Australian Students Condemned For Dressing Up as Jewish Caricatures With Money Bags, Concentration Camp Prisoners
Jewish students in Australia have condemned a series of images showing students at a North Adelaide college engaging in behavior described as antisemitic and racist.
The photographs — captured in recent years at St. Mark’s, a residential college affiliated with the University of Adelaide, and exposed on Monday by News.com.au — depict students wearing offensive garb and blackface at parties and similar events.
“Happy Hanukkah from Auschwitz,” reads the caption on one image, which featured two recent students dressed as Nazi concentration camp prisoners, complete with mock hooked noses, identification number tattoos, and yellow Stars of David.
Other photos reportedly taken at the school show a student giving a Nazi salute in an Adolf Hitler costume — a look about 10 people replicated during this year’s Orientation week in February, according to a student who spoke to News.com.au on condition of anonymity.
Previous Orientation weeks have also included costumes that advance anti-Jewish stereotypes, the outlet noted. During a 2015 Orientation quiz night, the “Jew Team” was photographed wearing hooked noses, fake beards, and holding money bags. Other students, outfitted as prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, were photographed beside two female peers dressed as flames.
When an individual tried to challenge one of the photographs on Facebook, writing, “Can you do anything slightly politically correct?” they were told by a student who wore a hook nose, “Wouldn’t Jew like to know?” The image they were commenting on was liked by more than 40 people.
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) condemned the behavior documented by these photographs as “appalling” in a statement on Tuesday, warning that it “denigrates the memory of the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews and millions of others during the Holocaust and trivialises the horrific crimes perpetrated by the Nazis.”
“That students can view this sort of behaviour as acceptable, or even funny, demonstrates the necessity for better antisemitism and anti-racism education in Australia and on our university campuses,” AUJS said.
Blackface was also documented in concerning frequency at the school, including at official college events every year from 2011 to 2016, before the school introduced a stricter social media policy. But the issue of dressing up in racially charged costumes persists, News.com.au reported.
The outlet said it had obtained a video of a student repeatedly saying the slur “n****r,” as well as more than 50 photos — some of current students — dressed in blackface.
“Happy birthday you cheeky negro,” a student captioned a 2016 photo of a friend in blackface, “hope you don’t get arrested and brutalised #blacklivesmatter.”
Ethan Taylor, president of the Union of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students (UATSIS), said the images invoke “historical events where people dressed up in blackface for the purpose of embarrassing and humiliating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other people of colour.”
“Blackface has been a tool to degrade and oppress people of colour and will continue to be a tool to degrade and oppress regardless of the intention,” he said.
He said the photos captured year after year demonstrate a “lack of accountability” that “is worse than the original transgression.”
While a representative for St. Mark’s College declined a request to comment, News.com.au said, the University of Adelaide issued a statement affirming that it “celebrates and is enriched by cultural diversity among our students and staff.”
“We do not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination, or religious vilification on our campuses,” it continued. “Such behaviour is reprehensible wherever it occurs, and we condemn it. It is not reflective of our University community.”
Earlier this summer, students at Australia’s Charles Stuart University were condemned after photographs emerged of them wearing Nazi concentration camp costumes, Ku Klux Klan robes, and blackface. The Melbourne-based Anti-Defamation Commission called the incident “vulgar, insensitive and shocking.”