Stone: Remembering the Nazis in Skokie

Remembering the Nazis in Skokie
Geoffrey R. Stone
The Huffington Post
April 20, 2009

Sunday morning marked the official opening of the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois. This striking new institution is dedicated to "preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference."

The seeds of the Skokie Holocaust Museum were sown more than thirty years ago, when roughly thirty members of the Nazi Party of America sought to march in Skokie. The plan was for the marchers to wear uniforms reminiscent of those worn by the members of Hitler's Nazi Party, including swastika armbands, and to carry a party banner bearing a large swastika.

At the time of the proposed march in 1977, Skokie, a northern Chicago suburb, had a population of about 70,000 persons, 40,000 of whom were Jewish. Approximately 5,000 of the Jewish residents were survivors of the Holocaust. The residents of Skokie responded with shock and outrage. They sought a court order enjoining the march on the grounds that it would "incite or promote hatred against persons of Jewish faith or ancestry," that is was a "deliberate and willful attempt" to inflict severe emotional harm on the Jewish population in Skokie (and especially on the survivors of the Holocaust), and that it would incite an "uncontrollably" violent response and lead to serious "bloodshed."