together in this country, and we cannot have one part of us attacking another on grounds of race or religion.”

A totally different view is taken by Charles Michelson, staff correspondent of The World in Washington.

“Henry Ford’s recantation is taken by the politicians to be his first step toward entering the 1928 campaign for the Presidency,” writes Mr. Michelson.

“The circumstances that he made the Hearst newspapers his vehicle for the dissemination of his change of heart is interpreted as indicating that William Randolph Hearst is about to push the candidacy of the flivver king. Mr. Ford, according to the editor of his own magazine, the Dearborn Independent, which he employed to keep his views as to the danger of a Hebrew despotism through financial control of banks and industry before the public, had not even let him know of his conversion.

“A Hearst-Ford combination was rumored four years ago, when Governor Smith was looming as the possible Democratic nominee for the Presidency. It did not eventuate and the hypothesis was indulged in that the obstacle was the Ford hostility to the Jews and the counter-resentment of that race. Obviously it would have been embarrassing for the publisher of a chain of newspapers greatly depending on department store advertising, to appear as the champion of the country’s chief exponent of anti-Semitism. If that was the bar when Ford was flirting with the notion four years ago, it has been removed by his complete repudiation of his former views,” Mr. Michelson states.

Mrs. Fanny E. Mastbaum, mother of the late Jules E. Mastbaum, died in Philadelphia on Friday. She was 77 years old.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund