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February 22, 2022 2:45 pm

Ban on Displaying Nazi Symbols Unanimously Endorsed by New South Wales Parliament

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Nazi memorabilia spotted at an antique market in New South Wales, Australia. Photo: Courtesy of the Anti-Defamation Commission.

Parliamentarians in New South Wales, Australia, have unanimously supported a bill that would criminalize the public display of Nazi symbols.

The bill was referred in November to the bipartisan Standing Committee on Social Issues, which “expressed strong support for the bill’s protective objectives, including for individuals and groups in our community who are hurt, offended or intimidated by the public display of Nazi symbols,” according to a legislative report released Tuesday. “None of the participants in the inquiry expressed opposition to the objectives of the bill.”

Called “The Crimes Amendment (Display of Nazi Symbols),” the bill delineates a maximum penalty for an individual publicly displaying Nazi symbols — including on private property and on social media — as being an $5,500 AUD fine ($3,967 USD), imprisonment for six months, or both. The maximum penalty for a corporation is $55,000 AUD ($39,677 USD).

The bill includes exceptions for the use of Nazi symbols for historical, artistic, scientific, or educational purposes, and the display of swastikas in connection with Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism — which predates the symbol’s adoption by Nazi Germany — “would not constitute an offense.” The bill is set to be debated in parliament.

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Darren Bark, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, welcomed the move, saying, “The Nazi swastika is an emblem of pure evil. It represents the dehumanization of millions of people and one of the most inhumane, hate-based and murderous regimes and ideologies to ever exist.”

Surinder Jain, national vice president of the Hindu Council of Australia, said in the joint statement with Bark, “Our sacred symbol of the swastika representing peace and prosperity is often confused with the evil Hakenkreuz,” which is the German term for a swastika. “We hope that this legislation will ban the hate symbol while freeing our sacred symbol from indoor imprisonment.”

Australia has one of the highest number of Holocaust survivors in the world per capita, according to the Australian Associated Press. Last year, Victoria became the first Australia state or territory to advance legislation outlawing Nazi symbols.

The new bill was introduced by Walt Secord, an NSW parliament member and shadow minister for arts and heritage, who said 31 displays of Nazi flags were reported to the police in 2020, including one on a light tower in NSW. This January, the grandson of Holocaust survivors discovered Nazi memorabilia, including Nazi-era coins bearing swastika symbols, being sold at an antique market in the Australian state. A man who owned a Nazi flag and a map of NSW was also arrested by police in September for allegedly planning to make a 3D-printed gun.

NSW was the first Australian state to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in December 2021.

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