It sounds like the start of a joke, but unfortunately there’s no punchline here, just four people seemingly refusing to accept what they did was wrong.
The incident occurred at a supermarket in Woodend, outside Melbourne, Australia. As CCTV images show, four people all aged around 20 years old entered the Coles supermarket dressed in Nazi uniforms, including swastika armbands and displaying the imperial eagle.
The incident stunned local shoppers and, according to Jewish community leaders in the area, highlights the worrying increase of Nazi symbols being spotted in Australia.
One witness, Craig MacKenzie, told The Age he saw two men and two women enter the store wearing the uniforms last month, October 26.
Craig said he believed the group was heading to a party, and were not necessarily right-wing extremists or white supremacists. However, after a number of comments about the highly disrespectful choice of outfit, the group apparently told Craig to ‘f*ck off’ and laughed.
Once in the supermarket, I said to them that they were being highly disrespectful and had no idea what their uniforms meant.
The blokes told me that it was ‘only a joke’ and to f*ck off. I persisted, saying that there could be people here who went through World War II and the Holocaust. They laughed it off and told me to f*ck off again.
According to Craig, fellow shoppers in the store, including a number of elderly people, were visibly intimidated by the group.
The concerning incident comes ahead of a new report compiled by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. Released this week, it details anti-Semitic incidents in Australia over the past 12 months.
According to Jewish groups in the country, the use of Nazi symbolism is on the rise, with the report recording an increase in anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism, as well as threats made over the phone, via email and on posters.
Last month, for example, eight swastikas were reportedly painted on the Nylex building in south-east Melbourne, as well as other white supremacist graffiti. While, during the federal election, treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s campaign posters were apparently vandalised with Nazi symbols.
According to Jennifer Huppert, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, there is a ‘lack of understanding’ around the impact Nazi memorabilia, such as fancy dress costumes, can have.
It brings back memories, it brings back trauma.
It’s not a matter just for the Jewish community, Australians fought in that war for freedom against Nazis.
These people probably don’t even know their own grandparents fought in a war against the people in those uniforms.
In a speech last week at the Zionist Federation of Australia, prime minister Scott Morrison said: ‘We can’t pretend [anti-Semitism] isn’t happening here – it is. It’s like the country just wants to eject it out of its system, yet it persists. That’s why we must remain so vigilant about these things – we can’t be casual about these things. We can’t overlook it or just pretend.’
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.