Senior Honors Theses
History Department Honors Program

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

May 2008


A Senior Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Honors in History.
Faculty Advisor: Walter Licht


Corporate responsibility is a popular buzzword in the news today, but the concept itself is hardly novel. In response to a barrage of public criticism, the Ford Motor Company commissioned and published a study of its own activities immediately before and during WWII. The study explores the multifaceted and complicated relationship between the American parent company in Dearborn and the German subsidiary in Cologne. The report's findings, however, are largely inconclusive and in some cases, dangerously misleading. This thesis will seek to establish how, with the consent of Dearborn, the German Ford company became an arsenal for Hitler's march on Europe. This thesis will clarify these murky relationships, and picking up where the Ford internal investigation left off, place them within a framework of corporate accountability and complicity. Ford's development as a transnational entity provides a perfect subject of study to embark on such a project. Many of the major themes of post-World War I Europe – economic stagnation, nationalism, coping with the aftermath of a devastating conflict, and eventually, the rise of authoritarian states – are all present in Ford's German story, and their consequences not only resonate within the fields of American, European, and business history but also that of corporate responsibility. The lessons are still relevant today.


Ford, Nazi, Hitler, Wehrmacht, Edsel, Research Findings About Ford-Werke Under the Nazi Regime



Date Posted: 23 June 2008