The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States

By Gerald Horne | Go to book overview

9

A Trial on Trial

As it turned out, the trial generated 20,000 pages of transcripts1 in eight months—then the judge died. By the time new indictments were drawn up the war had ended2 and with it the hysteria that had sparked this trial in the first place; now the nation was consumed not with a “fascist threat” but a “communist threat.” Thus, though Dennis's reputation was tarred beyond belief, he was able to escape prison.

The trial opened in April 1944, a few months before the invasion of the Allies at Normandy, which annihilated fascist dreams, and—ironically—lessened pressure for a conviction of Dennis and his codefendants. But that reality was not evident as Dennis and his spouse walked into the courtroom. “There were armed guards on all sides. Practically every large newspaper in the United States had a representative present. Photographers and radio script writers were on hand. The feature services were represented. Nothing was overlooked or left undone to give the impression that a group of desperate, dangerous people were being brought to trial. The courtroom was packed with overflow crowds filling the vestibule and stairway reaching outside and down to the street. A big black van pulled up to the ground floor rear entrance of the courthouse, carrying the seven defendants who had been convicted a few months earlier. There was a clanking sound as the handcuffs and leg irons were removed. Flanked on all sides by officers bearing arms, these bewildered little men who did not have a dollar with which to defend themselves, were whisked upstairs and ordered to take seats held for them” in the courtroom.3

Dennis wound up defending himself. He and his wife had met with Robert Epstein at the Harvard Club in Manhattan to discuss his taking on the case but the skilled attorney told them both that he would not consider him as a client if he was anti-Semitic in his views. Dennis denied that this was the case though he readily admitted that he was unsympathetic

-126-

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