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How Nazis went to war in Australia

01feb04

NAZIS in Queensland have not died out completely. But they have become a shadow of their former selves and exist mostly on the Internet.

The swastika-wearing extremists are back in the headlines with revelations in The Sunday Mail last weekend that a National Party candidate in the state election once mixed with Australian Nazi Party members.

On Friday, the Nationals disendorsed Dan Van Blarcom, running for the northern seat of Whitsunday, after publication of pictures showing him as a young man at a meeting in the ACT in 1970 dressed in Nazi uniform, swastika on his sleeve.

FASCISM THRIVES ON THE INTERNET

NEO-NAZISM has found a new home cyberspace. Every imaginable strand of Nazism can be found on the Internet, whether it's the new Right in Finland, anti-Semitic skinheads in Britain or that home-grown Australian brand of racism.
Enter an obvious keyword and dozens of web pages from every corner of the globe will spring to life on your computer.
While some form of far-right-wing organisation exists in almost every country, the US is the home of cyber fascism. Its main Nazi organisation, the National Socialist Movement, is based in Minneapolis and is (using its own words) "dedicated to the preservation of proud Aryan heritage and the creation of a national socialist society around the world".
Says NSM: "We co-operate and work with many like-minded white nationalist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Skinheads, Racial Nationalist Party of America and many others which are either Nazi or, at least, racially aware of our Aryan heritage."
The NSM's web page has regular features, including a homily from "The Commander's Desk". The commander, Jeff Schoep, entreats "each and everyone of us" to be made of steel and emulate the deeds of past Aryans.
In the website's "frequently asked questions" section, NSM says it has a strong stance against drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and LSD and says domestic violence and child abuse will not and cannot be tolerated. But at the same time, it slates "overzealous case workers" who bring matters before the courts in "some sick attempt to destroy as many families as possible".
The NSM has nothing kind to say about homosexuals and says an instant death penalty would be applied in a perfect national socialist society.
The Australian Nationalist Movement site, promoting Perth-based Jack Van Tongeren (who has been jailed for hate crimes), describes the movement thus: "Simple, erect, severe, austere and sublime."
In Australia, the Net, or more precisely e-mail, is increasingly being used by racist groups to target Jews and Aborigines, Asians and other non-whites. Anti-Semitic or anti-Asian e-mails are systematically sent to "target" addresses on the Net, according to anti-discrimination authorities.
To a large degree they have replaced the swastikas and racist messages scrawled on walls that were once the trademark of the neo-Nazis.

Last weekend, Mr Van Blarcom told The Sunday Mail he was working in the 1960s as an undercover security operative for an unnamed organisation. "I was monitoring their activities," he claimed.

In Queensland in the 1960s the members of the Australian Nazi Party would strut their stuff in full public gaze, dressed in stormtrooper regalia.

Their favourite haunt was Centennial Park, on the edge of the Valley in Brisbane.

They would be there every Sunday in Speakers Corner, haranguing anyone who would listen or being harangued by those who did not want to listen.

These public meetings of Hitler's admirers would sometimes come to a sudden end when the communists mostly university students arrived tearing down the Nazi flags and kicking over the soap boxes.

Like clockwork, waiting police would swoop. The communists would be arrested and the Nazis would go home to mend their torn uniforms and battered pride.

In the late 1960s concerted efforts world-wide by neo-Nazi groups to get Hitler's deputy Rudolph Hess released from Spandau prison touched off anti-Nazi demonstrations including a large one in the Valley where 2000 anti-Nazi demonstrators surrounded a handful of Nazi sympathisers.

Police had to rescue the Nazis.

Pantomime-like clashes between the Nazis and the commies went on for years until Brisbane City Council relocated Speakers Corner to Roma St.

It signalled the beginning of the end of public appearances by the Nazis around Brisbane.

Centennial Park was the scene of many a good rumble between the forces of the far Right and Left in the 1960s.

Back then John Ray, a student at the University of Queensland, used to watch it all unfold.

Ray, now a retired university lecturer, last week recalled the scene in Centennial Park.

"It was my regular Sunday entertainment.

"A mate of mine, Alec Barnes, who became quite a famous amateur photographer, first got me into it.

"We'd go down to the park. He'd capture it all on film and I'd do verbal battle with the Nazis."

Ray was not a creature of the Left. In fact he was from the Right and knew many of the Nazis on first-name terms. There weren't, however, all that many names to remember.

Looking back, Ray reckons it was a miracle there was any semblance of a party at all.

"Most of them couldn't stand being in the same place together. There weren't all that many genuine meetings in the real sense of the word . . . most meetings I remember were staged for filming purposes," says Ray.

Ray never belonged to the Nazi Party. He had good reason to take in everything that was said and done.

Ray reported regularly to Queensland's then-special branch the organisation within the police force that kept watch on so-called subversives.

"And they paid me for it," says Ray.

According to Ray the special branch was largely made up of Democratic Labor Party sympathisers, policemen who despised the communists. The exception was Don Lane, known affectionately as Shady Lane. Lane later became a minister in the Bjelke-Petersen National Party government and subsequently was jailed in the wake of the Fitzgerald corruption commission.

Ray says Lane was seen as "a leftie" in the very right-wing special branch.

He says it is difficult to accurately remember back 30 years or more but some names of those closely associated with the Nazi Party do spring to mind.

"There was one bloke called Chris who was a leading light and another called Doug who looked a bit like Charles Manson. There was also a curious fellow called Bondu who was Bangladeshi and even though the Nazis promoted white supremacy they accepted Bondu as a brown European!"

Perhaps one of the most publicly identifiable Nazis was a tough-looking shaven-head character Ross "The Skull" May. May, who almost always appeared in a stormtrooper's uniform, turned up often at rallies in Brisbane and Sydney and was not averse to intimidating left-wing protesters. In the early 1970s he was sent to jail for bashing a journalist.

As the 1980s rolled on, May and fellow Nazi Robert Cameron formed the National Front.

The Skull was last publicly prominent in 1999 when he appeared at a protest meeting organised by the Greens in Sydney, protesting over a development project.

The old Nazi Party had many members who were memorable.

John Ray recalls one young man named Martyn Harper whom he believed was an active member of the Nazi Party.

"That's news to me," an emphatic Martyn Harper told The Sunday Mail last week.

Harper, a chiropractor at Ipswich, said: "John needs to get his facts straight. I never was a member of the Nazi Party."

Martyn Harper readily admits he took a deal of interest in the Nazis. But he says he also closely followed the anarchists and to a lesser extent the socialists.

"I was interested in every facet of politics in Australia. I remember once in the Domain in Sydney getting up and publicly spruiking in favour of the Muslims."

One thing Martyn Harper and John Ray both agree on is the assessment that the Nazis never were a party in the real sense of the word.

Says Harper: "There was a book written in the early '70s called something like Everyone Wants to be The Fuehrer and that pretty much summed up the Nazis in Queensland so many splinter groups."

By the mid 1990s apart from some graffiti attacks on Jewish properties the Nazis had virtually vanished.

There were a number of vicious racially based physical attacks on Aborigines and Asians in the mid 1990s but they were probably the work of "Romper Stomper" skinheads rather than any of the old-style Nazis

Dr Andrew Bonnell of Queensland University's history department who specialises in studying the evolution of right-wing political groups in Australia and Europe says the tendency for "splits" in the ranks has prevented any significant development of a Nazi Party in Australia.

Says Dr Bonnell: "By the 1970s, most right wingers in Australia realised there was little likely political success to be gained by going around in Nazi drag."

Dr Bonnell says present-day Nazis in Queensland at least seem reluctant to make public appearances preferring instead to push their views under the cloak of anonymity offered by the Internet.

Certainly the Internet is home to an increasing number of rabid Right organisations.

"It's a bit hard to say how much of it is hard-core Nazism or how much of it is adolescents letting off steam," he says.

Splinter neo-Nazi groups like "Stormfront" and "White Ayrian Resistance" had websites which advocated patently Nazi notions. But it was unlikely the websites represented any more than a handful of people in Australia, Dr Bonnell said.

He says most of the real Nazis and their sympathisers are dead or so old they don't matter.

Security agencies seem to have little beyond passing interest in the Nazis these days.

A Queensland police spokesman told The Sunday Mail that the Nazi Party was regarded as posing a very low threat to anyone.

Even Jewish organisations which watch the activities of racist, right-wing pseudo-political groups say activity by the Nazi Party seems to have dropped off.

As Martyn Harper put it last week: "I think it'd be best for everyone if all the Nazis just passed away."


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