November 23, 1997 in Idaho

Decent People Must Continue To Thwart The Neo-Nazis’ Every Hateful Stratagem

Norm Gissel Special To Roundtable

There’s been a recent flurry of neo-Nazi activity in our area. Many people are asking: “What’s going on?”

A bit of history: The neo-Nazis made their presence known in North Idaho in 1980 with the distribution of threatening letters, race-baiting, painting swastikas and World War II Nazi slogans on the walls of local businesses. At that time, a locally well-known neo-Nazi terrorized several small children of color in Coeur d’Alene - an act for which he promptly went to jail.

Neo-Nazis seemed to have three goals then. The first was to victimize and harm various American citizens they hated, i.e. people of color, Jews and others they decided they didn’t like. (Mormons have recently made the list.)

The second was to bring so much pressure on North Idahoans that we would be forced to move from our homes. The third was to seek community approval of these acts.

Neo-Nazis believe race is the sole object of politics. They also believe North Idaho is ideally suited to be accepting of this fatally flawed view of life.

They did succeed in bullying and hectoring segments of our community. For the bully, the act of bullying itself is a victory of sorts. However, they failed completely in their larger agenda. Public opinion was unanimous in its opposition to the neo-Nazis.

Following this first foray, an outbreak of criminal activity occurred in 1982-83 by a neo-Nazi subgroup, The Order. Its crimes included armored car robberies, a bank robbery, counterfeiting and assault.

The group’s goal was to instigate a revolution based on racism. This idea was no more successful than the first efforts.

In 1986, a smaller, second subgroup, Order II, bombed the home of a Catholic priest and several Coeur d’Alene businesses. The neo-Nazis found that bombing a city was an equally poor way to gain social and political power in North Idaho.

One other group of neo-Nazis began holding celebrations and hosting activities on Hitler’s birthday. This also failed to gain public affection.

(One is tempted to include a comment about the four men recently convicted of the 1996 bombings and bank robberies in Spokane. However, from what we have been able to learn, their belief system is so bizarre as to defy rational analysis.)

We are now experiencing another round of neo-Nazi activities. Among these are driving a family out of its Post Falls home and harassing a North Idaho College student. Additionally, leaflets and pamphlets have been left in numerous places throughout Kootenai County. They include unsigned leaflets libeling members of our community so as to cause them financial loss and hold them up to public ridicule. By not signing these leaflets, the neo-Nazis responsible have added cowardice to their list of virtues.

Neo-Nazis believe these actions are good politics. As a community, we must stand together as we have in the past.

We know our duty, and to whom this duty is owed: our children, neighbors and country. Each time we are tested, we must rededicate ourselves to the larger issues of American democracy - the ones that define us as Americans - decency, fairness, equality and respect for each person’s dignity. It is on these issues we will prevail.


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