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September 09, 1988 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-09

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Judah Benjamin

Continued from Page 7

slaves — 140. Therefore, Ben-
jamin had a heavy stake in
the slave system. During his
years in the United States
Senate (to which he was
elected not by the people but
by the Louisiana state
legislature, consisting of
slaveowners like Benjamin),
he achieved the reputation of
the most persistent and elo-
quent defender of slavery.
A particularly famous, or
infamous, address was the
one he delivered in the
Senate on March 11, 1858, on
"The Property Doctrine." In
this oration he defended the
Supreme Court's Dred Scott
decision that a Negro had no
rights a white man must
A memorable rejoinder
came from an abolitionist
senator, who called Benjamin
"an Israelite with Egyptian
principles" — an appellation
Benjamin has not been able
to shake. Evans' evidence
that Benjamin was a bit more
of a Jew than had been sup-
posed and was a target of
anti-Semitism does- not
change the fact that Ben-
jamin was indeed on the side
of Pharaoh.
In extenuation of Ben-
jamin's being a slaveowner,
Cohen says he was "among
the first to urge their eman-
cipation . ." Not quite so.
Evans does indicate that Ben-
jamin sometimes proposed
emancipation of Southern
slaves who would join the
Confederate army, yet Ben-
jamin rejected just such a pro-
posal on Aug. 18, 1863, when
an Alabama mill owner made
it. Benjamin also helped
defeat a proposal by generals
in Bragg's army to recruit
slaves as soldiers. Only late in
1864, after Sherman had
marched through Georgia,
did Benjamin address a public
meeting to urge arming of
slaves in exchange for their
freedom — but the Con-
federate senate shortly
thereafter excluded eman-
ciaption from a bill to enlist
slaves volunteering to join the
Confederate army.
And what about Benjamin's
connection with the Ku Klux
Klan? Evans avoided repor-
ting that fact: While in
England, Benjamin was
visited in 1867 by Bishop
Richard H. Wilmer, who
solicited and obtained from
Benjamin contributions to
help outfit the newly-formed
Ku Klux Klan with "horses,
saddles, fire-arms and other
necessities!' It is a matter of
historical irony that in 1868
such horses and fire-arms
were used in the lynching in
Franklin, Tenn., of a Russian
Jew, Solomon A. Bierman.
Bierman had a dry goods

store and employed a black
At a recent general meeting
of the Jewish Historical Socie-
ty of New York, when I press-
ed Evans about Benjamin's
support of the Klan, he
replied that the source of the
information, Susan Lawrence
Davis' Authentic History, Ku
Klux Klan, 1865-1877,
published in 1924 when the
new KKK was at its peak,
had been "discredited!' Not
so: the book's facts are
credited; her defense of the
KKK was discredited. Evans,
who discredits many an item
in his book, chose not to
report the Klan connection at
Cohen concludes that now
that Evans "has given Ben-
jamin back to the Jews," Ben-
jamin is "certainly one in
whom the American Jewish
community can take pride!'
Pride in what — in the fact
that Benjamin's great talents
were used in an evil cause,
slavery and its malignant off-
spring, the Ku Klux Klan?

Morris U. Schappes
Editor, Jewish Currents
New York

NEWS him'm

`German Probe
Must Continue'

Bonn (JTA) — The leader of
West Germany's Jewish com-
munity, Heinz Galinski, said
he is not satisfied with the in-
vestigation of the Werner
Nachmann embezzlement
scandal, and that he believes
the investigation should be
pursued without bias to ex-
pose possible accomplices,
whether they be Jews or
Nachmann, who was chair-
man of the Central Council of
Jews in Germany for 20 years
until his sudden death last
January, was found to have
misappropriated from $7
million up to $20 million pro-
vided by the Bonn govern-
ment to pay restitution to
Jewish Holocaust survivors.
Galinski discovered the
malfeasance shortly after he
took office as Nachmann's
Speaking to a West German
radio station in an interview
last week, Galinski said that
family members and close
associates of -Nachmann
"must have had at least some
knowledge" of what happen-
ed. He said he would leave it
to the state prosecution to
clear up the question of
"We are all co-responsible
in a moral sense, because we
had too much confidence" in
Nachman, Galinski said.

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