‘Rebbe, I’m Going to Get Violent at the Nazi March’

Protesters at an Anti-Nazi demonstration in front of the Skokie village hall, May 1977. (Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center)

When a Jewish man in Skokie wanted to go to a Nazi march and beat up the participants, he first wrote the Rebbe to hear if he is allowed to use violence…

By Anash.org staff

In June of 1978, a huge Nazi march planned to march through Skokie, Illinois. Mr. David Shatz, a friend of Lubavitch and a member of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), was furious. Passionate about sticking up against Nazi anti-Semitism, he felt a strong desire to show up to the march and violently attack the marching participants. He wrote to the Rebbe to see if he was halachically allowed to be violent in the face of threats to Yidden.

In his strongly worded letter, he outlines his violent plan of “beating their heads in with a baseball bat” and “grinding them into the street.” If we see a few of their heads rolling, he writes to the Rebbe, he hopes it will deter anyone in the future from daring to harm Jews.

In the letter, he warns about the real threat of the Nazis and the seriousness of their plan to march through the Jewish streets of Skokie, Illinois.

“The Nazis must be taken seriously no matter how few there are, although one can hardly call 72,000 in one state “few”. The 100 or perhaps fewer uniformed Nazis that will march in Skokie represent all the Nazis in America that would put you or I in a crematoria if they are given a chance.

“The Nazi desire to march through Skokie is obviously with intent to provoke its 40,000 Jewish residents 7,000 of whom are themselves survivors of the holocaust who have lost entire families to the Germans. Perhaps this may be compared to Galias mocking the Jews.

“One must also recall at a time when 12,000 Jews a day were being gassed in Auschwitz. The Jews in America failed to react as they should have. The Zionists did everything they could to hamper rescue in Europe as pointed out in Min Hameitzar. We failed once, shall we allow 7,000 people who lost their families because we showed we did not care be shown once again we do not care that Nazis once again march on their doorsteps? Shall we pretend that they are not there because they are not marching on our street? Or shall we do everything in our power to beat their heads in with baseball bats?”

As often in the past, the Rebbe responded to the man’s desired threats of violence by directing him to ask his local orthodox Rabbis about the halachic implications and then pushed him towards more important areas of life, namely, spreading Yiddishkeit and being a light unto others.

The Rebbe stresses his special responsibility, being a kohen, to spread Torah and Mitzvos and reminds him that kohanim were given special powers to do so. The Rebbe then reminds him to live by being an example and speak from the heart, as “words that come from the heart, enter the heart.”

Ultimately, the Nazi march was a failure, with 20 neo-Nazis against 2,000 demonstraters. Since there is no record of any violence, it would seem that Mr. Shatz took the Rebbe’s words to heart.

Thanks to Fax-A-Sicha for the letter to the Rebbe.

Discussion
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  1. The article ends with “Ultimately, the Nazi march was a failure, with 20 neo-Nazis against 2,000 demonstrators. Since there is no record of any violence, it would seem that Mr. Shatz took the Rebbe’s words to heart.”
    That is not totally true. There was no Nazi march in Skokie at all, after all.
    There was a march in Marquette Park, in Chicago, and I think that I heard that there were some skirmishes there.

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