Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Contribution from Colleague and Friend Ed Garten:HENRY FORD AND ADOLPH HITLER NEARLY CROSS PATHS EIGHTY YEARS AGO


Photo: August 1930
Photo: September 1930

HENRY FORD AND ADOLPH HITLER NEARLY CROSS PATHS EIGHTY YEARS AGO

Eighty years ago, the first week in September, Henry Ford attended the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria, Germany. That famous passion play performed by the residents of Oberammergau every ten years (except for two times) since 1638 started to attract international guests by 1900. The attendance list was a contemporary "Who's Who" -- royalty from Russia, France, Sweden, England, Italy, Austro-Hungary, Prussia, and Denmark. Auguste Eiffel, Graf Zeppelin, artists, poets, theater celebrities, church dignities, and American millionaires like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt.
But only a few days before Ford attended the play, another guest was in attendance -- Adolph Hitler. While there is no historical evidence that the two met during this time the coincidence is remarkable.

Hitler hung Ford's picture on his wall and wrote in Mein Kampf that Ford was a great man who had confronted Jewish power; he quoted Ford's book "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem" extensively. That book basically blamed Jews for all of the problems of the world. The International Jew is still reprinted and much admired by neo-Nazis and White Supremacists even today.
Some of Ford's early quotes seem to be something straight out of Hitler's mouth: "The international financiers are behind all war. They are what is called the International Jew - German Jews, French Jews, English Jews, American Jews . . . the Jew is a threat." Hitler told a Detroit News reporter in 1933 that he regarded "Henry Ford as my inspiration." Following Hitler's assumption of power, Ford is reported to have sent Hitler 50,000 Deutsch Marks every year on his birthday.
While anti-Semitism persisted in the the Passion Play until 1970, it reached its most painful pitch by the 1930 performance. In 1934, Oberammergau scheduled a special performance to commemorate the 300-year anniversary of the Passion Play. In 1638 the Passion Play was initated following the village's survival from the Black Plague. But by 1934 a new plague was on hand to harass the villagers--Nazism. In an effort to make his Bavarian subjects look like Aryans rather than Jews while playing their biblical roles, Hitler appointed his Bavarian State Minister, Esser, High Commissioner for Tourist Traffic and ordered him to preside over the Passion Play committee. But the villagers refused to modify their makeup and costumes, though they paraded agreeably, regularly "heiling" Hitler.

During August, 1934, the audience paid tribute to Field Marshal von Hindenburg on the occasion of his death and to Hitler when he attended a performance. Hitler was said to be inspired only by the character of Pilate, whom history records as a brutal Roman governor, but whom Hitler exalted by commenting: "There he stands like a firm rock in the middle of the whole muck and mire of Jewry."

Some speculate that Henry Ford may have feared Jews as competition to his business. Thus he peddled racism as a tool to defeat a business enemy. He called the motion picture industry, along with the music and liquor business, organizations controlled by Jews. Of the American film industry Ford wrote, " . . . Americans every day place themselves voluntarily within range of a Jewish life, love, and labor ... . . there are two families in this world, and on one the darkness dwells."
Although Ford later renounced his anti-semitic writings, he remained an admirer of Nazi Germany and sought to keep America out of World War II.
The attached photos include Henry Ford walking down the street following his attendance at the 1930 Passion Play as well as a photo of Hitler that was taken, also in 1930, where is is greeting some Passion Play cast members.

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