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Henry Ford

Henry Ford

In 1938, Henry Ford was awarded Nazi Germany's Grand Cross of the German Eagle. That is the medal awarded to foreigners sympathetic to Nazism.



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Henry Ford was an American captain of industry and a business magnate, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the sponsor of the development of the assembly line technique of mass production. With this success, Murphy and other stockholders in the Detroit Automobile Company formed the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901, with Ford as chief engineer. Ford & Malcomson was reincorporated as the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903, with $28,000 capital. Henry Ford turned the presidency of Ford Motor Company over to his son Edsel Ford in December 1918. Ford started another company, Henry Ford and Son, and made a show of taking himself and his best employees to the new company; the goal was to scare the remaining holdout stockholders of the Ford Motor Company to sell their stakes to him before they lost most of their value. Ford wrote back: "If they want to elect me let them do so, but I won't make a penny's investment." Ford did run and came within 4,500 votes of winning, out of more than 400,000 cast statewide. Once the U.S. entered the war, Ford directed the Ford Motor Company to construct a vast new purpose-built factory at Willow Run near Detroit, Michigan.

When Edsel Ford died prematurely in 1943, Henry Ford nominally resumed control of the company, but a series of strokes in the late 1930s had left him increasingly debilitated, and his mental ability was fading. Ford is the only American mentioned favorably in Mein Kampf, although he is only mentioned twice: Adolf Hitler wrote, "Only a single great man, Ford, [who], to fury, still maintains full independence...[from] the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred and twenty millions." Speaking in 1931 to a Detroit News reporter, Hitler said he regarded Ford as his "Inspiration", explaining his reason for keeping Ford's life-size portrait next to his desk. A boycott against Ford products by Jews and liberal Christians also had an impact, and Ford shut down the paper in 1927, recanting his views in a public letter to Sigmund Livingston, ADL. Wallace also found that Ford's apology was likely, at least partly, motivated by a business that was slumping as result of his antisemitism repelling potential buyers of Ford cars. "Four-Fifths of the hundreds of letters addressed to Ford in July 1927 were from Jews, and almost without exception they praised the industrialist." In January 1937, a Ford statement to the Detroit Jewish Chronicle disavowed "Any connection whatsoever with the publication in Germany of a book known as the International Jew.". Robert Lacey wrote in Ford: The Men and the Machines that a close Willow Run associate of Ford reported that when he was shown newsreel footage of the Nazi concentration camps, he "Was confronted with the atrocities which finally and unanswerably laid bare the bestiality of the prejudice to which he contributed, he collapsed with a stroke - his last and most serious." Ford had suffered previous strokes and his final cerebral hemorrhage occurred in 1947 at age 83. When Edsel Ford, President of Ford Motor Company, died of cancer in May 1943, the elderly and ailing Henry Ford decided to assume the presidency. His health failing, Ford ceded the company Presidency to his grandson, Henry Ford II, in September 1945 and went into retirement. A b c d e f g h i Ford R. Bryan, "The Birth of Ford Motor Company" Archived August 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.

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