A leading civil rights campaigner wants a group of neo-Nazis that descended on a Victorian tourist town, chanting “heil Hitler” and intimidating locals, added to the government’s anti-terror list.
Dr Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, said the risk posed by far right groups should be taken seriously.
“Make no mistake, the dangerous rhetoric that these Hitler worshippers are spewing can cross the line into real-world lethal attacks,” Dr Abramovich told news.com.au.
The group of hiking Hitler fans came to attention of the residents of the town of Halls Gap, about 150 kilometres west of Ballarat in the Grampians region of Victoria, when they were spotted burning crosses and chanting racist slogans.
Calling themselves the National Socialist Network, the group then posted their bush activities onto social media posing shirtless, their faces masked by balaclavas.
The group has openly described Indigenous Australians as “subhuman” and called for a “white revolution”.
Online, the group said its Grampians hike was “fuelled by pure Cronulla energy”, in reference to the infamous Cronulla Riots in 2005 that saw hordes of young white men descend on Sydney’s Sutherland Shire to target beachgoers of Middle Eastern appearance with violence.
The long weekend camping trip coincided with the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in modern-day Poland.
Nazis murdered one million Jews at Auschwitz, as well as Poles, Soviet prisoners and homosexuals.
Halls Gap resident Saskia Elling told news.com.au she was with friends at Lake Bellfield, close to Halls Gap, on Sunday evening when they spotted the group across the water.
“My partner said he saw someone chanting ‘white power’. Then an hour later they chanted ‘Ku Klux Klan’. It was intimidating, we were happy to be on the other side of the lake.”
A local business owner, who didn’t wish to be named, said a couple had stumbled on the group of unashamed racists on the popular Pinnacle walking track.
“They asked what they were doing and they said they were neo Nazis and KKK and then they began chanting. I came to this area to feel safe. I never thought living out here I’d be in danger of extremist groups.
“You look at these people and they’re the ones you fear the most. They’re like a cut snake, you just don’t know what they’d do.”
THUGS A ‘CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER’
Multiple locals in the area, also known as the Gariwerd region, called police with concerns about the group.
However, as they were breaking no laws, nothing could be done.
Dr Abramovich said that wasn’t good enough and the time had come to impose strong penalties on racists and “hateful ideologies”.
“Who would have thought in 2021 Australia, in a week in which we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the modern face of Hitler would reveal itself in our state without consequence?
“neo-Nazi ideologies and rallies are alive and well in Victoria, and these homegrown SS soldiers, who dream of a Fourth Reich with an Australian Hitler at the helm, are a clear and present danger, agitating for a racial war and recruiting like-minded bigots.”
The anti-terrorism squad of Victoria Police are now investigating the group.
“We do not need to wait for a Christchurch in Melbourne to act,” Dr Abramovich said.
“Our state and federal governments need lead the fight against the growing problem of racially based extremism by advocating that these groups be added to the terror list.
“It will bring the full weight of our law enforcement’s resources to combat this bomb that is waiting to go off.”