Classic Essays

Henry Ford: The Leo Frank Case — Are the Jews Clever?

Convicted of the sex murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old White girl: Mrs. Frank and Leo Frank during his trial in 1913

This is the last in this series of lost articles from Henry Ford’s book The International Jew. In this piece, he brings forth many interesting facts but nevertheless appears convinced of Frank’s innocence. In our view, Ford is wrong here: The facts conclusively point to Frank’s guilt.

by Henry Ford
The Dearborn Independent
– 3 December, 1921

Introduction: For more than a year after Frank was arrested few people outside of Georgia ever heard of him or his troubles. Yet 18 months after the origin of the case, and more than a year after his first trial, Frank’s misfortunes were displacing the World War as news in most of the newspapers and general periodicals in the country. Overnight, almost, the “news value” of the case became national and even international, though for nearly a year and a half it had been only local.

No one ever had a better case than did those who championed Leo M. Frank’s cause. The bare facts, should they have been isolated, brought clearly to light and emphasized, were sufficient. They were so convincing that to go beyond them was not only unnecessary but foolish.

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The Leo Frank Case — Are the Jews Clever?

A famous instance of colossal Jewish blundering which cost a man’s life; lessons in American public opinion.

THE student of Jewish psychology, as well as the psychology of the average non-Jew’s feeling toward the Jew, will find in the records of the Leo M. Frank case much suggestive data.

Frank is the Jew who was tried and convicted in Georgia, and later lynched, for the murder of a young white woman. In no other instance in this country did the Jewish mind and the so-called Gentile mind clash so violently as in that unfortunate affair, which attracted almost as much attention as the Dreyfus case in France. The Jewish attitude to subjects of controversy affecting the Jewish race was exhibited as on no other occasion of recent times. The power that the Jews as a race possess in America and can wield, as well as their faculty for using such power, was given most striking display. The Jew also was shown both on the offensive and the defensive as a racial entity in American life.

The affair in question has never been given the study that it deserved. The vast discussion at the time was mostly emotional or legalistic and quite naturally centered in the question of Frank’s guilt or innocence. The social phases, the true racial phases, the “mob mind” phases and the possibilities existing in the fact of a small segment of the population possessing powers of finance and publicity far out of proportion to its numbers have never been analyzed. Neither has anyone ever given study to those important phases that bear on the Jew in action under the kind of circumstances exemplified by the case.

Frank a Victim of His Own Race

MANY very close observers of the Frank case were convinced that the man was innocent. They were convinced, furthermore, that he was the victim of his own race more than of the people who pursued him to the tragic end. This does not excuse nor defend the undoubted unfairness and the rank injustice with which he was treated from start to finish. Many observers believe that the treatment given him was a disgrace to the state and people where it occurred. But, though it cannot be excused, it can be to some extent explained. And full explanation would necessitate going into many features not apparent on the surface of developments.

For more than a year after Frank was arrested few people outside of Georgia ever heard of him or his troubles. Yet 18 months after the origin of the case, and more than a year after his first trial, Frank’s misfortunes were displacing the World War as news in most of the newspapers and general periodicals in the country. Overnight, almost, the “news value” of the case became national and even international, though for nearly a year and a half it had been only local.

There is significance in that; not because the case did not possess high news value anywhere but because of the sudden general recognition and acceptance of those values. That general recognition and acceptance was concurrent with the action of the Jews of the country in taking over Frank’s cause as their own and making it an issue as between Jew and Christian. Then began the vital blunders which made the final tragedy inevitable.

The first blunders were made by the Jews near the events of the drama from its beginning. No sooner was Frank arrested than the Jews of Atlanta and very largely of all Georgia accepted his case as one involving them as a race and began to make it an issue as between Jew and Gentile.

The Jewish Situation in Georgia

THERE was some justification for that attitude, but to set it forth requires a knowledge of the background of racial factors. It is rather difficult to explain the situation of the Jews in their relations to Christians in Georgia and largely in the South as a whole at the beginning of the Frank affair. It was and still is different from those existing in most other sections of the country. Jews in Georgia were and are not so numerous as in Eastern and Northern states generally. Those that were there may be segregated into two somewhat distinct classes: The first, or old type of Southern Jew, and second, the new type of immigrant Jew. As a rule the first type was comprised of a good class of citizens who had ceased, all but nominally, to be Jews. Many of them descended from Colonial families that had married into Christian families and otherwise had become blended with the body of the people generally. Against them there was little if any feeling that might be called prejudice. The second type is made up very largely of the Russian type of Jew, new to the country, and is substantially the same as found, but much more numerously, in the East. Against them there was the same kind of feeling and prejudice, so to speak, that exists in other sections of the country.

The suspicion against Frank undoubtedly was heightened by the fact of his being an “outside Jew,” that is to say, a newcomer. It is true that he did not belong to the second classification of Jews, as given above; his affiliations were wholly with the other and higher class. That fact, however, was not generally known; for he had been in the state for only a few years and, unlike most active Jews of his type, had failed to establish protective associations with the Christian elements of the community. Aside from his business activities, which were confined to the management of a small pencil factory, he had little identity outside of more or less exclusive and limited Jewish circles, belonging to no clubs or secret orders other than some made up of Jews only. All that 999 of every 1,000 persons in the community knew was that he was a Jew; and, being a newcomer, he was identified in the popular mind with the lower or immigrant type of Jew. Had he actually been a low-type Jew, calmness would have followed the first excitement and the public mind might have come around to a sane consideration of his defense. But being of the high-type Jewish class, the leading Jews of the community began immediately to champion his case and the more they championed it the more they hurt it.

For, though many are well convinced that he was innocent, there were circumstances connected with the murder that at first pointed, not conclusively but clearly, to him as the probable murderer. They were such as no efficient police or prosecuting officials could ignore. Even his detention, pending investigation, was wholly justified by those circumstances,

A Series of High-Priced Jew Blunders

BUT no sooner was he taken in charge by the police, soon after the discovery of the murder, than the high-class Jews to whom alone, almost, he was intimately known, began to make his case a racial issue and in doing so they accentuated the suspicion against him.

They committed one blunder after another until the public mind of the state reached the conclusion that the issue represented a test of Jewish right and power as against the power of the state and its courts.

The tendency of the Jewish mind was evidenced in the first move made by Frank’s friends. When on the day following the discovery of the crime he was taken to police headquarters, not to arrest him, but to get all information that he—as manager of the factory and one of the last to see the murdered girl alive—might have, he, of course, took his lawyer, a young Jewish attorney, along, But they wanted even more protection for Frank and before they would allow him to talk they called in one of the leading and most high-priced lawyers in the city. Whether it was so intended, or merely was a tactless blunder, remains a matter of opinion, but throughout the course of the case, there was an all too conspicuous evidence of the Jews’ reliance upon resources they could command in Frank’s behalf as against faith in the ultimate sense of justice coming to control the affair, or dependence upon the facts which should have saved him.

They showed no inclination to await developments or depend upon the results of careful investigations to bring out the truth. They viewed the insistence of others that the suspicious circumstances warranted investigation, as mere feeling against Frank because he was a Jew and nothing else. That there should be concrete prejudice was due to certain typically Jewish traits, no more conspicuous there than elsewhere or in any way peculiar there. Prior to the Frank affair the expression of antipathy toward Jews was not common and very rare except in the case of individuals. In social life there was scarcely a bar, erected on racial grounds alone, against them; they belonged to the best clubs, held office (one in fact was an early governor of Georgia) and took free and full part in all activity opened to the commonality of citizens. But the new or immigrant type of Jew, by reason of his mode of life, his business habits and his manners, had aroused among the people, especially of the cities, some specific feeling against Jews in general.

In the confusion following the murder, the newspapers, in giving sensationalism full sway, did not hesitate to play to public feeling. The “circulation contest” that the newspapers made out of the case was due largely to the fact that William Randolph Hearst had just taken over an afternoon paper there, and the murder of the little factory girl supplied the kind of “news” in which Mr. Hearst’s publications delight. The other newspapers knew this .and attempted to out-Hearst Hearst, which in truth they did.

Jews in Atlanta Newspapers

IN VIEW of the newspapers’ hands in the affair, it is interesting to note that the city editor of Mr. Hearst’s paper—the man who directed the covering of the story for that paper—was a New York Jew, who only recently had been sent to the city by Mr. Hearst.

The managing editor of the only morning newspaper was a southern Jew who sprang from one of those old Jewish families above described.

The managing editor of the third, and other afternoon newspaper was the son of a Jew, coming, also, from one of those old families that are held in high respect. His mother belonged to one of the state’s most prominent Christian families.

Thus the newspaper methods that accentuated the feeling against Frank and fixed in the public mind an insuperable conviction of his guilt were manipulated in great part by Jews who held important executive positions on each of the three newspapers.

There soon was evidence of large funds being available for Frank’s defense. He, or the owners of the factory he managed, made quite a gesture at the start by announcing the employment of the Pinkertons to investigate the murder. Instead of that being accepted publicly as an honest effort to get the truth, it was construed as a mere stratagem to “sew up” an agency that might enter the case on behalf of the state. That feeling was crystallized later when the Pinkertons were dismissed, following their disclosure of facts injurious to Frank.

Following the trial, the newspapers awoke to the very sad part they had played in the affair, and the
Jews also came fully to realize the potency of that part. Jews disposed of much local advertising and held a position in local finance far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. The newspapers which had been utterly reckless during the important period before and even during the trial now became ultra conservative with reference to the subject. Everything favorable to Frank and the Jews was “played up” and everything unfavorable that could be passed over was not published. The change, which was attributed to the power of high Jewish influence, did Frank about as much damage as did the former policy of recklessness. Everything was explained on the score of “Jew money.”

Jewish Organizations Rush to the Fray

WILLIAM J. BURNS, the noted detective, was then brought in with great fanfare. He and his force paraded around as if their mere coming settled the entire issue. The newspapers threw open their columns to Burns, and he used them with a liberality that disgusted even the folks who were sympathetic with Frank.

There was finally produced an affidavit which was challenged as false, made by a man who was clearly a mental defective, and, rather to the general satisfaction of the people, the noted detective and his force moved out of town.

It was at about that time that the Jews, utterly unequal to the situation that had come about in Atlanta and Georgia, made appeal to Jews in other sections of the country.

How it was originated is a matter that never has been fully disclosed, but suddenly in late 1914 there began the general agitation that gave the case national and even international interest.

The lead in the matter was taken too prominently by publications that were owned or dominated by Jews. The New York Times was the leader in the agitation and, of course, it was well known that Mr. Ochs, its publisher and chief owner, was a Jew. But the Times’ treatment was much fairer and more sensible than that given to the case by many other publications that “featured” it. The same is true of the New York World. Those two papers did send capable reporters to investigate the affair and apparently left them to tell the facts as they were. The facts themselves, put forward without coloring and exaggeration, were the best argument that could be made for Frank; they really needed nothing more. But unfortunate Frank again got caught in a bad mess of circumstances.

Jews in many sections of the country began to bring “pressure” to bear on mediums of publicity.
Some no doubt were inspired by an honest desire to help a member of their race who certainly was in a deplorable situation and who deserved help. But it was apparent that the bulk of them gave more importance to the display of help than to actual service that could be accomplished. Some publications sincerely wanted to render a justifiable service, not to Jews particularly but to truth and humanity. They went about the undertaking calmly and with some attention to the peculiar situation that had developed. Others plunged into it merely for the clearly apparent purpose of pleasing their Jewish clientele and arousing the maudlin sentimentalities of their readers.

Epochal Display of Jewish Arrogance

NO OTHER campaign such as that carried on for nearly a year throughout the country for Frank, was ever made in the United States. A great deal of it, of course, was due to honest interest in justice. But other men of whose guilt there was serious doubt had been convicted and in some cases hanged without a national furor being raised. Thus in addition to the natural and honest interest the facts of the case aroused, the furor was due to the concerted action of Jews throughout the country. It was a great display of power and solidarity, for within a few months’ time after the outside campaign started there began to flow into Georgia reams of published matter of every known variety aimed mostly at arousing national interest in Frank’s position. That it was due in great measure to the pulling of “strings” within the reach of Jews as a group is proved by the fact that a year and a half had passed before virtually any interest was shown in the case outside of Georgia.

Of course there was nothing essentially improper in the Jews of New York or Chicago or Podunk appealing to local editors on behalf of a man in Georgia or elsewhere. And there was nothing improper in these editors taking proper editorial cognizance of the case and of informing their readers concerning it and in commenting upon the injustice that a great state seemed on the verge of doing to one of its citizens.

But when the case became a mere pretext for the exercise of “Jewish power” and for the display of
“Jewish arrogance” and for the cultivation of Jewish patronage by non-Jewish editors, then a double fault entered into the equation. For such exemplification injured the very cause that it pretended to serve.

Nation-Wide Slander of Georgia

LOOKING over a bundle of clippings of that period one is astounded by the speciousness, absence of sincere interest in the facts and apparent lack of any desire to do other than to appeal to the sob instincts of the public and to curry favor with Jew advertisers and financiers which characterized most of the matter published on the case outside of Georgia.

Here’s a streamer—the first clipping that comes to hand—which was spread across the top-page of an
Eastern newspaper. A seven-column, 30-point heading says: “It Isn’t Leo M. Frank Who Is on Trial, But the U. S. Constitution.” (The United States Supreme Court already had held that the Federal Constitution was in no way involved in the case). The hysterical appeal in the lines beneath the heading is typified by the following sentence: “All the circumstances have a Russian odor,” meaning, of course, the circumstances of the case.

Mr. Hearst, whose advent into the Georgia newspaper field had so much to do with the development of the horrid state of mind that came to be the chief factor in the affair, took up Frank’s cause veritably as his own and devoted to it much space in all of his newspapers—outside of Georgia. His paper in Georgia merely played low on the subject, taking care to drive no Jewish advertisers or anti-Jewish readers away. To have published in Georgia what he put forth in New York and Chicago and San Francisco would have wrecked his Georgia publication and would have done Frank no good, for it left out of consideration the very factor that in the ultimate had to control the public opinion of Georgia. It appealed merely to public sentiment elsewhere, and especially to Jewish patrons of the Hearst papers.

Most of the outside newspapermen who went to Georgia, ostensibly to investigate the case, were sent under orders to write the Frank side of it for a public that could have little weight in the premises. Hence they wrote only the Jewish side, with all its bloodcurdling possibilities, for an outside public that was little acquainted, if at all, with antecedent or underlying facts. Several of these newspapermen have since told how they merely made out a case for Frank and made no attempt to go to the heart of the matter; one, a young Jew who went down there for a New York Jewish paper, said later that he believed Frank to be guilty.

In making out a case for Frank and the Jews they necessarily made out one against those who insisted on Frank’s guilt and one that could be construed as a case against the state of Georgia and its citizens. That is where the big blunder was made and the harm was done, for, instead of alleviating, the outside agitation intensified the feeling in Georgia against Frank and the Jews. The average man there—not the man in the street alone but intelligent men, as well, could see in it all scarcely more than a display of far-reaching Jewish power and dominating influence. Hence it was resented.

In the midst of the agitation, the Macon, Georgia Telegraph, editorially among the strongest papers in
Georgia and the South, said: “If Frank is innocent, and the Telegraph does not pretend to say that he is or is not, he has been done incalculable harm by those who sought to aid him. Well might he exclaim, ‘God save me from my friends!’ If there has been stirred up racial prejudice in Georgia it has been stirred up not by the Gentile, not by the average Jew living in peace, contentment and mutual self-respect with its neighbors of other faiths in the South, but rather by those journalistic and self-appointed propagandists who first raised the charge that Frank was being persecuted because he was a Jew.”

Again the Telegraph said: “Much as Georgia may resent the unwarranted and astonishing attacks made on her good name and the spirit of justice and tolerance in her people by this libel-bund beyond our borders, it must be admitted to our shame, that this infamous heraldry of befouling sensation originated at home. The treatment of the Frank case by the hysterical Atlanta papers is directly responsible for it. Before and during the trial they handled the necessarily sensational features of the case pretty much as they developed and without especial color one way or the other. Then after several months there came a most astounding policy. One and all they clamored in lusty unison for a new trial for Frank. It was unanimous and it was all three of them together as if at a given signal—which may and may not have been mere coincidence.”

The Augusta, Georgia Chronicle made similar editorial expression, protesting against the kind of matter that was being used in appealing to the Jews outside of Georgia and which was necessarily injuring them in Georgia.

The Jews Fear Facts Even When Favorable

HOW much money was actually used in making the outside campaign for Frank would be difficult to determine, but there is reason to believe it was considerable. Jacob L. Schiff, the New York banker, was treasurer for the fund that was raised, and money was collected in all parts of the South. To what extent money was used improperly, if at all, is not known. What is known, however, is that the power of money was used to a greater extent than money itself and that neither was used effectively.

No one ever had a better case than did those who championed Leo M. Frank’s cause. The bare facts, should they have been isolated, brought clearly to light and emphasized, were sufficient. They were so convincing that to go beyond them was not only unnecessary but foolish, for such overshooting the mark merely confused the facts and added to the complications. So much for boasted Jewish cleverness and brilliancy.

The course of the Frank case and its aftermath made it quite clear that a characteristic of the Jew is a fear of facts, even when they are in his favor. From the very beginning of the case, Frank’s Jewish friends were prone to reach beyond the facts—to seek to do by indirection and artifice what could easily have been done by direction and candor. They proceeded too frequently as they might have been expected to do had the facts been entirely against them, which they were not. Thus the public was never convinced that even the Jews truly believed Frank to be innocent and based its own belief in his guilt very largely in the methods pursued by the Jews in his behalf.

There are, of course, many notable exceptions to the statement about to be made:—but the Jews who took a leading part in the man’s behalf were usually moved more by their arrogance than by intelligent sympathy for the man, though doubtless they sincerely wanted to help him.

It Was Not a Sense of Justice But of Power

AFTER Frank was taken from the state farm and lynched—and it must be said when he went to die he showed superlative courage—many of those who had been interested in the affair wanted to pursue it until every question was cleared up. In other words, to them much more than the life or death of Frank was involved. Believing the man innocent they wanted to see him cleared, whether alive or dead, of every possible suspicion, And believing that public opinion had made a mistake that ended in a fearful tragedy, they wanted to prove that such a mistake was made; so that in future the people under similar circumstances would be loath to form opinions so readily on faulty facts. Then another individual was involved. He was Slaton, the governor, who saved Frank from being hanged by the state. From the most popular public man in Georgia, he fell, by the act of commutation, to the grade of the most unpopular; as is well known, his own life was threatened by a mob, And to this day—more than five years afterward—he is still in the shadow of the local unpopularity that he won for himself by the most courageous act it is possible for a public man to perform.

But to the suggestion that proper investigations be made, at least from the point of view of the wrong done to Slaton, the Jews were the first to say NO.

Their answer was: “It hurts business; let’s forget it.”

It has been rather difficult to talk to Jews about the case since it was closed by Frank’s death. Toward
Slaton they evinced more of contempt than of true admiration. They joined in the superficial applause given him—outside of Georgia-—-immediately following his act of commutation. But in talking about the matter a number of Jews in New York not long after the occurrences in question, were almost unanimously of the opinion that Slaton had yielded more to Jewish power than to his sense of justice. In other words, it appeared difficult for the average Jewish mind to conceive of a man in Slaton’s position sacrificing himself for a principle. They thus seemed to find something pleasing to their racial self-esteem, rather than an example of human nobility, in Slaton’s performance.

Jews Do Not Fight in the Open

SEVERAL Jews of national prominence were appealed to—notably Henry Morgenthau—to lend a hand in bringing about some recognition of Slaton that would show to the people of Georgia that the world in general would not ignore an act of sacrifice such as he performed and would not permit such a man to “kill himself politically.”

But from no one could any encouragement be had.

Even Mr. Hearst, a personal friend of Slaton’s and for whose Georgia newspaper Slaton did considerable and who made the “pro” side of the Frank case a newspaper asset outside of Georgia, refused to lend his resources to an effort made to rehabilitate Slaton in Georgia.

While Frank’s being a Jew had something to do with the feeling that quickly rose against him, it is doubtful if any abstract prejudice against Jews in general figured very much in the formation of opinion.

Frank finally was sacrificed by the blunders, the arrogance, and the lack of tact of his own people and by the average Jews’ refusal to look facts in the face and to accept them and act upon them, characteristics which were quite clearly exemplified in every phase of the Frank case.

The case showed how the Jews on necessity, for either right or wrong, may wield a power out of all proportion to their numbers, It also proves very probably that the Jew in using that power is prone to bungle the job, especially when it is employed toward controlling and maneuvering the public opinion of other races.

It also indicated quite clearly that Jews as a class are opportunists, more interested in the event than in the principle.

One interesting psychological phase, somewhat apart from the others, was demonstrated, The Jew would not fight clearly in the open.

Volumes One and Two of “The International Jew,” 236 and 256 pages respectively, sent to any address upon receipt of 25 cents for each volume [note from 1921].

Jewish World Notes

  • The Jews, uninvited, appointed a delegation to the Disarmament Conference, and notified Secretary Hughes of the fact. Mr. Hughes ignored it. Then the Jews appealed to the White House and the appeal was turned over in the regular course of routine business to the State Department, where one of Mr. Hughes’ under-secretaries replied to it with a refusal to grant the delegation any standing whatever. Upon this unmistakable rebuke to their impudence, the Jewish leaders endeavored to create a situation which would make it appear to the public that the failure was due to a difference of opinion in their own ranks, and Louis Marshall was rung in as opposing what they knew they could not have. But the Jewish delegation is in Washington, comprising many of the same crowd that put the kosher sign on the Versailles Conference. But it is a different Washington than it has ever been before. The overplayed game of the Jewish leaders is not so popular in that city as it was not so very long ago.
  • The Chicago Sentinel, Jewish, congratulates the nation on the appointment of Dr. Joseph Kornfeld, a Columbus, Ohio, rabbi, as Minister to Persia. The rabbi, says the Sentinel, is “close both to the President and to Attorney-General Daugherty.” America is to be congratulated, but has Persia been heard from?
  • From a letter: “When I read a statement made in THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT that 60 per cent of the shoe business is in the hands of Jews, I discredited it. But upon investigation in our shoe department, I find we have practically nothing but Jew-made shoes. And in the ready-to-wear departments, for men, women and children, we have to buy every garment from Jew makers.”

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Source: Andrew Hamilton via Culture Clash

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Patrick Pappano
Patrick Pappano
3 November, 2021 7:40 am

“The course of the Frank case and its aftermath made it quite clear that a characteristic of the Jew is a fear of facts, even when they are in his favor. From the very beginning of the case, Frank’s Jewish friends were prone to reach beyond the facts—to seek to do by indirection and artifice what could easily have been done by direction and candor.”  Priceless. This article by Ford (possibly Elizabeth Dilling) is such a departure from the yellow journalism, that it is like being in a theater when the lights go on. I don’t know about Frank’s guilt or innocence, but the power of the media to completely overtake the case and turn it into a drama is well displayed and flayed. The actual persons involved immediately become… Read more »