I will tell you the Story of John Daly, he tells me about phone, because he lives in Israel, so it was not possible for me to meet him in person. Otherwise I would have loved to have spoken face to face and seen the expression in his eyes as I heard his story.
As a 16 year old, John Daly lived in
Florida and was a member of a Skinhead group.
In public and in the mass media the term Skinhead is often used as a synonym for neo-Nazi. However, given the politically very heterogeneous scene this equalization is wrong. There are black, Jewish, homosexual, etc., Skinheads. Even non-racist Skinheads who fight against racist influences.
What they generally have in common is short haired or shaved heads as well as the clothing, such as the typical combat boots and bomber jackets.
In America, the Skinhead scene probably also developed as a countermovement to the Hippy movement.
Togetherness, family compensation, to be someone and strength; all this was and is still very attractive to young people.
During this time John Daly was part of a Skinhead movement called M.C.A.R., Marion Country Against Racism. John was 16 and thought it would be cool to hang out with those guys. They didn't even know that he was Jewish and everything was “cool”. Since John Daly's great-grandmother had converted to catholism in order to spare the family the “horror of being Jewish” and his grandmother had married an Irish man with the family name Daly, it was impossible to immediately identify John as a Jew.
In the beginning of the 1980s the previously very politically mixed Skinhead scene began to split into left-wing extremists, right-wing extremists, as well as neo-Nazis and traditionalists. The right-wing extremists started taking over a bigger and bigger part of the scene. Just as important as it was for the youth to belong to the scene, it was crucial for the Skinhead organizations to gain influential members.
So it happened that friends of John
from another city were picked up by local neo-Nazis and forced to
name members of their Skinhead organization. They also named John.
One day John opened the door only to find 3 neo-Nazis standing in front of him. All he had time to think was, quickly go with them before they get into the house and see proof of Jewish life.
welcomed by the neo-Nazis and was now a part of them. They drank,
were a community and beat “country bumpkins”.
With his sharp tongue and his demeanor and threats, John Daly was able to intimidate people and was regarded as a good fighter. He was also able to convince the neo-Nazis that for outward appearances it would be better if he was not tattooed. During this time John's parents noticed that something was wrong. John was 16 and knew he would die if the gang found out about him being Jewish and so he thought it would be better for his family if he was bad tempered, closed off and distanced himself.
John climbed up the ladder of success of the neo-Nazis and was respected. He had the attention and respect of the national leaders of the neo-Nazi Skinhead groups.
Everything changed when he got a call telling him he must remove the tattoo “American Front” from the neck of a woman. This meant killing her.
She was the ex-wife of a friend of Daily's and was now together with a leader of another organization. Hereby virtually insulting the entire organization of her ex.
John decided to warn the woman
and the woman decided to out John as a
At first, the neo-Nazi Skinheads probably wanted to shoot John, but they had already shot someone two weeks previously and had convinced the police it was an accident. So they called a meeting, which John also attended, in order to discuss how best to kill someone without drawing further attention.
On the 7th of October 1990, seven angry and very aggressive neo-Nazis drove John to a quiet spot on the beach and beat John. They yelled die Jew die and held his head under water while choking him. All of his fingers broke as he tried to defend and safe himself. When they thought he was dead and were about to leave, one of them noticed John moving and trying to get out of the water. So he was choked again and held under water until they were sure they had killed him.
John eventually came to, drove home and lay in his bed. His mother found him the next morning and brought him to the hospital. The doctors didn't believe his story of what had happened and said he was lying. The police recorded his statement but rejected the family's request for protection.
One of the perpetrators, Richard Myers, called John and told him that he knew John wouldn’t say anything and that everything “was just a misunderstanding”.
John's father sought help with the Anti-Defamation league (an organization against defamation, victim protection). They immediately made sure the family had 24 hour police protection.
John says: „I was afraid of the
police because I knew some supported the Nazis in my city”
After he was discharged from hospital, one of the police officers told him he should go and hide and not even tell him where. The policeman said there were Nazi sympathizers among the police and he knew John was aware of this as well.
The attack on John was classified as a hate crime, whereby the sentences were much harder.
That was the first time that a crime was classified as a hate crime in Florida.
Two perpetrators were sentenced to 10 years for attempted murder.
Two were sentenced to one year in prison for assault and battery.
One of them was a very important leader of another organization
WAR = White Aryan Resistance
Three confessed, testified and did not
go to jail.
The woman whose life John had saved and who had outed him as a Jew was put under house arrest for two years.
John decided that he wanted to live in Israel and called the Jewish agency in Miami. He expressed his desire to immediately move to Israel, preferably Jerusalem, but there was only space in an absorption center in Ashkelon.
On the 2nd of September 1997 he arrived in Israel.
John studied Hebrew and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Political Science, while also being the vice president of the student committee. He also did a Master in Public Policy and Administration.
When the Israeli police learned that there are also Skinheads in Israel, they consulted John.
The police rely on his knowledge and
have him help them with the deciphering of the Nazi tattoos.
John visits in America in order to raise awareness of the Skinhead movement. He meets with prosecutors, police and teachers and speaks in front of student groups, students and in churches. John informs people about how these groups work and how to fight back.
John visits his family in Florida only
briefly and without notice. He feels safe in Israel and loves living
there. He has no illusions. John knows that the neo-Nazis are
globally connected and can easily act and inconspicuously attract
people through the internet. They use child protection and music,
amongst other things, to cloak their true activity.
In addition, John is actively involved with the organization Yedid which aims to enable Israelis to be independent and stand up for themselves. The organization teaches one how to initiate and carry out authorized changes for oneself. Yedid also helps people who have legal issues with the government and administration.
John did not let his trauma win the
upper hand. Not being able to sleep, fear and flashbacks were not
allowed to define his life. John went parachuting and scuba diving.
His body learned fighting through martial arts – karate, and his
mind fought the fears and nightmares.
I enjoyed speaking with John very much and look forward to meeting him in person one day.
John speaks of reconciliation, of conquering fear and taking action against the Nazis. He says: “They are only strong, as long as we are afraid and keep silent”
and I agree with him.
His commitment to educate and keep the
youth away from dehumanizing ideologies has my full support. I am
thankful that people like John Daly exist and that I had the
opportunity to get to know him. It was a joy for me too meet him in
Germany, as he was visiting friends. We visit a museum together,
where the Gestapo was torturing and deporting jewish People during 3.
John has a brain tumor; Oligodendrogliom Grade 2 and says:
„I didn’t let the Skinheads stop me so I do the same with my tumor – it doesn’t stop me!”
In the front of his T-shirt it says Hope and in the back Changes Everything.
That's the way it is. That's the way I
see it, too. Hope creates changes.
John Daly has written his story and is looking for a suitable publisher to release it. A documentary about him is in production.