The threat of violence between Nazi and Jewish groups was the basis for legally halting a proposed Nazi demonstration April 30 and May 1 in Skokie, a Chicago suburb with a Jewish population of 40,000, an estimated 7000 of them Holocaust survivors.
Illinois circuit and appellate courts held that the possibilities of violence overruled the rights of free speech which the Nazis claimed had been denied them earlier when the Skokie Park District required them to obtain $350,000 in liability insurance before they could receive a rally permit. The Nazis had been represented in court by a Jewish attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the face of court rulings barring a Sunday afternoon demonstration at the Skokie Village Hall, a group from the National Socialist Party of America attempted to demonstrate a day earlier. By 1 p.m. Saturday there were approximately 1000 counter-demonstrators at the Village Hall apparently eager to have the Nazis appear. Some counter-demonstrators seemed disappointed when told that Skokie police, acting yet under another court order banning the Nazis’ Saturday demonstration, had halted and turned back a group of 25 Nazis just outside the village limits.
Sol Goldstein, a Holocaust survivor, leader of Chicago’s Sheerith Hapletah (Save the Remnant) and a board member of the Jewish Federation, Jewish United Fund and many other Jewish organizations, played a key role in events as an impressive witness before the Skokie village authorities and in the courts.
Speaking Sunday at the rally in Skokie sponsored by the Synagogue Council of the Northwest Suburbs, Goldstein said: “The fall of Hitler was the end, not the beginning of genocide…. We will create conditions here which will not permit a repetition of the Holocaust.”
RAPS ACLU’S ARGUMENTS
Victor Rosenblum, professor of law at Northwestern University and member of the Jewish United Fund’s Public Affairs Committee, spoke at the rally about the legal aspects of the situation. The immediate past chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Chicago, Rosenblum strongly disagreed with the ACLU’s arguments in court that the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution applied equally to Nazi protests and civil rights demonstrations.
“The Nazis’ march in paraphernalia is a reminder of the most destructive movement in history,” he said “They stand for the destruction and wiping out of human beings. This is not constitutionally protected.” Rosenblum called attention to a remark made by a Nazi spokesman to the Northwestern University newspapers “Some of our men want to fight against Jews… every time we go out we prepare for a fight,” the Nazi was quoted as saying. According to Rosenblum, that remark was “the dividing line” between legitimate assemblies and provocative actions.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.