When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for the Speech We Hate / Edition 1

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Overview


In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, one out of every six Jewish citizens in the late 1970s was a survivor—or was directly related to a survivor—of the Holocaust. These victims of terror had resettled in America expecting to lead peaceful lives free from persecution. But their safe haven was shattered when a neo-Nazi group announced its intention to parade there in 1977. Philippa Strum's dramatic retelling of the events in Skokie (and in the courts) shows why the case ignited such enormous controversy and challenged our understanding of and commitment to First Amendment values.

The debate was clear-cut: American Nazis claimed the right of free speech while their Jewish "targets" claimed the right to live without intimidation. The town, arguing that the march would assault the sensibilities of its citizens and spark violence, managed to win a court injunction against the marchers. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union took the case and successfully defended the Nazis' right to free speech.

Skokie had all the elements of a difficult case: a clash of absolutes, prior restraint of speech, and heated public sentiment. In recreating it, Strum presents a detailed account and analysis of the legal proceedings as well as finely delineated portraits of the protagonists: Frank Collin, National Socialist Party of America leader and the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor; Skokie community leader Sol Goldstein, a Holocaust survivor who planned a counterdemonstration against the Nazis; Skokie mayor Albert Smith, who wanted only to protect his townspeople; and ACLU attorney David Goldberger, caught in the ironic position of being a Jew defending the rights of Nazis against fellow Jews. While the ACLU did win the case, it was a costly victory-30,000 of its members left the organization. And in the end, ironically, the Nazis never did march in Skokie.

Forcefully argued, Strum's book shows that freedom of speech must be defended even when the beneficiaries of that defense are far from admirable individuals. It raises both constitutional and moral issues critical to our understanding of free speech and carries important lessons for current controversies over hate speech on college campuses, inviting readers to think more carefully about what the First Amendment really means.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Strum (political science, CUNY) details the protracted legal battle between the city of Skokie and the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1977 and 1978. At issue was the right of the National Socialist Party of America, a neo-Nazi group, to stage an anti-Jewish demonstration in a suburban Chicago community whose population consisted substantially of Holocaust survivors. Skokie v. Collin became a classic First Amendment dispute, and Strum carefully and methodically traces the history and issues of the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Also insightful is Strum's treatment of the impact of the case on the ACLU and its Illinois chapter, which brought suit on behalf of the protest group's leader, Frank Collin. Citing Collin's First Amendment right to free speech, the ACLU was defending its cardinal principle. The paradox of the ACLU supporting a client with abhorrent views is a theme that pervades the book. Recommended for anyone seeking perspective on the First Amendment.--Philip Young Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York
Booknews
Strum (political science, City U. of New York-Brooklyn) describes the events when a neo-Nazi group announced it would parade in the Chicago suburb in 1977, and the ensuing court case that tested the devotion of many to the principles of free speech. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700609413
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Series: Landmark Law Cases and American Society Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 184
  • Sales rank: 970,016
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents


Editors' Preface

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. "We Are Coming"

2. The ACLU, the Supreme Court and the First Amendment

3. Why Free Speech Is Not Always Free

4. Judges, Lawyers, and Legislatures

5. Speech, Symbols, and Suffering

6. The Price of Battle

7. Verbal Cacophony

8. The Critics

9. The View from Abroad

10. "Freedom for the Thought That We Hate"

Chronology

Relevant Cases

Bibliographical Essay

Index

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