Young Jewish men who have been assigned work clearing snow stand in front of a formation of German troops, Częstochowa Ghetto in occupied Poland (circa 1939-1943).

Jewish organizations worked within the larger community to promote and educate about democratic values. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) focused on civil rights discrimination in the South, but also raised a national campaign to expose resort discrimination against Jews and Blacks. The ADL's "Crack the Quota" campaign reached its peak in Minnesota during the late 1950s.

Copyright © 2017 by Charles Grippo. All rights reserved.

This approach was also keeping in line with the way Skokie had handled previous attempts by hate groups to demonstrate. In 1966 the American Nazi Party, led by George Lincoln Rockwell, had intended to parade in front of a Skokie synagogue in full uniform during the High Holy Days. But leaders of the village’s Jewish community at that time agreed to ignore the Nazis and conduct their High Holy Day services as usual.

In April, Mayor Smith invited North Shore rabbis, Jewish leaders, and members of the Anti-Defamation League to a meeting to discuss strategy. At the meeting the attendees unanimously agreed to adopt the “Quarantine” policy.

But, as much as Mayor Smith and community leaders wanted to keep the whole problem under control, other forces sought to create as much trouble as they could.

Suddenly residents with Jewish sounding surnames began receiving threatening phone calls at their homes, at all hours of the day and night. Who was making those calls? (This was in the day before Caller ID) In subsequent court filings Collin denied that they had come from his followers, but the calls were reminiscent of Gestapo tactics.

Flyers of unknown origin papered the village. These said “Smash the Jewish system.” They contained a graphic of the swastika crushing a Jew. Again, they blamed the Jews for the “N---erazation of America.”

Collin leaked word that his demonstrators would carry placards with sayings, such as “Free Speech for the White Man” and “White Free Speech.”

Catching wind that the neo-Nazis were coming to Skokie — and also seeking free publicity for their causes — Communists, Socialists, and a loose amalgamation of other rabble-rousers planned counter-demonstrations that could easily lead to violence.

With all this agitation going on, persuading the residents of Skokie to “permit and ignore”  was becoming as bumpy as an airplane encountering turbulence in midair.

Mayor Smith, Counselor Schwartz, and Police Chief Chamberlin had their work cut out for them..

NEXT MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2017: The Community Reacts

Neo Nazi March vs. Skokie

Initial Skokie Reaction

By Charles Grippo

March 27, 2017

When Skokie Mayor Albert Smith, a Roman Catholic, and village counsel Harvey Schwartz learned that Frank Collin and his National Socialist Party of America intended to stage a demonstration in front of the village hall on May 1, they initially decided to simply let Collin go ahead. They had learned that Collin’s assertion that his marchers would number two hundred was hyperbole. In fact, Collin rarely mustered more than fifty demonstrators at any one time.

Schwartz advised Smith and the city council that Collin would likely be within his First Amendment rights to march. There was little the city could do about it.

Moreover, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, a national organization, had long recommended that communities should allow such demonstrations while paying no attention to them. This “permit and ignore” strategy was known as the “Quarantine” approach. The Anti-Defamation League knew from past experience that demonstrators were looking for publicity above all else. Direct confrontation would give the marchers the media event they wanted. To ignore them with the “Quarantine” approach, however, would leave the press with a non-story. The demonstration would fizzle out. The neo-Nazis would go home, disappointed.  Smith, Schwartz, and Chamberlain decided “Quarantine” was the smartest thing to do.