The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/m/metzger.tom/skins-scene


Newsgroups: alt.skinheads,alt.politics.white-power,alt.politics.nationalism.white
Subject: ADL: Skinhead International; The Skinhead Scene
Summary: The ADL's "Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey
         of Neo-Nazi Skinheads"
Followup-To: alt.skinheads

Archive/File: pub/orgs/american/adl/skinhead-international/skins-scene
Last-Modified: 1995/08/31

                       The Skinhead Scene

The Skinhead phenomenon originated in England where gangs of
menacing-looking, shaven-headed and tattooed youths in combat boots
began to be seen in the streets in the early 1970's. Their style was
meant to symbolize tough, patriotic, working-class attitudes in
contrast to the supposedly sissyish, pacifist, middle-class views of
the hippies.

The racist and chauvinist attitudes that prevailed at the time among
many Skinheads later evolved into a crude form of Nazism. From the
start, Skins drew public notice for their bigotry and taste for
violence, exemplified by their frequent assaults on Asian
immigrants, attacks which came to be known as "Paki-bashing."

In the years that followed, the Skinhead movement[1] spread from
England to the Continent and beyond. Racist Skinheads are found
today in almost every industrialized country whose majority
population is of European stock. Those attracted to the movement are
almost uniformly white youths between the ages of 13 and 25, with
males outnumbering females. While Skins retail the mythology of the
movement's working-class origins, in reality they come from a broad
range of socio-economic backgrounds.

The intimidating look favored by male Skinheads is instantly
recognizable: a shaved head or closely cropped hair; jeans; thin
suspenders or braces; combat boots; a bomber jacket, sometimes
emblazoned with Nazi insignia; and tattoos of Nazi symbols and
slogans. For security reasons, Skinheads sometimes adopt a less
conspicuous look, by, for example, letting their hair grow out.

Most Skinhead gangs range in size from fewer than 10 to several
dozen members. To those devoted to the movement, being a Skinhead is
a full-time way of life and not simply adherence to a fashion.
Skinhead activities dominate the social life - and the domestic life
- of gang members: they often live in communal crash-pads and stick
to themselves when out in public. The girls usually have Skinhead
boyfriends.

Neo-Nazi[2] ideology combined with the gang lifestyle provides
Skinheads with a seductive sense of strength, group belonging and
superiority over others. Invocation of Viking imagery offers the
Skinhead a perception of himself as a racial warrior. The Skinheads
glorify Hitler and aspire to create his vision of a world-wide,
pan-Aryan Reich.[3] These strands - a sense of power, of belonging,
of destiny - combine to create the appeal the Skinhead movement
holds for disaffected youngsters.

Skinhead violence differs little from one country to the next. When
on the prowl, they seek out members of hated groups and attack them.
While their means of attack varies, Skinheads take special pride in
using their boots as weapons. Vandalism is another Skinhead
specialty: they scrawl racist graffiti and desecrate Jewish
synagogues, cemetaries and memorials to the Holocaust.

While some Skinheads have been known to use drugs, virtually all
drink. Heavy beer consumption often precedes incidents of Skinhead
violence.

                      Music and Magazines

A major aspect of Skinhead life is their devotion to bands that play
white power "oi" music, a hard-driving brand of rock and roll whose
lyrics pound home a message of bigotry and violence.[4] No other
means of communication - neither the spoken nor written word -
compares with oi music's influence on their outlook and behavior.
Music is the Skinhead movement's main propaganda weapon and its
chief means of attracting young recruits into its ranks. Skins
maintain universal ties through their music, distributing recordings
internationally and organizing concert tours and music fests that
feature both domestic and foreign bands.

Record labels devoted to white power music produce and market
recordings, and informal networks of enthusiasts exchange bootleg
cassette tapes. The artwork on the jackets of Skinhead recordings is
characteristically devote to racist and violent images.

Concerts range from performances in local hangouts to international
festivals that attract Skinheads from neighboring countries. At
these festivals, swastika-emblazoned banners decorate the bandstands
while Skinheads, arms outstretched, shout slogans like "Sieg Heil"
and "White Power." In whatever context the bands play, the event
often degenerates into a free-for-all of slam-dancing and scattered
fistfights.

Also central to the Skinhead scene are their magazines (commonly
called skinzines or zines), usually crudely written newsletters that
focus on Skinhead bands and their recordings. The zines promote
Skinhead ideology and advertise services popular among Skins such as
tattoo parlors, clothing stores that sell Skin fashions, and oi
music distributors. In addition, they announce concerts and other
events of interest to Skinheads everywhere. Zines are published
sporadically, and it is not unusual for some to fold after a few
issues and for new ones to crop up.

The zines serve as a vital link between Skinheads in different
countries. The publications generally maintain friendly relations
internationally, carrying usually favorable reviews of foreign bands
and detailing - with some delight - the exploits of their
counterparts abroad.

The most commonly used propaganda items among Skinheades around the
world are printed and sold by an American neo-Nazi, Gary Lauck of
Lincoln, Nebraska, who publishes in 12 languages. Lauck supplies
huge quaintities of cheap colorful stickers bearing swastikas and
incendiary slogans like "Deport Race-Mixers" and "Polska Na Zawsze
Ziemia Aryjska!" ("Poland Will Forever Be Aryan!"). He also
publishes a neo-Nazi tabloid (in many languages) which he markets to
Skinheads and non-Skinheads alike.

Law enforcement authorities in Germany and elsewhere have long
linked Lauck's material to numerous criminal acts. German
prosecutors succeeded in bringing about Lauck's arrest when they
sent out a warrant to 15 other European countries where Lauck was
thought to have supporters. He was arrested in Denmark on March 20,
1995. Pending Lauck's extradition to Germany, he has been charged
with distributing illegal propaganda and Nazi symbols, incitement,
encouraging racial hatred and belonging to a criminal group.

Other members of the Skinheads include Tom Metzger, leader of the
California-based White Aryan Resistance, who circulates his
inflammatory tabloid WAR among Skinheads around the world. In
addition, pamphlets denying the reality of the Nazi murder of six
million Jews are eagerly read by Skinheads. One Holocaust-denial
tract, the "Leuchter Report," is distributed in large quantities by
German-born Canadian Ernst Zuendel. Copies have been supplied to
readers in Germany through Bela Ewald Althans, a Munich-based
neo-Nazi.

In whatever form it takes - zines, music, slogans, propaganda - the
rhetoric of Skinheads and their supporters is designed to encourage
violence. As this report shows, turning the rhetoric of violence
into action is the hallmark of Skinhead activity wherever the young
gangs have surfaced.

                         Conclusion 

The neo-Nazi Skinheads have neither the capacity nor any real
interest in capturing state power. There is no prospect that they
will somehow, somewhere, create a "Skinhead Republic." What the
Skinheads do have is a certain appeal for a limited number of young
people in a great many countries. Much of the appeal, no doubt, lies
in their cult-like qualities: their distinctive appearance, music,
machismo, and the promise of fratenity they offer alienated youth.
Yet the Skinheads are obviously no ordinary youth cult. Their Nazi
ideology and violent behavior have caused fear and anguish in every
community they have infested.

The Skins have been around long enough for Skinhead-watchers to make
some informed judgements about how best to counter them. Above all,
it is a serous mistake to remain passive during the early stages of
their destructive behavior. A number of countries have learned this
lesson the hard way - particularly Germany, whose initial
half-hearted response to the Skinhead threat proved very costly. Its
consequence was a dangerous escalation of Skinhead violence.

Having gone through that experience, Germany found that the most
effective way to counter the Skinheads was through tough-minded law
enforcement. Other nations learned the same lesson; in the United
States, the Department of Justice formed a special Skinhead Task
Force that succeeded in bringing about the trials and convictions of
a number of American Skinheads. Both countries continue to face a
serious Skinhead menace, but their tough law enforcement has
resulted in a decline in the level of Skinhead violence.

The term "tough law enforcement" is not meant to imply the use of
unlawful police methods. The laws defining hate crimes vary from one
country to another, but their underlying principle is the same and
it is sound: every democratic society has the right and duty to
protect itself from the use of violence by those intending to
destroy democracy.

Based on this survey, the Anti-Defamation League recommends:

1. Just as the Skinheads are linked across national borders, so
should there be parallel police networking across borders wherever
it does not yet exist. Such cooperation makes possible timely
warnings of transnational plans for disruptive Skinhead activity at
such events as soccer matches or oi music festivals. Similarly,
within each country, law enforcement agencies should cooperate
closely on Skinhead problems, particularly where there are separate
jurisdictions on the federal, state, and local levels.

2. Racist music is the chief propaganda weapon of the Skinhead
movement. In countries where the promotion of racism and Nazism is
barred by law[5] the authorities ought to pay careful attention to
the lyrics sung by Skinhead bands. Equally deserving of scrutiny are
the record compaies that produce and market this music. Their
profiting from the sale of hate is especially despicable and
warrnats the rigorous enforcement of the anti-racism laws.

3. Our survey confirms that a pattern noted in the United States is
occurring elsewhere: some Skinheads are shedding their standard look
- letting their hair grow and changing clothes - in ordeer to evade
police surveillance. Good intelligence is needed when this occurs,
because it may indicate that the Skins are going underground to
hatch terrorist schemes.

The bottom line is that wherever Skinheads operate, their proclivity
for hate and violence makes them a divisive and dangerous force in
the community. The Anti-Defamation League urges citizens and
governments alike to give these latter-day Nazi thugs the serious
attention they deserve.


-----------

1. Not all youths with shaved heads or closely cropped hair are
neo-nazis. There are many young people across the globe who call
themselves Skinheads and eschew bigotry (some are actively
anti-racist). They look the same as their racist counterparts -
without the Nazi insignia - and follow many of the same fashions
including a taste for "oi" music, beer and violence. Indeed, both
types of Skinheads have been known to attack each other. The term
"Skinhead" when used in this report refers to the neo-Nazi or racist
variety, unless otherwise specified.

2. The Skin's neo-Nazi views are very much a mixed bag. Some believe
in orthodox Nazi ideology, parroting the rhetoric of Hitler and his
propagandists. Others adhere to a mixture of racism, populism,
ethnocentrism and ultranationalist chauvinism, along with a
hodgepodge of Nazi-like attitudes. There is thus a range of views
that can fit comfortably within what we are now calling the neo-Nazi
Skinhead movement.

3. There are occasional instances in which racial and nationalist
allegiances may conflict, as in Poland where many Skinheads are
virently anti-German. In such cases, historic antagonisms are
stronger than the appeal of Skinhead solidarity.

4. Non-racist Skinhead bands also call their music "oi," a Cockney
greeting which is equivalent to "hey!" Their music is in fact quite
similar to that of the racist Skins, but without the bigoted lyrics.

5. Although consitutionally prohibited in the United States, such
laws are commonplace in many, if not most, of the world's
democracies.

                          Work Cited

Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide
Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League,
1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY
10017.

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