Updated June 23
In the weeks since protests against racism began after the killing of George Floyd, activists around the world have been toppling statues, either by pressuring public officials or by tearing the monuments down themselves.
Activists have naturally focused on memorials to Confederate leaders or others who enacted racist policies, and associate monuments to anti-Semites with Europe, where they are common. The United States has its own such memorials.
Gen. George S. Patton
Patton was one of the most important American military leaders during World War II, and the armies he commanded were crucial in winning the European theater of the war. He was also one of the American leaders responsible for overseeing the dissolution of Nazi concentration camps captured by the Allies. But his diary entries, posthumously published in 1996, reveal that his opinion of the Jewish prisoners he encountered was scarcely different than the Nazis he had just defeated. He described the Jewish displaced persons as “locusts,” “lower than animals,” “lost to all decency,” and “a subhuman species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our times.”
A monument to Patton was unveiled at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. in 1950, and then rededicated in 2009 — 13 years after his diary was published.
Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was also the owner of the Dearborn Independent, a newspaper that was distributed in dealerships nationwide. The Independent frequently published screeds and conspiracy theories against Jews, including several under Ford’s own name, as well as copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery. Ford was also frequently praised by Nazi leadership, which gave him a medal in 1938.
Lindbergh was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. He also received an award from Nazi leadership, and was a spokesman for the America First Committee, an isolationist group that had several Nazi sympathizers among its leadership. Lindbergh publicly claimed Jews were pushing the United States needlessly into World War II. He also was a close friend of Henry Ford, who said in 1940, “When Charles comes out here, we only talk about the Jews.”
Today, a statue of Lindbergh, depicting him both as a child and an adult, is found on the lawn of the state capitol complex in St. Paul, Minn., his home state. A bust of his face also graces the Lindbergh Terminal of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Stuyvesant was the final and most famous governor of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam before it was ceded to the British and became New York City. Stuyvesant initially refused to allow Jews to settle permanently in New Amsterdam, and while he later changed his mind, he made them pay a special tax. He also referred to Jews as “the deceitful race, such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ.”
Today, several New York City locations are named after him, including the Bed-Stuy neighborhood and Stuyvesant High School. Statues of him can be found at Stuyvesant Square in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Bergen Square in Jersey City, N.J. An Israeli legal advocacy group in 2017 called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove the Stuyvesant Square statue, saying that the former governor was an “extreme racist.”
Luther, the founder of Protestantism, harbored a hatred of Jews that would influence Europe for centuries. The official Protestant organizations of Germany and Norway officially condemned Luther’s anti-Semitism in 2015.
Owing to his historical and theological significance, statues of Luther are still present at Protestant universities and seminaries across the United States. But there is one monument to him sitting on public lands: an 18-foot-tall statue in Baltimore administered by the city’s department of parks and recreation. The statue was erected in 1936 and had a rededication ceremony in 2011.
Ulysses S. Grant
As commander of the Union Army, Grant’s victory freed millions of slaves. But during his tenure as general, he also expelled all Jews from Tennessee.
A statue of him — the largest equestrian monument in the United States — still stands in Washington, D.C. Another memorial to Grant came down last week in San Francisco, because Grant once owned a slave. During his presidency, he expressed great regret both for his slave-owning past and for his expulsion of the Jews.
A Jewish conversation for Pride Month. Jodi Rudoren, editor-in-chief of The Forward, will be joined by a panel of thought leaders to explore how far LGBTQ people have come and what happens next. Click here to Zoom with us June 30 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
Mary Elizabeth Lease
Lease, born in 1850, was an 19th century Populist and a leader of the women’s suffrage movement. She campaigned in favor of women’s and farmers’ rights, as well as the prohibition of alcohol. One scholar has claimed that Lease, who was based in Kansas for much of her fame, was the inspiration for the character of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” written by L. Frank Baum. But her crusade against bankers, who she felt were oppressing farmers, often veered into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. People who were forced to take out bank loans were “paying tribute to the Rothschilds of England, who are but the agent of the Jews,” she claimed.
A statue of Lease was erected in Wichita, Kansas in 2012 by the Hypatia Club, the state’s oldest women’s club, which Lease founded. “She was an incredible role model when she couldn’t even vote,” a club member told the Wichita Eagle.
Thomas E. Watson
Watson was a Georgia congressman and newspaper publisher who served as a vice-presidential nominee for William Jennings Bryan’s Populist Party in 1896. During the 1913 trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish man falsely accused of murdering a 13-year-old Christian girl, Watson’s paper whipped up anti-Semitic sentiment. After Frank was convicted and his sentence was commuted, Watson advocated for Frank to be lynched, which he eventually was. Watson was elected to the Senate in 1922 but died in office a year later. In addition to his anti-Semitism, Watson was also a white supremacist and anti-Catholic.
The statue of Watson on the steps of the Georgia state capitol was long controversial. Then-Gov. Nathan Deal removed the statue in 2013, but claimed that his move was only for renovation purposes. The statue is now located in a park across the street from the building.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that L. Frank Baum was from Kansas. In fact, although his most famous book, “The Wizard of Oz,” was partially set in Kansas, Baum never lived in that state.
8 American monuments celebrating anti-Semites