A MELBOURNE Holocaust survivor has called for the owners of a property in north-west Victoria to be “punished by law” for flying a flag that depicted the swastika and Nazi symbols over their home.
The flag which flew high from the backyard of a residential property in Beulah, about four hours’ drive from Melbourne, has since been taken down after local police received several complaints. The act has also prompted renewed calls for the swastika to be banned.
Victorian Holocaust survivor Joe de Haan, whose family perished at the hands of the Nazis, lamented, “There are no words to express how one can feel about these things. The Holocaust was the worst atrocity ever committed on this planet. This person [flying the flag] should be punished by law. This is crazy,” he said.
The case was initially reported to the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) on Saturday by a local tradesman, who when fixing a nearby roof, was shocked to see the flag flying from a nearby property. He learned that several local residents shared his disgust but were too scared to approach the neighbour.
“But if I don’t say something, then I am allowing it to occur, and I want no part in that,” he told The AJN.
While the property owners eventually agreed to remove the flag late Tuesday as a result of negotiations by Beulah’s police officer Leading Senior Constable Shayne Riggall, the case has highlighted a hole in existing legislation, with ADC chairman Dvir Abramovich saying, “I call on the state government and the opposition to lock arms and to immediately pass legislation that bans the public display of Nazi insignia.”
Lambasting the display of “that despicable flag” as “absolutely disgusting behaviour”, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews referred to the recent increase in antisemitism, adding, “It is completely unacceptable for anybody to be flying what is perhaps the ultimate symbol of hate. Nothing justifies that whatsoever.”
With a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into anti-vilification protections set to commence in coming weeks, Andrews assured that “no doubt this report … will give us some advice and a way forward to deal with any gaps that are in our laws”.
Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council David Davis implored the necessity for new legislation on Tuesday, telling 7News Melbourne, “Of course, you’ve got to strike an appropriate balance between free speech and protecting people from images of this type.
“But I think it is time that we passed a law to ban Nazi memorabilia and Nazi symbols of this type.”
Davis’ sentiments were echoed by Caulfield MP David Southwick, who as member of the legal and social issues committee which is overseeing the parliamentary inquiry, provided assistance to Riggall and Yarriambiack Council, and spoke with affected local community members on the matter.
Iterating the need for “stronger laws to stamp out the public display of the swastika in Victoria”, Southwick said, “Having a Nazi flag displayed in a small fruit farming country town that has people from different multicultural backgrounds including Jewish and Muslim shows that nobody is safe from this hate.”
Meanwhile, Yarriambiack Council chief executive Jessie Holmes expressed her relief that the flag was no longer flying.
“We are really happy with the outcome that the flag is down, and will continue to work with the community to support them in the aftermath,” she told The AJN.
“We had looked at the options available to council under the numerous acts we administer and found that we did not have any provision to request its removal.”
She emphasised, “The offensive flag is not in line with council values or the community’s values and we were disappointed with its presence.”
The AJN understands that the flag-flying residents moved to Beulah just over 12 months ago. On attempting to reach them The AJN learned that their telephone had been disconnected.