Elmer Hartzel

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Elmer Hartzel (born 1892) was a defendant in a landmark free speech U.S. Supreme Court ruling. He was born in Pennsylvania and was of Scotch, Irish, and German descent. In 1917 he enlisted in the armed forces and served in World War I.

After being honorably discharge in 1919, he took a job with the city health department in Akron, Ohio. In the evenings he took classes at Akron University earning a degree in science. Later he took courses in economics and political economy at the University of Chicago. He eventually became a financial analyst and statistician for banks and investment companies in Chicago.

As an act of protest against the coming war Hartzel mailed mimeographed copies of articles he had written to 600 opinion leaders, some of them high ranking military officers. In the articles he condemned the British government and the Jews and called upon all white nations of the world--including National Socialist Germany--to unite against the yellow races.

One of his article was titled “ The British : An Inferior Breed” claiming Great Britain was a degenerate and parasitic nation. Another titled “The Jew Makes a Sacrifice” made the points the Jews were pushing American into war and wanted to establish a Communist government. A third “The Diseased Spinal Cord” claimed president “Rosenfeld” was a degenerate, paralyzed with polio.[1]

He was indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act charged with causing insubordination among military personnel. He was tried in federal court and found guilty. In October 1943 his conviction was upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals. In June 1944 with a five to four vote the US Supreme Court overturned Hartzel’s conviction.


  1. The Home-Front War: World War II and American Society, by Kenneth Paul O'Brien, Lynn H. Parsons, page 15

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