The hidden history of the Shoa and its connections to American and Middle East affairs have preoccupied writer Edwin Black since the 1970s, when he wrote the first of 10 books of investigative journalism, including IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation.
Born and raised in Chicago as the son of Polish Holocaust survivors, Black will be speaking at two venues in the Greater MetroWest area next week. On Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m. he will discuss “Detroit’s Connection to the Holocaust: Ford, GM, and Hitler” at the Aidekman campus in Whippany, in a program sponsored by the Holocaust Council of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
A day later he will deliver the annual Joseph Gotthelf Holocaust Memorial Lecture at Temple Beth Am in Parsippany, as part of the synagogue’s Yom Hashoa commemoration. His topic will be the persecution of Iraqi Jews as detailed in his most recent book, The Farhud — Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust (Dialog Press).
Black spoke with NJ Jewish News by phone March 20 from his office in Washington, DC.
NJJN: What is Detroit’s connection to the Holocaust?
Edwin Black: There is no other American city that has a special connection to the Third Reich other than Detroit. It had a special place in Hitler’s heart because of two leading Holocaust collaborators: Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan, the president of General Motors.
NJJN: How and why did they collaborate?
Black: You might ask yourself where Hitler developed his notion of an international Jewish conspiracy. He got that from Henry Ford, who mass produced The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hitler idolized Ford as his hero. In his first edition of Mein Kampf, he wrote,
NJJN: How does that connect to Ford Motors?
Black: Ford’s anti-Semitic publications, The Protocols, The International Jew, and The Dearborn Independent, were distributed by Ford Motor Company dealerships. When challenged, he said, “They are as much a product of this company as our trucks and cars.”
NJJN: What was the role of General Motors and Alfred Sloan?
Black: Where would Hitler’s forces be on horseback? General Motors made the blitz truck for the blitzkrieg. He made the JU-88 bombers that bombed Poland into submission, the Panzer tanks, the landmines that stopped the Allies from coming in, and the torpedo heads that sunk allied vessels. General Motors was a vastly larger manufacturer in Germany than was Ford.
NJJN: Was there not an embargo against American firms manufacturing goods for the Nazis?
Black: Of course there was, but IBM proved it could be gotten around by using international subsidiaries, which Ford and GM did. IBM organized the entire Holocaust — the identification of the Jews, the confiscation of their assets, their deportation, and their extermination.
NJJN: What was the Nazi-Arab alliance during the Holocaust?
Black: The Nazis wanted oil and the Arabs had it. They promised to give it to the Nazis if the Nazis would help exterminate the Jews. The Arabs wanted the British and the Jews out of Palestine, and they wanted Hitler to be their savior. They formed a robust alliance spearheaded by the grand mufti of Jerusalem, which materialized in the most heinous forms of massacres. The collaboration began from the first moment of the Hitler regime in 1933 and continued from India to Yugoslavia to Palestine to Damascus even after the Third Reich fell. About 2,000 SS and concentration camp guards escaped to Arab countries to continue their war against the Jews.
NJJN: What was the Farhud?
Black: It was the Arab-Nazi attempt to exterminate Iraqi Jews in 1941. They murdered hundreds. They looted. They burned. It ended 2,600 years of peaceful existence of the Jews in Iraq, 1,000 years before Mohammed.
NJJN: How does all of this affect the Middle East in 2013?
Black: The Holocaust was not solely a European crime. The Palestinian Arab population was in collaboration with the Nazis in Palestine, in the Middle East, and worldwide.
NJJN: Would you say that because of this history, there is no possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians?
Black: That is the point. The inescapable conclusion is there is no possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but there is a possibility of peaceful coexistence, with people living side-by-side in non-belligerence. That is the goal. If we can achieve that, we will have conquered 1,400 years of history.