Neo-Nazi skinheads are becoming globally linked through an extensive international network, according to a recent survey released by the Anti- Defamation League.
“The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads,” the first major study of its kind, reveals that the movement encompasses some 70,000 youths — half of whom are hard-core activists and the rest supporters – - in 33 countries on six continents.
“Of great concern is the extent to which disparate neo-Nazi skinhead groups are globally linked,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director.
The 87-page report details how popular skinhead rock bands, the worldwide marketing of skinhead paraphernalia and music, the sale and trading of publications known as “skinzines,” and the use of computer bulletin boards and the Internet enable different skinhead groups around the globe to spread their message of hate.
According to the report, the skinhead movement originated in England in the early 1970s, when gangs of youths with shaved heads, tattoos, combat boots and staunchly xenophobic attitudes became commonplace on the streets of lower-class neighborhoods.
The movement attracts mostly young white men.
Their beliefs blend white supremacy, anti-Semitism, ultra nationalism and elements of Nazi doctrine, according to the report.
Skinheads retain the mythology of working class origins. But in reality, they come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, the report says.
The single greatest influence on skinheads, according to the study, is their music, a heavy brand of rock music called “oi.”
The lyrics contain bigotry and graphic descriptions of violence, such as: “Sharpen your knife on the sidewalk/Let the knife slip into the Jew’s body.”
Foxman said the purpose of the 18-month survey was to dispel any notion that skinheads are a passing fad.
“Cruel history has taught us that we dare not ignore the sound of jackboots,” he said. “The violent and racist skinhead movement must be countered by government, law enforcement and all decent people.”
In an effort to counter the movement, the ADL report recommends the establishment of police networking parallel to the skinhead network that crosses international borders and undercover operations to monitor skinheads.
The report also says that in countries where the promotion of racism and Nazism is illegal, skinhead music should be examined by authorities to determine whether it complies with the law.
Countries that have taken law enforcement seriously, such as the United States and Germany, have not seen the skinhead growth rate that other countries have witnessed, Foxman said.
Currently, 5,000 skinheads are in Germany and 3,500 are in the United States. Sizable numbers of the skinheads can be found in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
Although skinheads in some countries have connections with neo-Nazi political parties, the report said, they reject the parliamentary road to power.
Instead, they seek to achieve their goals by destabilizing society through violence and intimidation.
Foxman applauded the recent HBO movie “The Infiltrator,” which is based on the true experiences of Israeli journalist Yaron Svoray, who spent six months undercover in Germany with skinhead groups, for providing public exposure to the reality of these movements.
The journalist’s work was sponsored and publicized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.