Holocaust survivor warns Senator Brandis over Australia’s race hate laws: ‘Words kill’

Moshe Fiszman at the Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick. Photo: Ken IrwinA Holocaust survivor whose family was murdered by the Nazis has warned that the ‘‘forces of darkness’’ will be unleashed if Australia’s race hate laws are watered down.

Moshe Fiszman, 92, urged Attorney-General George Brandis to talk to survivors such as himself before instigating his reform of the Racial Discrimination Act, which he said would allow free rein to Holocaust deniers such as Fredrick Toben and David Irving.

Mr Fiszman reacted angrily to Toben’s remark on Tuesday that Mr Brandis’s move was a welcome challenge to ‘‘Jewish supremicism’’ in Australia.

Mr Fiszman, of South Caulfield, a guide at the Jewish Holocaust Centre said: ‘‘I don’t think that the Minister or the Prime Minister know anything about this, that they understand what this is all about.’’

In Poland in World War II, Mr Fiszman experienced the brutal consequences of untethered racism. At age 18, in 1939, he was among 30,000 Jews that racist Nazis forced to live in a typhus-ridden ghetto in Radom built for 10,000.

In 1942, his widowed father and three sisters, the youngest aged 12, were transported and murdered at Treblinka concentration camp, ‘‘their ashes sold to farmers for fertiliser’’.

Mr Fiszman survived Majdanek, Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps, and a death march into the snow-bound Tyrolean mountains before liberation by US troops.

He said Mr Brandis’ proposed reform of the Act, on the basis of free speech, is ‘‘outrageous’’.

‘‘We have got enough freedom in this country, even more than the United States. Who does he [Senator Brandis] want to give the freedom to?

‘‘To people that shouldn’t be given the voice in the first place. What kind of freedom does he need? Can any one of these people who intend to bring this into life even discuss this with a survivor?

‘‘We are the ones. We are the barometer, we can tell you, we know what words are. They are talking, ‘it’s only words’, Well words kill. Words murdered my family. Words incarcerated me for five and a half years.’’

‘‘My opinion about this is simple. If this goes through Parliament, the forces of darkness have taken over, to me. If this goes through, all the Holocaust deniers will be in front and they’ll be able to use it whichever way they they want.’’

‘‘Imagine what’s going to happen if these people get a free for all, and they’ll be able to write whatever they like without worry of being taken to court or sentenced because of it.’’

‘‘At present, they’ve got some sort of a screen. I am an Australian of Jewish faith. When this goes through, it will be the other way around. I’ll be a minority. I’ve lived under that system. I know what minorities are. I know how minorities are treated.’’

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