AUTHOR Thomas Keneally has come under fire over “outrageous” remarks he made comparing Australia’s policies toward asylum seekers to the lead-up to the Holocaust.
Speaking at a Forum on Refugees and Asylum Seekers at the Sydney Jewish Museum on August 14, Keneally said, “The rhetoric [around asylum seekers] is all negative … There’s stereotyping … This idea of locking away people for their own good, these are early stops on the road to Auschwitz”.
The Schindler’s Ark author added, “This idea that these people must be punished for their own good, or for the good of people contemplating this journey in Indonesia is something that I don’t accept.”
Keneally insisted he wasn’t saying the situation mirrored the Holocaust itself.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich this week called on Keneally to “choose his words and analogies more prudently in the future”.
“It goes without saying that Thomas Keneally is entitled to bring attention to this issue and to voice his legitimate concerns,” Abramovich said.
“However, to suggest that the government’s policies are Nazi-like and are leading to the Holocaust and to the industrialised factories of death such as Auschwitz, where the enslavement, dehumanisation and liquidation of millions of people took place, and where children were torn from their mothers’ arms and pushed into the gas chambers, is breathtakingly outrageous and an insult to every Australian.”
Stating, “The Holocaust was a singular event in human history,” Abramovich added, “We urge all public figures in this debate to refrain from using comparisons that are deeply hurtful and which coarsen civil discourse.
“The memory of the victims, survivors and their families deserve better.”
Keneally made headlines last year after he said Australians would have collaborated with the Nazis as the Poles did during the Shoah.
When approached by The AJN at the time, an apologetic Keneally conceded the Holocaust was a particularly painful topic for families of survivors. But he said, “I believe that Australians being human, under the right conditions would collaborate. There is documented proof that Australian businesses were preparing to collaborate with the Japanese in World War II.”