‘A reminder of darker times’

Holocaust survivor Peter Halas at Bondi Beach in front of Anthony Glick’s mural – one of many that was defaced in last weekend’s antisemitic graffiti attack. Photo: Noel Kessel

PETER Halas was five years old when his mother was killed by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.

“My grandparents were killed, two uncles, an aunt, a cousin and it’s something that stays with me for the rest of my life and I think about it daily,” he told The AJN.

“I was myself in hiding for about five months, so as little as I was it’s a very vivid memory after all of these years.”

Halas, who is usually at Bondi Beach every morning, was interstate on Sunday when he received photographs of the swastikas daubed along the promenade.

Over the past week, antisemitic graffiti has also reappeared around Caulfield in Melbourne with words such as ‘Are Jews religious or criminals?’ daubed on walls and bins.

“It’s very upsetting. It happened at the same time that doctor said that Auschwitz was not as bad as Nauru,” Halas said, in reference to Paul Bauert’s controversial comments to Sky News this week.

Halas said the vandals “need to be educated”.

“I’m very closely involved with both Courage to Care and the Sydney Jewish Museum – what I’d love to do is to take them to one or both of those, let them experience firsthand what it was like to go through the Shoah.
“They would find out that what they’re doing is inhuman.”

One of the defaced murals was based on a picture taken by Jewish photographer Anthony Glick who is also a lifeguard.

Glick told The AJN that when he woke up on Sunday and received photos of the defaced mural, he initially “thought it was a personal attack”.

“I went down there straight away and scrubbed it off the wall myself, because obviously the longer it’s there the more negativity and anger builds up for everyone,” Glick said.

“The Council was amazing, they handled it really well. They were down there even before me and one of the guys helped me to clean it off.”

He noted that many passersby, including non-Jews, remarked “that’s disgusting, that’s terrible”.

He agreed the perpetrators need to be educated. “They need to be taught about Jewish heritage and why people are so angry and upset,” he said.

“It’s obviously pretty close to home in more ways than one – because I’m Jewish and it’s my backyard, my office, the place that I come to to switch off from negativity. It’s the last thing you want to see in such a beautiful place.”

Wentworth MP Kerryn Phelps told federal Parliament on Tuesday the community was “united in its outrage and its condemnation”.

“The antisemitic symbols of the past if left unchecked can far too easily manifest as antisemitic violence in the present and the future,” she said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said both the Bondi and Caulfield incidents “recall darker, shameful times in Europe when murderous antisemitism was in the ascendant”.