Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A great American?

[Henry Ford receives the Grand Cross of the German Eagle in 1938 from two Nazi diplomats.]

John Hawkins over at Right Wing News has been polling bloggers for the best and worst figures of American history. I participated in the first poll of "Worst Figures in American History," but unfortunately couldn't find the time to send in a list for the "Best." John posted the results of that poll recently:

Left-Wing Bloggers Select The Greatest Figures Of The 20th Century

Most of the names selected seemed fairly reasonable, to tell the truth. (Indeed, there were several I wished I'd thought of when I was briefly trying to put a list together.)

But this one stopped me cold:
18) Henry Ford (3)

All right, I could easily see Ford appearing on a right-wing list. But why would anyone who calls himself a liberal name him?

Maybe they have simply bought the timeworn image of Ford as the clever industrialist who brought the automobile to the masses.

Maybe they simply have forgotten -- or were never aware of -- the rest of the Henry Ford story.

That would be the Henry Ford who in 1920 began publishing The International Jew -- one of the most infamous anti-Semitic screeds in history. This text first raised to national prominence the notorious Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion hoax -- and indeed may have been responsible for its subsequent wide distribution in Hitler's Germany as well.

Speaking of Hitler, here's what he had to say about the speculation in 1923 that Ford might run for president:
I wish I could send some of my shock troops to Chicago and other big American cities to help in the elections ... We look to Heinrich Ford as the leader of the growing fascist movement in America ... We have just had his anti-Jewish articles translated and published. The book is being circulated in millions throughout Germany."

As the ADL notes:
Though Ford apologized for The International Jew and closed the Dearborn Independent, he later accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler's Nazi government in July, 1938.

This award, incidentally, is the highest honor Germany can offer to a non-German.

Ford also probably did more than any American to help build the Nazi war machine in the 1930s.

Whatever good Ford may have engendered through his clever industrialism was forever poisoned by his contributions to one of the worst nightmares in history.

Why would a liberal, exactly, put Henry Ford on any list of "great" Americans? For that matter, why would anyone?

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