A documentary film chronicling the events of an attempted neo-Nazi march in the 1970's through a Chicago suburb will air next week on Capital Region PBS station WMHT. The release of the film, which tells the story of Holocaust survivors becoming human rights activists, coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Month.
In the 1970’s, a neo-Nazi organization called the National Socialist Party of America was led by a man named Frank Collin. Headquartered in Chicago, the group announced in 1977 its intention to demonstrate in the suburb of Skokie, a community home to more than 7,000 Holocaust survivors.
A new documentary film titled Skokie: Invaded But Not Conquered covers the legal battle surrounding free speech that ensued as well as the Jewish community that was outraged and united over the controversy.
Todd Whitman is the film’s co-executive producer.
"The real venom was directed against the Nazis - or we should call them the neo-Nazis...and they tried to really provoke a lot of angst and anger within this survivor community all with the rhetoric that they were supporting their First Amendment free speech rights," said Whitman. "The documentary covers all the different aspects of the case that went on and the community reaction."
The film follows the effect the attempted march and a Supreme Court case had on the community, and it how it provided an opportunity for Holocaust survivors to share their stories with their families and become activists.
"It was in many ways therapeutic and it also allowed these survivors and their families to learn...about what had happened to their family members in Europe. And even though this was a small fringe-type of Nazi group, this brought back terrible memories to the survivors in Skokie and the area of how this all began in Europe and in Germany at the time with similar, small groups of fanatics," said Whitman. "And they just saw this as a repeat and they weren't going to let it happen again."
The film is the first created by the Illinois Holocaust museum. It is scheduled to air on more than 200 PBS stations, including WMHT in the Capital District. Monday’s premiere on WMHT coincides with Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Sunday evening.
Whitman said he believes it’s an important for Americans to take the opportunity to reflect.
"Being vigilant and observant and recalling events like Skokie are always important especially this time of year on Holocaust Remembrance Day and its something that especially the survivors, and the people who were there, and those who are familiar with the history definitely don't want to forget about," said Whitman.
With the number of survivors dwindling by the day, Holocaust Remembrance Day is entering an important new era for American Jews.
Rabbi Linda Motzkin of Saratoga Springs’ Temple Sinai says remembering the crimes committed against the 12 million Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust is important, as well as recognizing the presence of hate in the world today.
"It's important that we have this possibility - this awareness - in our consciusness and we do everything to combat it when we see those kinds of intolerant, facistic forces emerging wherever they do around the world including in our own country," said Motzkin.
Skokie: Invaded But Not Conquered will air on WHMT World on:
- Monday, April 28 at 8:00 p.m.
- Tuesday, April 29 at 9:00 a.m.
- Tuesday, April 29 at 3:00 p.m.
- Wednesday, April 30 at 6:00 p.m.