The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Skinhead International: 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 warrants 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 order 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.

Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.

Unless otherwise specified, the word "skinhead" within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.

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