The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Skinhead International: United Kingdom

The Skinhead phenomenon had its birth in the United Kingdom, arising as a youth cult in the early 1970's, and Britain is still regarded as the fountainhead of the movement worldwide. It was there that the Skinhead aspect and regalia developed - shaved heads, boots, tattoos - designed to symbolize tough, angry, rebellious working-class youths. (The steel-toed Doc Martens boots, de rigueur for Skins everywhere, are manufactured in Britain.) Along with the style went fixed attitudes: an extreme nationalism, a brash male chauvinism, a glorification of brute violence. Before long, a large number of British Skinheads were also displaying hostility towards non-whites, Jews, foreigners and homosexuals. Filling out the format was "oi" music ("oi" is a Cockney greeting), which - for the racist Skins - meant the threatening sound of "white power."

Present estimates of the number of British Skinheads vary from some 1,500 to as many as 2,000. These figures represent a slight decline over the past year or two.

Blood and Honour

The main Skinhead "organization" is Blood and Honour, a loose sort of structure founded in 1987 by Ian Stuart Donaldson - professionally (and hereinafter) "Ian Stuart" - a Skinhead musician who was killed in an automobile crash in Derbyshire late in 1993. Stuart's band, Skrewdriver, has been for years the most popular Skinhead group in Britain and throughout the world. Under the name The Klansmen, the band has made records for the United States market - one of their songs was titled "Fetch the Rope." Stuart always preferred being called a Nazi rather than a "neo-Nazi." He once told the London Evening Standard: "I admire everything Hitler did, apart from one thing - losing."

Stuart's legacy, Blood and Honour (its name is the translation of an SS slogan) is a frenzied amalgam of racist lore and music. Organically it has been described as not so much a political organization as "a neo-Nazi street movement." Influencial among Skinheads throughout Europe and the United States, Blood and Honour acts as an umbrella organization for 30 or more Skin rock groups, publishes a magazine (also called Blood and Honour)[1] and runs a mail order service for "white pride" paraphernalia, which is said to have thousands of accounts.

The Skinhead bands affiliated with the Blood and Honour movement have their own security guards. Not known for their restraint, these guards often battle perceived enemies at clubs where the bands perform and out in the street.

Since Stuart's death, Blood and Honour has reportedly fallen under the influence of Combat 18 (18 is a code for Adolf Hitler's initials), a violent neo-Nazi group that counts Skinheads and football hooligans among its followers.

"You don't become a member of Blood and Honour," a BBC report stated. "You support it by buying the records, carrying the flag, wearing the T-shirts and the tattoos."

And sometimes by other means...


Assaults on Asians ("Paki-bashing") and homosexuals ("fag-bashing") have become standard forms of Skinhead brutality, as have desecrations of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. A march through South East London protesting racial violence recently was disrupted by Skinheads who pelted the marchers with bricks and bottles. The Skins then turned on the police whom they forced to retreat by attacking them with stones and crash barriers.

On the night of September 11, 1993, 30 neo-Nazi Skinheads marched through Brick Lane in the heart of a predominently Asian neighborhood, breaking shop windows and menacing residents. "We're being deprived of what's ours," a young Skinhead was quoted in the newspapers a few nights later, "but we're fighting back now!"

Many Skins have served time. Kev Turner, leader of the popular Skin band Skullhead, for example, can boast a 20-month sentence for assault. Another Skullhead regular, Neil Carter, was jailed for nine months for his part in an attack on a nightclub owner.

Football Hooligans

Skinheads are fanatical supporters of certain English soccer (football) teams. Along with the more numerous football hooligans - many of whom share their neo-Nazi views - Skinheads are among the ringleaders of the racism and violence that plague English soccer. Skinheads are frequently seen at matches making Nazi salutes and taunting black players with vicious racist barbs. Violence, however, is their specialty. Joined by non-Skinhead members of Combat 18 and unaffiliated hooligans, Skins attack other fans (both rivals and fellow supporters) and run riot through stadiums, pubs and train stations. While the mayhem is often spontaneous, there is increasing evidence that soccer-related violence is sometimes planned in advance and orchestrated by a few dozen individuals, many of whom have a neo-Nazi agenda.

Neo-fascist Connections

A number of hard-core Skinheads have been active in several neo-fascist groups that have long tried to control the Skinhead scene. Most prominent among these are the racist and anti-Semitic British National Party (BNP), and the aforementioned Combat 18. The BNP participates in elections and enjoys small pockets of support in areas of London, Yorkshire, and Lancashire. Combat 18, with a core of between 100 and 150 members, is committed to violence and harassment rather than political gains. While Skinheads formerly identified with the BNP - and reportedly assisted in some of its initial modest electoral success - they have increasingly switched their allegiance to Combat 18 in recent years.

Rock 'n' Roll

The message of the Skinheads booms from their music. It is violent, racist, paranoid, and "Nordic." All of the bands seem to catch the spirit of one called British Standard when it sings:

The Iron Guard of Europe
Has risen from the grave
They march along as one now
A New Order they must save.

Skrewdriver's "White Rider" brays:

You feel love for your people
Disdain for the fools
The enemies led by the Zionist tools...

Last Chance, a now-defunct British skinzine, recently reviewed the first Skrewdriver album to be recorded after Ian Stuart's fatal car crash in late 1993: Tunes such as "Hail Victory," "vampire," and "White Noise," would, it said, "bring a tear to many eyes."

Another auto accident - this one in March 1992 - killed three of the four members of the group Violent Storm, whose home was Cardiff, Wales. They were on their way to Heathrow Airport for a flight to Spain, where they were scheduled to perform at a Skinhead concert that featured other British bands. The lone survivor, "Billy," later joined "Miffy," "Clarkey," and "Stinko" in a new band, Celtic Warrior, to "sing about the things we feel are important" - such as the "evils of Zionism" and the struggle for "our race."

The visions of the Skinhead mind are starkly reflected in some of the bands' names: Brutal Attack [...], Battle Zone, Razor's Edge, No Remorse (this last referring specifically to the memory of the Holocaust). The recurrent theme of British Skinhead music is that only a race war, with the inner cities as battlegrounds, will bring about the reclamation of British soil. "White Warriors," epitomizes this:

Fighting in the city,
It's a matter of life and death,
It's as easy as black and white,
You'll fight till your last breath...
When the battle is over,
And the victory is won,
The White man's lands are owned
By the White people,
The traitors will all be gone.

The steamy enthusiam of Britain's Skinheads is kept at a high pitch by an abundance of zines published by a huge amateur underground network. The zines, such as Blood and Honour, Boots and Braces, Truth at Last, British Oi!, Offensive Weapon and Aryan Warrior, are mostly crude, slapdash photocopy productions comprising events calendars, ads, interviews, fan photos, letters, Skin gossip, etc. and abounding in Nazi and Odinist imagery. They also serve as effective links with their brethren on the Continent and across the globe.

Whether or not the reports of a slow decline in Skinhead numbers are accurate, it is generally agreed by those who monitor their activities that the Skinheads of Britain represent no mere passing fad - as the very longevitiy of the phenomenon shows. Having weathered 20 years of ebb and flow, it continues to poison young minds, perpetrate group violence and sing its vicious joy to the bewitched. (Anti-Defamation League, 73-76)

1. Similarly named publications have also appeared in California and Sweden.

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.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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