American Auto Makers: Friends of the Nazi Movement.

July 28, 2015

As strange as it As strange as it may seem, the growth of Nazism had a friend in a couple of well known American auto makers. Seemingly as American as ice cream and apple pie, Ford and General Motors played on both sides during World War II .That’s a fact, and is even recorded in a 1974 United States Senate subcommittee meeting stating: “GM and Ford became the principal suppliers of the forces of fascism as well as the forces of democracy.” It was clear that our own government felt that the automakers had collaborated with the enemy during the war.
Despite the news being just a little late, the American press did little with the shocking information. Well, let’s see – I wonder what companies purchased the most advertising from the press? The automakers, of course.
Even today few Americans are aware that our All-American companies Ford and General Motors contributed to the rise of Nazism. Take for example the Battle of Britain: thousands of German Luftwaffe bombed Britain, especially London, day and night, and for weeks. Tens of thousands were killed and thousands of buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. The German bombers that carried those bombs had their jet propulsion systems powered by – you guessed it – General Motors! By the way, that system is the part that makes the plane thrust forward. So, in a few words — it is the main part that makes it fly.
And those same GM systems also powered the bombers, as well as jet fighters, that dropped bombs on our American and Allied GIs. Imagine the many young soldiers fighting in the freezing cold Ardennes forest (Battle of the Bulge) while the Luftwaffe is constantly dropping bombs all around them. That’s right, we are talking about the same General Motors that make the Chevys, Buicks and GM cars and trucks that many of us use daily.
The Ford Motor Company has its own share of blame, too. German jeeps, trucks and transport vehicles were all part of the Ford domain that helped the Nazi cause. Thousands of Ford built vehicles carried the German armies into battle against the Allies and also led the way into Germany’s invasions into Poland, Russia, France and Czechoslovakia and others. Even Hitler enjoyed riding in Fords, saying about Henry Ford, “he is my inspiration.” Hitler also had a painting of “his inspiration” hanging in his personal office.
The feeling was mutual, since Henry Ford also admired Adolph Hitler. It is not a surprise that the car maker was one of the first industrialists to jump at the opportunity to support Hitler. Ford did not keep his racist beliefs a secret. He particularly despised blacks and Jews, and like Hitler, firmly believed in the wacko science of eugenics. The science of eugfile:///Users/jallencornwell/Pictures/iPhoto%20Library.photolibrary/Masters/2015/07/06/20150706-212159/Focke-Wulf_Fw_190_050602-F-1234P-005.jpgenics was conveniently authored by white Anglo-Saxon men telling the world that white Anglo-Saxon people were the master race, and all other races, especially Jews and blacks were inferior. The idea of a master race was the central theme of Adolph Hitler’s policy. By 1939 the two companies produced 70% of the military equipment used in the German army.
It could be said that the world economic downturn of the 1920s impacted Germany, as it did America, and the rest of the world. Germany, however, was already suffering from its military loss of World War I and the surrender terms of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1933 both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adolph Hitler were elected heads of their respective countries. They each represented the hope of millions for a better life. The United States was desperately trying to find a way out of the bread lines and high unemployment of the Great Depression. The Germans had suffered longer and endured even greater economic hardships. Both leaders understood that they needed the financial support of big business, especially American business, to succeed.
So, they each developed vigorous plans to reach economic recovery. Hitler, however, wanted to place the blame for his country’s problems. His message, starting as early as the 1920’s was very clear – Jewish people were the problem, they had caused all the economic hardships in Germany and possibly the world, and they needed to be dealt with. Hitler’s program of Nazism proved to be one of the cruelest and certainly deadliest chapters of history that the world has ever known.
Soon it became the policy of Germany to discriminate against Jewish citizens starting with closing their businesses, encouraging employers to let Jewish workers go, and then confiscating their property, including their homes, personal property and financial accounts.
By 1936 millions of Jewish people were being herded into camps throughout Germany. Hitlers personal hatred of Jews became the center of many of his speeches and quickly influenced German national policy against them. In a number of speeches (1936-1939) leading up to World War II, Adolph Hitler clearly stated that Jews would be erased from the face of the earth.
Despite Hitler’s disturbing and consistent comments, money from some American businesses continued to flow into the coffers of Nazism. Some historians suggest that western businesses may not have understood Hitler’s speeches, or just dismissed his idea, albeit vague, of mass murdering Jews, as just too unbelievable.
The truth, however, is that American businesses simply wanted to make money and the human rights of others had little sway in their decision. They absolutely understood what Hitler’s Nazism was up to, and they ignored it.
Let’s be fair – both GM and Ford did contribute to the Allies winning the war. Many of the tanks, planes and jeeps came off their assembly lines in America. Without the assistance of the automakers the outcome of World War II may have been different. It could also be argued, however, that if the automakers had not helped Hitler’s cause at all, the war may have been won by the Allies much earlier. Without the resources of GM and Ford, it is doubtful if Hitler could have been able to launch his offensive into Poland, Russia, France and certainly into England. Yes, the two companies knew exactly what they were doing and played both sides of the fence, profiting nicely.
The clincher to this injustice is that at the end of World War II both GM and Ford claimed reparations from the United States for damages their German factories incurred because of the war. And yes, they were paid, and in the millions. GM alone was paid over 32M.
Shouldn’t we have expected more from our American businesses? As early as 1933, any entity doing business in Germany would have understood Hitler’s maniacal obsession with being the master race at the expense of eliminating everyone else. Included, however were the Jews, Gays and Lesbians, and any one of color, or who might object to the realities of Nazism.

More about Allen Cornwell

Allen Cornwell is a self-employed business owner and an adjunct American History professor at a small college. He lives in rural Virginia and enjoys history, sports, old movies and visiting all types of museums. Cornwell has had a number of American history articles published and he earned his M. A. degree in American History from Virginia Commonwealth University. He can be contacted at:

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