National Socialists meeting at Nazi memorial postponed

Group will come if, when property is rezoneds

(Published August 3, 2006, 10:42 a.m.)

By Mike Heine/The Week

The National Socialist Movement says it will not come to a Millard man's shrine to Adolf Hitler on Aug 25.

And for now, it looks as if the group will not march through town as had been threatened on a white supremacist Web site.

Following meetings with the National Socialists, Walworth County agreed to drop its motion to find memorial creator Theodor Junker in contempt of court.

Junker, an 87-year-old former Nazi Waffen SS soldier, had signed a restraining order to keep his property closed to the public and host only invited guests. The county says his land is not zoned to hold public gatherings, and he has no conditional use permit.

The National Socialist Movement announced in mid-July that it would hold a rally at the state capitol building Saturday, Aug. 26, but wanted to hold a private memorial service on Junker's property off County A the day before.

On July 26, Walworth County Assistant Corporation Counsel Michael Cotter drafted a motion asking a judge to find Junker in violation of the restraining order. The motion claimed Junker did not personally invite the National Socialist Movement to his property and he did not know who was coming.

The National Socialist Movement apparently saw the county's court motion as a First Amendment violation.

On a white supremacist Web site, www.stormfront.org, a posting attributed to National Socialist Movement Commander Jeff Schoep reads, "We notified the police that if our right to meet at (Junker's) hall was violated, that we will engage in a walking picket through their town."

The National Socialist Movement also began fund-raising to pay for Junker's legal bills and planned to possibly sue the county for violation of Junker's civil rights, Schoep's posting reads. Other walking pickets were possible in surrounding Walworth County towns, the posting reads.

Kris Johnson, National Socialist Movement Wisconsin leader, said he and Junker met with Cotter several times over the last few days.

"He (Junker) really needs to get this zoning situation squared a way," Johnson said. "We're in a position to help him with some of the filing (for zoning)."

The National Socialist Movement agreed to postpone the meeting at Junker's memorial until Junker has proper zoning and conditional use permits. Also, a date for a "private" memorial ceremony honoring Hitler and felled German-allied World War II soldiers would not be publicly announced, Johnson said.

But getting the proper permits from the town and county might not be so easy, Cotter said.

"It's a very uphill battle," he said. "You have to have public hearings, which will have people who don't want it in their backyard. That's the process this has to go through."

Cotter said neither the town of Sugar Creek nor the county could deny a request based on the subject of meetings at Junker's memorial.

"We can't deny them because they want to talk about Hitler," Cotter said.

"If a committee says, 'We're denying it because they like Hitler,' they (NSM and Junker) would go to court and would win. A judge would say, 'You regulated it based on content and you lose.'"

Cotter said Junker's restraining order and the filing of the motion never about the memorial's subject or what groups might visit the shrine.

"The use is what I have a problem with. I don't care what hangs on the walls," Cotter said. "They could have a picture of Michael Cotter on the walls with a big X through it and that'd be fine. But when they're having people there for meetings, seminars and conferences, then that's where I have an issue with it. That's where the zoning code has an issue with it."

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