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When the Nazis Came to Skokie (Landmark Law Cases & American Society) [Paperback]

Philippa Strum
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 24, 1999 0700609415 978-0700609413
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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When the Nazis Came to Skokie (Landmark Law Cases & American Society) + Religious Freedom and Indian Rights: The Case of Oregon v. Smith
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Editorial Reviews

From 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.APhilip Young Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Lib., New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

"A meticulous and graceful narrative of one of the most gripping free speech conflicts of modern times."--Rodney A. Smolla, author of Free Speech in an Open Society

"Strum succeeds brilliantly in telling the two stories of Skokie-the constitutional struggle over free speech and the human agony and conflict that permeated it. In clear, rigorous, and vivid prose, she recreates the legal and political culture when the case arose in the 1970s and then shows how more recent intellectual theories bear on what happened. A simply wonderful book."--Norman Dorsen, Stokes Professor, NYU, and president, ACLU, 1976-1991

"Strum paints a remarkably complete picture of the entire Skokie controversy and helps put the debate over the First Amendment protection for 'hate speech' into meaningful perspective."--David Goldberger, Ohio State University College of Law professor and former ACLU attorney for Frank Collin and the National Socialist Party of America

"A book that students will read eagerly and that teachers will find a pleasure to use."--Melvin I. Urofsky, author of Affirmative Action on Trial: Sex Discrimination in Johnson v. Santa Clara


Product Details

  • Series: Landmark Law Cases & American Society
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (March 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700609415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700609413
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars comedy of errors August 6, 2010
Format:Paperback
In 1977 and 1978, a few dozen American Nazis, led by half-Jewish Frank Collin (born Frank Cohn) sought to demonstrate in front of a suburban city hall for half an hour or so. Their efforts to do so mushroomed into a set of court cases and a national debate on the limits of free speech. This little book gives a blow-by-blow account of this story.

The most interesting parts of this story were the parts I didn't know. I knew that Nazis had tried to march in Skokie (a heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago)- but I didn't know that most of the excitement arose by chance.

To start with, Collin did not initially target Skokie. Instead, he sent letters to numerous suburbs asking for permission; every suburb but Skokie threw away the letters without response, while Skokie's park district bothered to reply (with a letter suggesting that the Nazis post an uncomfortably large bond). The Nazis then complained about the bond's constitutionality - proof that no good deed goes unpunished!

The city could have then allowed the march to occur with as little publicity as possible. Instead, it allowed the march and informed local rabbis, with the understanding that the rabbis would inform their congregation to ignore the Nazis. Instead, local Jews became outraged, causing city politicians to flip-flop and try to ban the Nazis from demonstrating, causing a national debate on whether Nazis could march through a suburb full of Holocaust survivors. (In fact, the Nazis did not seek to "march through" Skokie but merely to demonstrate in front of City Hall, relying on free media to carry their message).

Eventually, the courts decided that the Nazis could march. But the Nazis decided not to march, perhaps because of fear of violent counterdemonstrators, or perhaps because they had gotten more publicity out of the matter than they could have gotten from a demonstration.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet July 14, 2011
By N. Perz
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
WtNCtS is a short but well-packaged narrative of the events surrounding this rather famous (but little understood) situation. It moves along nicely, resisting the temptations to become either overly legalistic or a personal soapbox. A good general work for anyone with a legal interest in the First Amendment or a historical interest in the incident.

Recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Prior Restraint October 13, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book does an excellent job explaining the complexities of freedom of speech. It seems simple until confronted with a vicious doctrine like the Nazis. But since these were US citizens, they also deserve the rights enshrined in the First Amendment. If you value your freedom, fight for everyone's freedom!
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