Comparing the South to Nazi Germany


Dear Editor:

Leonard Pitts’ article comparing the Confederacy to Nazi Germany is highly offensive, especially to those of us whose Jewish ancestors fought for the South.

The article shows that he knows little about the Confederacy or the Nazis, since such a comparison would be more appropriate for Lincoln’s oppressive government and his brutal generals.

On December 17, 1862, in the worst official act of anti-Semitism in American history, Union General Ulysses S. Grant issued his infamous "General Order # 11," expelling the Jews "as a class" from his conquered territories within 24 hours.

And Grant also issued orders on 9 and 10 November 1862 banning southward travel in general, stating that "the Israelites especially should be kept out… no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad southward from any point… they are such an intolerable nuisance, that the department must be purged of them."

As a result of Grant’s expulsion order, Jewish families were forced out of their homes in Paducah, Kentucky, Holly Springs and Oxford Mississippi, and a few were sent to prison.

Other top Union officials supported and endorsed the Order, and it was not until 4 January, 1863, that Lincoln had Grant’s odious order rescinded. But by then, Jewish families in the area had been expelled, humiliated, terrified, and jailed, and some stripped of their possessions.

In addition, Jews in Union-occupied areas, such as New Orleans and Memphis, were singled out by Union forces for vicious abuse and vilification.

Meanwhile, in the South, Southern Jews were playing a prominent role in the Confederate government and armed forces, largely being treated as equals as they had become used to for a century-and-a-half.

Some 3,000 or more Jews fought for the South, practically every male of military age, and the Confederacy’s Secretary of War and later State was Judah P. Benjamin.

My great grandfather served, as did his four brothers, their uncle, his three sons, and some two dozen other members of my Mother’s extended family (the Moses’ of South Carolina and Georgia). Half a dozen of them fell in battle, largely teenagers, including the first and last Confederate Jews to die in battle.

We know first hand, from their letters, diaries, and memoirs that they were not fighting for slavery, but rather to defend themselves and their comrades, their families, homes, and country from an invading army that was trying to kill them, burn their homes and cities, and destroy everything they had.

It was this same Union Army (led by many of the same Civil War generals) that engaged in virtual genocide against the Native Americans in what we euphemistically call "the Indian Wars," often massacring harmless, defenseless old men, women, and children in their villages.

It was not the South but rather our enemies that engaged in genocide. While our ancestors may have lost the War, they never lost their honor, or engaged in anything that could justify their being compared to Nazis. It was the other side that did that.

Grant’s little-remembered Nazi-like decree and his other atrocities should serve to remind us what the South was up against, and why many native Southerners revere their ancestors’ courage, and still take much pride in this heritage.

Sincerely yours,

Lewis Regenstein
Atlanta, GA