Corporate Crime Reporter
September 8, 2003
IN SLAVE LABOR, TRADING WITH THE ENEMY, NEW BOOK FINDS
Contrary to Ford
Motor Company's denials, the Detroit auto maker was complicit in
the use of slave labor at Ford's German facilities during World
War II and was well aware of financial ties to the Nazi military
regime, according to a new book released last week.
The book, The
American Axis: Henry Ford,, Charles Lindbergh and the Rise of
the Third Reich, by Max Wallace (St. Martin's Press) reveals
that the federal government was so concerned about Ford's
trading with the enemy that it launched a criminal investigation
into the company and its then President, Edsel Ford.
In a memo
obtained by Wallace after the completion of the book, then FBI
director J. Edgar Hoover effectively nixed the criminal charge
against company by arguing that such a charge might be opposed
by the War Department.
Hoover said that
in a similar case, antitrust charges had been considered against
Bendix Aviation Corporation, and were nixed because "the War
Department requested the Antitrust Division of the Department of
Justice not to proceed with its civil suit against the Bendix
Aviation Corporation inasmuch as it was believed such a suit
would interfere with the productivity of that concern, which is
vital to the national defense at the present time."
But the Treasury
Department was apparently ready to recommend that a criminal
charge be brought against the company's President, Edsel Ford,
the only son of company founder Henry Ford.
But the day the
government was set to proceed against Edsel, he died of a heart
In an attempt to
stem a wave of adverse publicity from a class action lawsuit
brought by a former slave laborer in Ford's Cologne plant, the
company held a press conference in Dearborn, Michigan in
At that press
conference, Ford chief of staff John Rintamaki released the
results of a three-year study of Ford's use of forced and slave
labor in Germany.
"The use of
forced and slave labor in Germany, including at Ford-Werke, was
wrong and cannot be justified," Rintamaki said. "In looking
back, it must be remembered that all companies operating in
Germany at that time had to use labor provided by the German
government, and that the Nazi regime chose to provide forced and
slave laborers to industry. By being open and honest about the
past, even when we find the subject reprehensible, we hope to
contribute toward a better understanding of this period of
that the company's investigation "didn't find anything
substantial that hasn't been known before, but we did add a
great deal of detail on this subject."
uncovered by Wallace show much that hadn't been known before.
"There are a
number of shocking letters exchanged after Pearl Harbor between
Edsel Ford, then the company's president, and the managing
director of Ford's French plant, Maurice Dollfuss," Wallace told
Corporate Crime Reporter. "And you can see Edsel Ford, in letter
after letter, praising Dollfuss for manufacturing for the Nazi
war machine, telling him to keep up the good work because
profits were so high."
"So, after Pearl
Harbor, after the U.S. is already in the war, Edsel is praising
the Ford French executives for continuing to manufacture for the
enemy, manufacturing war machines that will undoubtedly help
kill American and Allied soldiers on the battlefields of
Europe," Wallace said. "This is treason, of course."
In 1943, the
U.S. Treasury Department conducted an investigation into Ford's
complicity with the Nazi war machine.
Wallace, the investigators discovered documents proving that
Edsel Ford was trading with the enemy.
In one memo, a
Treasury Department lawyer writes: "There is a basis for a case"
for indicting Edsel Ford under the Trading With the Enemy Act.
"The only thing
that saved Edsel from indictment is the fact that he suddenly
died on the day Treasury lawyers were set to move against him,"
Wallace said. (See Interview, page 9) .