The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Skinhead International: Switzerland

Skinheads and other neo-Nazi extremists in Switzerland number about 250, mainly in the northeastern part of the country. They have, in addition, perhpas a few hundred sympathizers.

A Skinhead gang known as the Schweizer (Swiss) Hammer Skins has operated in the towns of Littau, just west of Luzern, and Schwyz, about 25 kilometers to the east. Their choice of the moniker "Hammer Skins" suggests a likely influence from similarly named gangs in the United States. Another Skinhead gang, Neo-Faschistischen Front (Neo-fascist Front), recently appeared. Based in Bern, the group claims members in Basel and Zurich as well as in Germany.

Neo-Nazis and other far-rightists reportedly have been responsible for a number of anti-foreginer and anti-Jewish incidents in Switzerland. Several attacks on refugees occurred in 1993, including three arson attempts against asylum residences. The number of attacks was down, however, from the two previous years. Arson was suspected in fires that killed five asylum seekers in 1992, but no arrests were made. Spray-painted graffit on refugee hostels reportedly has included Nazi slogans.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Switzerland reportedly rose markedly following the Skinhead-led anti-foreigner riots in Rostock, Germany, in the autumn of 1992. In January 1993, two Skinheads made offensive remarks to security guards at a Zurich synagogue at which services were taking place.


A Skinhead band from Reinach, southwest of Zurich, has given voice to the same racist, anti-foreigner themes as have their comrades elsewhere. Known as Sturmtruppen (Stormtroopers), the group has recorded an album ("It is Time") for the German label Rock-O-Rama Records. Their song "Kanikistan is Burning" envisions thousands of Skins pushing eastward to reduce "Kanikistan" - a fictitious land whose name derives from a derogatory term for foreigners, especially Turks - to rubble and ash.

In an interview in a German skinzine called Querschlaeger, two members of Sturmtruppen described themselves as "nationalists" (but denied they are Nazis), and claimed membership in the Nationalistischen Jugend Schweiz (Nationalist Youth of Switzerland). The band's "nationalism" finds expression in their song "Switzerland," whose lyrics glorify "pure race, pure blood," as well as the Swiss flag, Swiss cross, Swiss women and Swiss beer. The lyrics also declare solidarity with "Comrades of European Countries" who are "pure Aryan."

At least one skinzine, called Totenkopf (after the Death's Head emblem employed by Hitler's SS), has been produced in Switzerland. It has been distributed from mailing addresses in Luzern, and, later, the town of Horw, just to the south. According to the British anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, the pages of Totenkopf have featured interviews with European, American and Brazilian Skinhead bands, advertisement for right-wing extremist groups, and racist propaganda. (Anti-Defamation League, 72-73)

Work Cited

Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.

Unless otherwise specified, the word "skinhead" within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.

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