Dear Mister Ambassador

    “Where scholars deny genocide, [they] contribute to the deadly psychohistorical dynamic in which unopposed genocide begets new genocides.” ~ Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton, ‘Professional Ethics and Denial of the Armenian Genocide’ (1995)

    “There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: ‘for reasons of state’.” ~ Michael Bakunin, ‘Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism’ (1867)

On the occasion of International Holocaust Memorial Day (January 27), the Israeli Ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, wrote a letter to the paper: ‘Holocaust not a history lesson – but a lesson for humanity’ (The Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2010).

As indicated by its title (nominated, presumably, by the paper’s editors), Rotem’s observations are straightforward enough: we should seek to learn from the past so as to avoid repeating our mistakes. But beyond such banalities, a number of other issues emerge. For example: “This week we celebrated Australia Day – a chance to look upon the history of the Australian nation, and a salute to those Australians who are working to further develop and enhance the Australian people.”

Australia Day (like every other day) is of course an opportunity to reflect upon the history of Australia, and to recognise those Australians whose contributions to the life of the society may be considered as being in some way special. But if this reflection and recognition is to extend beyond the glaringly superficial, then some greater attention to detail — in this instance, A Little Matter of Genocide — is required.

‘Australia Day’ is January 26. It commemorates the day in 1788 that the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay; the day upon which the colonisation of Australia formally commenced. One of the consequences of (and in fact necessary preconditions for) this colonisation was the genocidal assault upon the indigenous peoples of the newly-emergent British colony — one only to be officially termed ‘Australia’ well over a century later (January 1, 1901).

‘International Holocaust Memorial Day’ is January 27. It commemorates the day in 1945 that Allied soldiers (Soviet troops) ‘liberated’ the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to the USHMM, “At least 960,000 Jews were killed in Auschwitz. Other victims included approximately 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma (Gypsies), and 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war; and 10,000-15,000 members of other nationalities (Soviet civilians, Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Germans, and Austrians).”

But whereas we are encouraged to remember January 27 as a key date in the history of “the most fantastic outburst of insanity in human history” (Chomsky), on January 26 Australians are encouraged not to mourn, but to celebrate. In this case, the beginnings of the foundation of the Australian nation-state in the expropriation of its indigenous peoples: a long historical process in which an unknown number of peoples and cultures were extinguished and others decimated (and which is still ongoing).

That January 26 has been nominated by the state as ‘Australia Day’ — if not the fact that it has been declared a public holiday — has of course been the subject of some controversy, and the proposal to change the date of ‘Australia Day’ is one to which the ruling Australian Labor Party is nominally committed: it forms part of the party’s ‘National Platform’ (Amy McQuire explores the issue further in ‘ALP breaks another promise, Australia Day is here to stay’, National Indigenous Times, No.169, January 21, 2009). In 1938, some ungrateful blacks even went so far as to organise a:

Day of Mourning and Protest on 26 January 1938, the celebration of 150 years of ‘theft and genocide’. The Aborigines League called to white Australia: ‘You took our land by force … You have almost exterminated our people, but there are enough of us remaining to expose the humbug of your claim, to be civilised, progressive and humane.’ At the Day of Mourning Congress on 26 January 1938, Jack Patten, as President of the Aborigines’ Progressive Association, announced: “The conference is called to bring home to the white people of Australia the frightful conditions in which the native aborigines of this continent live. We ask for full citizen rights, including old age pensions, maternity bonus, relief work when unemployed, and the right to a full education for our children.”

Further protests were staged in 1988 in opposition to bicentennial celebrations.

Given popular support however, and notwithstanding the fact that the PM is a devout Christian who nominates “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, pastor and peace activist” as being “without doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth century”, the ALP is unlikely to carry out its promise any time soon. (See also : Celebrating Australia: A History of Australia Day essay, Dr Elizabeth Kwan.)

1938 was the 150th anniversary of Arthur Phillip’s display of The Butcher’s Apron on Australian soil; it was also the year in which a small group of Aborigines descended upon the German Consulate in Melbourne to condemn Nazi repression of German Jews.

Australia and the Holocaust: A Koori Perspective

Gary Foley
1997

Introduction

In November 1938, throughout Germany a major Nazi pogrom was conducted against the Jewish community. This notorious event was dubbed kristallnacht and signalled a dramatic upsurge of violence, intimidation and persecution of Germany’s Jewish population. Less than one month later, on December 6th 1938, on the other side of the world, a Victorian Aboriginal man, William Cooper, led a deputation of Kooris from the Australian Aborigines League, in an attempt to present the German Consulate in Melbourne [with] a resolution ‘condemning the persecution of Jews and Christians in Germany’. The Consul-General, Dr. R.W. Drechsler, refused them admittance.

Thus, the first group in Australia to try and lodge a formal protest with the German government’s representative about the persecution of the German Jewish community, were a group of Koori political activists representing a people who, in the previous hundred years, had themselves been subject to genocide, and in 1938 were (like Germany’s Jewish people) denied citizenship. Furthermore, Aboriginal people had also been labelled by a white supremacist society as ‘subhuman’, and subjected to scientific research to establish if they were closer to apes than humans. They had also had experience of the concentration camps that white Australia had created to contain them, and which were later used in the notorious ‘assimilation program’ designed to ‘eliminate’ the ‘crossbreeds’, ‘half-castes’, ‘octoroons’ and ‘quadroons’. The ‘full-bloods’ were assumed to be ‘dying out’ thus resolving that aspect of the Aboriginal ‘problem’.

It is probable that the ironies of the deputation’s visit to the German Consulate were part of the group’s strategy to draw attention to the similarities between what was happening in Germany and how Aborigines were being dealt with in Australia. If that was the case it must be said that their remarkable action achieved little in mobilising the conscience of mainstream Australia either in terms of the situation of Germany’s Jews or that of Aboriginal Australia. Indeed, their gesture has been almost completely forgotten in Australian history.

But did they have a point? Were there parallels between the murderous Nazi/German campaign against the Jews of Europe and what had happened in the previous hundred and fifty years in Australia (and was still happening in 1938)? Further, were there similarities between Nazi racial theories and those subscribed to by most Anglo-Australians during the 1930s and which had produced in this country a history of genocide, and white-supremacist attitudes that were the foundation blocks of the Federation of Australia?

In this essay I will provide some answers to these questions by comparing two aspects of Australia’s treatment of its Indigenous population, ie racial ideology and genocide, with similar policies and notions that were central to Nazi ideology. I will also briefly consider what effect this may have had on Australian policy on the Jewish refugee question…

Leaving aside the fact that, in 1938, a number of Aborigines were willing to protest the murderous Nazi campaign against the Jews of Germany, while in 2010, in reflecting on the relationship between ‘Australia Day’ and the ‘International Holocaust Memorial Day’, the Israeli Ambassador to Australia is able to pass over in silence Australia’s own history of genocide, Rotem identifies a number of issues which continue to be raised in the context of the Holocaust and its legacy: principally, the phenomenon of Holocaust denial.

In this context, Rotem draws attention, first, to the anti-Semitic antics of the Holocaust-denying-war-hero-with-the-gammy-leg, and Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and then to the recent claims by the Polish bishop Tadeusz Pieronek (incorrectly referring to his having “made his opinions clear to a Polish Catholic news website”). As evidence of a resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe/”worrying nationalist tendencies showing trends towards extremism in political right wing circles”, Rotem points to the theft of the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign from Auschwitz.

But if the Ambassador wants to meet with neo-Nazis, he needn’t look far. In April on the Gold Coast, local neo-Nazis belonging to ‘Blood & Honour’ and the ‘Hammerskins’ are throwing a party just a few days prior to Hitler’s birthday. If, on the other hand, the Ambassador wants a Nazi flag — or an album titled Freezer Full of Nigger Heads — he can buy one from local neo-Nazis; very local neo-Nazis. Thus Nicole Hanley, an organiser with ‘Blood & Honour’ formerly employed by French arms manufacturer (and supplier to the Australian Army) Thales, was a Canberra resident, and in 2006 recalled how Oktoberfest “was a great night. Certainly the highlight of the evening for me was [fellow neo-Nazi] Hammerskin38 “liberating” the Israeli flag from the food hall, dancing back to us with it, and then holding the flag up high and ceremoniously setting it on fire in the middle of the beer hall. Hail the crazy Brisbane Hammerskin!!!!!!”

Or perhaps the Ambassador would like to come to Melbourne in September to join the annual neo-Nazi gathering at one of the city’s many pubs and clubs?

Whatever.

The Butcher’s Apron

Where is the flag of England, go north, south, east, or west
Wherever there’s wealth to plunder, or lands to be possessed
Wherever there’s feeble races to frighten coerce or scare
You will find the butcher’s apron, the English flag is there

WHERE IS THE FLAG OF ENGLAND?

Henry Du Pré Labouchère

I
Let the winds of the world make answer
North, south, east, west
Wherever there is wealth to covet
Or land to be possessed
Wherever the savage nations
To coddle, coerce or scare
You may look for the vaunted emblem
For the flag of England is there

II
Aye, it waves over the blazing hovels
Whence its African victims fly
To be shot by explosive bullets
Or wretchedly starve and die
Or where the beachcomber hammers
The isles of the southern sea
From the peak of his hellish vessel
The English flag flies free

III
The Maori, full of hate, curses
With his fleeting, dying breath
And the Arab hath hissed his curses
As he spat at its folds in death
The hapless fellah hath feared it
On Tel el Kebir’s parched plain
And the blood of the Zulu hath stained it
With a deep indelible stain

IV
It has floated over scenes of pillage
And flaunted over deeds of shame
It has waved o’er the fell marauder
As he ravished with sword and flame
It has looked on ruthless slaughter
And assassination dire and grim
And has heard the shrieks of its victims
Drown even the jingo hymn

V
Where is the flag of England?
Seek the land where the natives rot
And decay, and assured extinction
Must soon be the people’s lot
Go to the once fair island
Where disease and death are rife
And the greed of colossal commerce
Now fattens on human life

VI
Where is the flag of England?
Go sail where the rich galleons come
With their shoddy and wasted cotton
And beer and Bibles and rum
Seek the land where brute force hath triumphed
And hypocrisy hath its lair
And your question will thus be answered
For the flag of England is there

See also : The Brown Man’s Burden (1899)

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2021 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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5 Responses to Dear Mister Ambassador

  1. digger says:

    There’s no mention of Palestine, or the fact my mate was attack[ed] by a gang of ‘Koori’s’ [no apostrophe].

  2. digger says:

    Only jews matter, and no one else?

  3. @ndy says:

    Only jewish babes. This newlywed embraces her half-Jewish heritage and speaks Yiddish.

    [Photo: Maxim Online]

  4. Troll says:

    Ys, ys, bt th “prn” wrn by th prxs hs lwys bn Kshr ? lwys prxy s tht dds dn d nt brng th fcl brrs f ll wll twrd thrs nt dsrpt…

    [Dear Stefan:]

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