|5/22/2008 11:56:00 AM||Email this article • Print this article|
|LOCAL VOICES: Neo-Nazis In Our Midst
Its impact isn't likely to disrupt or threaten the Detroit Jewish community. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the fact that one of the most active white supremacist groups dedicated to racist and anti-Semitic activity is based in the Motor City.
What we know will help dictate how we react to the presence of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) headquarters in our midst since a December move by Commander Jeff Schoep from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
NSM, with 500 members and close associates nationwide, is the largest neo-Nazi group in the nation, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Members are relatively young and mostly male. The Midwest states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota form its core support area.
A Detroit Free Press story detailed the group's local recruitment pitch, which is framed against southeast Michigan's weak economy. ADL-Michigan Region Executive Director Betsy Kellman scoffed at the notion that NSM's move to Detroit was philosophically rooted. She said it was more a matter of convenience for Schoep, whose girlfriend lived here.
Nazi uniforms, Hitler-inspired chants and legal permits are a hallmark of the NSM, according to the Free Press account on May 12. The story mentioned a 2005 march in a racially diverse Toledo neighborhood that ended in a riot and an anti-immigration march on Washington, D.C., to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday (April 20, 1889).
The same story mentioned the rival American Nazi Party (ANP), based in Westland since it came to the area in the 1990s. It might have a few hundred members.
The NSM and ANP have nothing to do with one another. "I don't want to downplay their importance, however," says Kellman. "They are dangerous and they do appeal to a lot of young people. They recruit with music and Internet games and appeal to a lot of disenfranchised youth."
It's not surprising to read in the Free Press that Schoep concedes, "We do like Hitler and the way he ran the government" but it's "a misconception that we are bigoted."
Talk about obscene logic.
NSM's growth spurt has positioned it to take advantage of its three major rivals (National Alliance, Aryan Nations and World Church of the Creator) in the wake of the deaths or imprisonment of their leaders.
Let's be clear: However marginal its effect, NSM is a force to be reckoned with, notably in the member-rich Midwest. In 2006, NSM hosted or participated in 22 known extremist events. In 2007, it hosted or participated in 30 such events, a 36 percent increase. Most events were small and localized, with fewer than a dozen members participating.
A slight defection of members in the second half of 2007 rattled NSM leaders, the ADL reports, causing Schoep to urge his troops to honor their oath in order to "stand against the Zionist hordes and their beloved illegal slave laborers."
NSM sympathizers don't pass up a chance at rallies to destroy Israeli flags as they wave the Stars and Stripes and red swastika flags.
If we've learned anything as a people, we've learned to be alert to evil speech and its potential, especially from Jew-haters espousing Nazi ideals. America's freedoms allow the NSM to march in safety while expressing hate. But that doesn't mean its targets can't denounce the lies and counter with the truth. It's the Nazi adage that if the masses hear uncontested lies long enough, they begin to accept them as true.