Lid Fun Leo Frenk

Leo Frank
ליאָ פֿרענק

On August 17, 1915, the American Jew Leo Frank (born 1884) was lynched by an anti-Semitic mob near Atlanta, Georgia. He had been charged in 1913 with murdering Mary Phagan, a 14-year old employee of a pencil factory where he was the superintendent. Despite inconclusive evidence, the jury found Frank guilty. The case was retried a few times and was finally brought by Louis Marshall before the United States Supreme Court, without success. Hundreds of thousands of petitions were sent to the governor of Georgia, John Slaton, urging him to commute the sentence of death by hanging to life imprisonment and on June 21, the day before the scheduled execution, Governor John Slaton commuted Frank’s sentence to life imprisonment. A few months later the inflamed mob kidnapped Frank from jail and lynched him. The case had wide repercussions. From the Knights of Mary Phagan reemerged the Ku Klux Klan and as a result of the case, the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith was created (Frank had been president of the local chapter of B’nai B’rith).

On March 7, 1982, The Tennessean published an article “An Innocent Man Was Lynched” in which it stated that after seventy-five years a witness Alonzo Mann, then 14 years old, had come forth and sworn that he had seen Conley carrying the body of Mary Phagan, but at the time his mother had forced him to remain silent. Now however, he felt with death approaching, he had to speak out.

In American folklore, however, in the Ballad of Mary Phagan, Leo Frank is not exonerated: “I have an idea in my mind, when Frankie comes to die,/ And stands examination in the courthouse in the sky/ He’ll be so astonished to what the angels say,/ How he killed little Mary upon that holiday./ Judge Roan passed the sentence; he passed it very well;/ The Christian doers of heaven sent Leo Frank to hell. . . ”

The Yiddish song entitled “Frank’s Tragedy” expresses hope that Frank will be exonerated. The words and music by Yankev Krakovski were printed on a broadside in Toronto. The song mentions Sherbakova (Vera Cheberiak) who with her gang were implicated in the murder of the 12-year old boy Andrei Yushchinsky (see Lid Fun Mendl Beylis).

The trial of Leo Frank also had an impact in the Yiddish theatre. The second stanza of the popular song Lebn Zol Columbus goes: “A bilbl hot men oysgetrakht/ Oyf undzern a yidl .. ” (They made up a blood libel about one of our Jews).

Illustration of musical notes from the books


It’s dark in the prison, chains clang,
the hangman holds the rope and laughs,
he is waiting to hang Leo Frank,
the night passes too slowly for him.
Suddenly, a star lights up above Frank
and shines on him in the prison;
it comforts him and wipes his tears,
sings him to sleep with songs of life.

Have no fear, God is with you;
The Jew’s gallows is shattered,
shattered utterly.
Don’t be frightened, Jew, they will be silenced,
you will overcome all your troubles,
Have no fear, God is with you,
have no fear, God is with you.
The Jew’s gallows is shattered,
shattered utterly.
For Beilis’ slanders and for Frank,
Shterbakova and Conley will suffer.
Have no fear, God is with you.

Two thousand years have flown by
and in every generation a Haman erects a gallows.
All they do is libel us with drinking blood,
now a Conley, a Haman appears in the world.
God must create a Mordechai, too,
A Governor Sleyton, just in time,
who doesn’t believe in gallows, in weapons,
and frees Frank from death.

The tears not yet dry
from Mendel Beilis’ blood-libel,
now we, Jews, hear more.
A Phagan libel as big as the ocean.
Do you know God, the Jewish father?
He helps them out of every misfortune.
Beilis wasn’t harmed and will not be harmed,
and Frank will also be totally free.

With courage and joy, Jews will remember
John Slayton, the true Governor,
and bless his father and his mother
who brought such a son into the world,
saved millions from the gallows,
washed the entire Jewish nation clean,
who else would have done such a thing
if not you, Governor Slayton?

Fintster in tfise, keytn klingen,
Der talyen halt dem shtrik un lakht,
Oyf Leo Frenk vart er tsum hengen,
Langvaylik iz im di nakht;
Plutslung laykht oyf Frenks a shtern
Un er shaynt im in tfise arayn;
Er treyst im un visht zayne trern
Mit lebns-lider shlefert er im ayn.

Hob nit keyn moyre, got iz mit dir;
Dem yidns tlie iz tsebrokhn,
Tsebrokhn on a shir.
Shrek nit, yidl, zey vein shtumen,
Ale tsores vestu iberkumen,
Hob nit keyn moyre, got iz mit dir,
Hob nit keyn moyre, got iz mit dir.
Dem yidns tlie iz tsebrokhn,
Tsebrokhn on a shir.
Far Beylises bilbulim un far Frenkn
Vet Shterbakova un Konli krenken.
Hob nit keyn moyre, got iz mit dir.

Tsvey toyznt yor bald ‘tarfloygn,
In yedn dor a Homen tlies shtelt.
Men makht nor bilbulim blut zoygn,
Yetst kumt a Konli, a Homen oyf der velt.
Muz got oykh a Mordkhe shafri,
A Governor Sleyton in tsayt,
Vos gleybt nit in tlies, in vafn,
Un Frenkn fun toyt bafrayt.

Nokh nit opgetriknt di trern
Fun Mendl Beylises a!ilas-dam,
Darfn mir, yidn, vayter hern
A Feygans bilbl groys vi der yam.
Kent ir got, dem yidishn tatn?
Fun yedn umglik helft er zey.
Nit geshat Beylisn un s’vet im nit shatn,
Un Frenk vet oykh vern gants fray.

Mit mut un simkhe vein yidn dermonen
Dzhan Sleyton, der emes “governor,”
Un bentshn dem tatn un der mamen,
Vos hobn ‘zoy a zun gebrengt aher,
Fun tlie aropgenumen milyonen,
Reyn gevashn dem yidishn natsyon,
Ver volt ‘zoy vos nokh konen
Ven nit du, Governor Sleyton.

פֿינצטער אין תּפֿיסה, קײטן קלינגען,
דער תּלין האָלט דעס שטריק און לאַכט,
אױף ליאָ פֿרענק װאַרט ער צום הענגען,
לאַנגװײַליק איז אִים די נאַכט;
פּלוצלונג לײַכט אױף פֿרענקס א שטערן
און ער שײַנט אים אין תּפֿיסה אַרײַן;
ער טרײסט אים און װישט זײַנע טרערן
מיט לעבנס-לידער שלעפֿערט ער אים אײַן.

האָב ניט קײן מורא, גאָט איז מֿיט דיר;
דעם יידנס תּליה איז צעבראָכן,
צעבראָכן אָן אַ שיעור.
שרעק ניט, יידל, זײ װעלן שטומען,
אַלע צרות װעסטו איבערקומען,
האָב ניט קײן מורא, גאָט איז מיט דיר,
האָב ניט קײן מורא, גאָט איז מיט דיר,
דעם ייִדנס תּליה איז צעבראָכן,
צעבראָכן אָן אַ שִיעור.
פֿאַר בײליסעס׳ בילבולים און פֿאַר פֿרענקען
װעט שטערבאַקאָװאַ און קאַנלי קרענקען.
האָב ניט קײן מורא, גאָט איז מיט דיר.

צװײ טױזנט יאָר באַלד פֿאַרפֿלױגן,
אין יעדן דור א המן תּליות שטעלט.
מען מאַכט נאָר בילבולים בלוט זויגן,
יעצט קומט אַ קאַנלי, אַ המן אױף דער װעלט,
מוז גאָט אױך אַ מרדכי שאַפֿן,
אַ גאַװערנאָר סלײיטאָן אין צײַט,
װאָס גלײבט ניט אין תּליות, אין װאַפן,
און פֿרענקען פֿון טױט באַפֿרײַט.

נאָך ניט אָפֿגעטריקנט די טרערן
פֿון מענדל בײליסעס׳ עלילת-דם,
דאַרפֿן מיר, ייִדן, װײַטער הערן
אַ פֿײגאַנס ביבול גרױס װי דער יס.
קענט איר גאָט, דעס ײדישן טאַטן?
פֿון יעדן אומגליק העלפֿט ער זײ.
ניט געשאַט בײליסן און סיװעט איס ניט שאַטן,
און פֿרענק װעט אױך װערן גאַנצ פֿרײַ.

מיט מוט און שימחה װעלן ייִדן דערמאָנען,
דזשאַן סלײיטאָן, דער אמת גאַװערנאָר,
און בענטשן דעס טאַטן און דער מאַמען,
װאָס האָבן יזױ אַ זון געברענגט אַהער,
פֿון תּליה אַראָפּגענומען מיליאַנען,
רײן געװאַשן דעם יידישן נאַציאָן,
װער װאָלט ׳זױ װאָס נאָך קאָנען
װען ניט דו, גאָװערנאָר סלײטאָן.

Song Title: Lid Fun Leo Frenk

Composer: Unknown
Composer’s Yiddish Name: Unknown
Lyricist: Unknown
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: Unknown
Time Period: Unspecified

This Song is Part of a Collection

Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song

The Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song anthology comprises songs that were either never printed before or appeared in rare and inaccessible publications — sometimes in different versions and without proper sources. Most of the songs in this book were submitted by readers of Chana and Yosl’s column “Perl fun der yidisher poezye” (Pearls of Yiddish Poetry) in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts (The Forward), initiated in October, 1970. Over 25 years, thousands of songs were collected in correspondence and on cassettes from readers throughout the world, and they represent a veritable national Yiddish song archive. Chana Mlotek, in her introduction, writes, “In the course of years the inquiries, contributions and enthusiasm of these readers have kept our own interest unflagging and have reinforced our dedication to this effort. And in recent years our participants have also been augmented by new readers from the former Soviet Russia, who receive our newspaper there or from newly-arrived immigrants in this country and Israel.”

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