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Anti-Semitism and the Frank Case
The Literary Digest
(January 16, 1915)
pp. 85-86.

AMERICA seems to be having its cause célèbre of anti-Semitism in the case of Leo M. Frank, of Atlanta, which, according to one authority, ranks second in international importance with the "blood-ritual" murder trial of Mendel Beilis in Russia. And, as in the Dreyfus affair in France, we read that Jews in all parts of the world have come to the aid of Frank with published protests and funds contributed for his defense. "Sad to say, the old, and, as we thought, outworn, religious prejudice against the Jew was employed in full force, and it was determined to hang the Jew," remarks the New Orleans Jewish Ledger, which adds: "The murder was a most atrocious one, yet the trial of Frank exceeded it in atrocity." "No one can deny that under the circumstances the execution of Frank would be a travesty of justice," declares the San Francisco Emanu-el, which regards the condemned man as "the victim of mob spirit." And the New York American Hebrew asserts that the case" affects the life and liberty of every American citizen."

Three times sentenced to death for the murder in April, 1913, of Mary Phagan, a fourteen-year-old girl employed in the pencil factory of which he was superintendent, Frank now secures what practically amounts to a stay of execution, press reports tell us, until such time as the United States Supreme Court shall have reviewed the entire record of the trial and decided "whether a constitutional right was denied to him in his being excluded from the trial court-room when the jury returned its verdict of guilty." This is a point that has never been determined by the Supreme Court; and in applauding its action in granting Frank's appeal for a writ of habeas corpus, the New York World remarks that" where the defendant in a murder trial is excluded from court because of threats of mob violence when the jury returns its verdict, that is more the due process of lynch law than the due process of statute law." The Brooklyn Eagle says that "those who believe Frank to be a murderer should unite with those who believe him to be a helpless victim of race prejudice in approval of this court action," because "too many protections can not well be placed around the infliction of the death penalty where race and religious questions may have developed prejudice." Among many other journals which approve the Supreme Court's course are the Newark News, the New York Morning Telegraph, and the San Diego Union, which tells us that there is a very prevalent belief throughout the country that Frank did not have a fair trial, while we read in the Syracuse Herald that-

"Tho the fate of only one man is involved in the celebrated legal conflict, just and upright citizens who have studied this strange chapter of criminal history must recognize that when the rights of an individual are trampled upon in such a way, the rights of all would be potentially imperiled if the vicious precedent in his case were allowed to prevail……..

"He was convicted chiefly on the testimony of an alleged negro accomplice, who afterward recanted. The recantation, of course, did not appear in the trial; but what did appear there, in a sinister form, was an outbreak of mob fury against Frank which led his trial lawyers, who were justified in feeling that his life was in danger, to keep him away from the courtroom when the jury brought in its verdict. It was one of the most outrageous exhibitions on record of mobocracy invading the sacred precincts of justice."

"If the circumstances under which Frank was convicted of murder," observes the New York Herald, "were such as to render a fair trial impossible, it is of far more importance to the State than to Frank that a new trial should be granted," while the Brooklyn Times declares flatly that "Frank was adjudged guilty not because he was guilty, but because of unreasoning race prejudice against him."

A "crime wave" had been sweeping over the city, it appears, and a writer in the Chicago Tribune, who professes to render "an unbiased statement of the case," remarks that, as usually happens at such a time, the hue and cry was raised in Atlanta "that some one be punished as a lesson to others and in expiation of the crimes that had been committed." Both the people and the mayor declared the police to be incompetent, and" the police realized that if they meant to retain their jobs and the confidence of the people they must secure a conviction at the next opportunity that presented itself." The chance came, continues this writer, and, calling our attention to the prejudice in Atlanta against the Jews, he adds:

"Frank, part owner of the pencil-factory and its superintendent, was a Jew-almost enough, in the minds of some of Atlanta's voters, to indict him without further evidence on the charge of the murder of the girl he had employed. A Jew was a prize subject for the accusation of the crime-much better than a Negro. In the South they do not hate the Negroes. They don't respect them, they deny rights to, disfranchise, lynch, and pity them; but they do not hate them. To hate them would mean some acknowledgment of the equality of white and blackamoor, which no true Southerner will admit."

We read further that the Negro’s "chances for arousing the hatred of the white by commercial jealousy are automatically obviated because he is not allowed to have any business except that of being a servant." On the other hand,

"The Jew is an aggressive business competitor and compels outward respect at least because of his ability to secure trade, and thereby insure himself and family a good living. He, mayhap, owns a motor-car, and causes competitors to meet his prices. He contributes to the local charities and relieves the suffering of the poor, Jew and Gentile alike. So he is thoroughly hated, from economic jealousy as well as from religious prejudice, the one intensifying the other."

On the other hand, Mr. Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, is "very clear in the opinion that those who are undertaking to attribute developments in the Frank case to local hostility against the Hebrews are doing violent injustice to Atlanta and still greater injustice to the very large element of our Jewish population numbered among' our most prominent, enterprising, and highly esteemed citizens." He goes on to say:

"Without regard to the guilt or the innocence of Frank, not one thing that has happened in, the developments of his case would have been otherwise had Frank been anything else than a Jew. Whatever hostility there was against him as a defendant was not because, but in spite of the fact, that he was a Jew, for there never has been a time since Atlanta was a city when its Jewish population has not figured prominently in all matters of business development and civic enterprises with the most cordial and friendly cooperation on the part of their associates of other faiths."

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