Violence Erupts When You Tolerate Antisemitism
Sunday’s shooting reminds us that violence, genocide, and even the Holocaust, begins with words. We must respond powerfully to shouts of “Heil Hitler” in Kansas.
“Heil Hitler” was screamed by 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross, aka Frazier Glenn Miller, the former “grand dragon” of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, when he was being arrested on Sunday after targeting Jews with a shotgun, killing three innocent people at a Jewish community center and an assisted living facility for the elderly, in Overland Park, Kansas.
Late Sunday, as his identity and the details of his heinous crime emerged, Miller might have been chagrined to learn that of the three people he shot dead, only one was Jewish, the elderly woman he killed at the Shalom Village, an assisted living facility. His first victims, a Dr. William Lewis Corporon and Reat Griffin Underwood, his 14-year-old grandson, Methodists, who just happened to be at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center, where tryouts were being held for Kansas City Superstar, the local version of the American Idol talent show.
Miller had spent his life defaming Jews and decrying their influence on the United States. In 2010, he ran for U.S. Senate, from Missouri, as a write-in candidate, receiving just seven votes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center case file. But, in radio ads that were heard around the state, Miller’s hatred knew no bounds.
In the days ahead, U.S. policy makers, the media, and the human rights community will respond to his crime. That response must transcend the local and regional impact of what happened on Sunday, on the eve Passover, the Jewish festival of freedom, and speak to what it means for all of humanity when a white supremacist invokes a Nazi war cry as he targets and fires a gun at innocent people.
As details of this heinous act were reported, witnesses said Miller was asking targets if they were Jewish before pulling the trigger.
In the early 1970s, according to earlier statements from Miller, he was introduced by his father to a racist newspaper, The Thunderbolt, published by National States’ Rights Party. In the mid-1970s, Miller joined the National Socialist Party of America, a Nazi group whose members attacked and killed marchers associated with the Communist Workers Party in Greensboro, N.C., in a 1979 assault that became known as the Greensboro Massacre.
In 1980, on a 25-acre farm in Angier, N.C., near Raleigh, Miller formed the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and began to amass illegal weapons and conduct military training with the help of active-duty soldiers.
Miller wanted to model the Carolina Knights on Hitler’s Nazi Party. “I would try to emulate Hitler’s methods of attracting members and supporters,” he wrote in his autobiography.
While Miller may have been unique in his stridency, we would be mistaken to forget how deep the hatred movements run in the Southern and mid-Western states. Hate groups were spawned in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, where the National Socialist Party of America, once tried to march through Skokie, a predominately Jewish community, where one in six residents was a Holocaust survivor. A Supreme Court Case would ultimately pit the right to assembly against the right to be free from hate speech. In the end, the “Illinois Nazis” did not march through Skokie.
Kansas has been a flashpoint of Jew hatred for 40 years. The Anti-Defamation League has long covered one infamous local hate group the Westboro Baptist Church. Until his death this year, Fred Phelps had been feeding antisemitism into the area since 1967. According to the ADL, in the past five years, the WBC, which has no connection to any traditional “Baptist” church, has been focusing on holding virulent hate protests in front of Israeli consulates, synagogues and, yes, Jewish community centers across the state.
Even today, the Southern Poverty Law Center lists active skinhead groups across the United States.
Incitement to genocide—calling for the death of Jews—is too often a form of hatred that is overlooked.
The crime of antisemitism is an ageless one, an international one, and a heinous one. Sunday’s murders recall the very core of antisemitism in our age, when a credo of white supremacy took over Europe, where Nazis came to power by deflecting the chaos of their time by using Jews as a scapegoat.
While Germany attempted to reckon with its culpability in the murder of six million Jews, other nations remained silent.
Today, our policy-makers and members of the human rights community are reticent to speak out against the scourge of contemporary global antisemitism. In this horrific case, where a known Nazi has been apprehended, it is easy to know how to respond. Not all acts of antisemitism are dealt with so simply. They are often met with silence or attempts to look away, so as not to confront the haters for ideological, political or economic reasons. When reports emerge of vicious anti-Semitic slogans sung by the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Regime or by the Muslim Brotherhood, we should condemn them, but too often we do not.
We must remember that the Holocaust, other genocides and acts of racist brutality begin with words. When our leaders pause to condemn these murders in Kansas, they must remember that “Heil Hitler” connects this crime to the Holocaust. That this ideology of hatred has deep roots in Europe, historically, and is now alive and well and growing in too many societies and in too many institutions globally.
The antisemitism of the Middle East has its roots in the same place. Only during the past century, was it exported via the Protocols of the Elders of Zion together with Nazi philosophy and fused with Islam’s theological worldview.
Let us be vigilant and uproot this ideology that creates an atmosphere of intolerance and empowers haters everywhere. Regardless of the race, nationality or religion of those who espouse an antisemitism that incites to murder and genocide—let us all speak clearly in one united voice for human rights and basic human decency. Our voice must never be muted for political interests. For it is not possible to stop hate at our borders—these ideas know no quarantine. The message that we must send is that racism, in all of its forms, must be fought every time it rears its dangerous head.
We can never turn a blind eye to another massacre. We must take this incident with profound seriousness and rededicate ourselves to combating hatred where ever it emerges domestically and internationally. This is the least we must do for the souls gunned down on a Sunday afternoon in Kansas by a hate-filled man who believed they were all Jews. This, on the eve of a festival when the Jewish people celebrate their freedom and take stock of how free they truly are today.
One enduring lesson of the Holocaust is that antisemitism is not a parochial Jewish interest. For antisemitism begins with Jews but never ends with Jews. Once this stain of hatred is unleashed upon society, it knows no limits.