On Saturday, a group of Neo-Nazis rallied in the small Georgia town of Newnan, which is about 40 miles outside of Atlanta.
While there were “only” about two dozen white supremacists at the rally, they still made a huge impact when they held a swastika burning in Draketown — a town some 50 miles from Newnan — that night. The swastika burning brought to mind horrific images of Nazi Germany.
In response, Jewish mom Stephanie Wittels Wachs — the sister of the late Parks and Rec comic Harris Wittels — tweeted a powerful, true story about being Jewish in the south.
I’m a Jewish person living in Texas in 2018. I’ve never felt oppressed or threatened because of my religion. Until now. This happened yesterday in Georgia. In 2018. pic.twitter.com/W27pMamDAf
— Stephanie Wittels Wachs (@wittelstephanie) April 23, 2018
“My Jewish mother grew up in Meridian, Mississippi,” she wrote. “In 1968, the KKK blew up her synagogue in addition to several black churches in the area.”
But her story doesn’t end there: “My grandfather offered a $75,000 reward to find out who was responsible for the damage. It made national news and put a target on his back. An informant alerted the FBI that the KKK was planning to bomb my mom’s house in retaliation. The FBI moved the entire neighborhood into motels for a week since they weren’t sure when the strike would occur. My grandfather brought his recliner with him.”
As it happened, two Ku Klux Klan members did come to Wach’s grandfather’s house — with 29 sticks of dynamite. Fortunately, the FBI was waiting. As JTA reported in July 1968, “Mr. Davidson’s home had been under surveillance after he put up a $75,000 reward following the bombing of the Meridian Reform temple.”
Meridian’s police chief found a notebook in one of the Ku Klux Klan member’s pockets, explaining that he was acting against “the Communist-Jew conspiracy which threatens our country” and he believed in using “any means necessary.”
One of the KKK members involved in the incident, a 26-year-old woman, was killed, and the other, a 21-year-old man, was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Wachs concludes her tweet thread saying: “A group of white people standing in a field in front of a burning swastika collectively performing the Nazi salute is historically dangerous and deadly. It’s horrifying. It makes me terrified to be Jewish. Now. Today. In 2018.
The Holocaust was 70 years ago. 6 million Jews were exterminated like vermin. Seeing this familiar, brutal, and horrific iconography suggests what Jews have always feared most: that it can happen again.”