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The lurking menace of recrudescent Nazism

National Socialism is making a terrifying, sometimes deadly, global comeback, with surges in Britain, Scandinavia, the US, Australia and elsewhere
ILLUSTRATIVE: Neo-Nazis hold a rally in Newnan, Ga., Saturday, April 21, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
ILLUSTRATIVE: Neo-Nazis hold a rally in Newnan, Ga., Saturday, April 21, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The ideology of National Socialism (Nazism) has re-emerged as a political force after being soundly defeated in World War II, and of existing only in the darkest shadows in subsequent decades. Now, a century after the formation of the original National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) in 1919-20, Nazism is again beating the drum of race-war.

Much of the contemporary manifestation of Nazism was incubated on the Iron March online forum in 2016, spawning active groups in several countries – National Action (NA) in Britain, Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) in Norway, Sweden and Finland, Atomwaffen Division (AWD) in the USA, and Antipodean Resistance (AR) in Australia. Three of these groups – NA, NRM, and AWD – were involved in violent action, from bombings to murders, and have been proscribed as terrorist organisations in their home countries. Other Nazi groups have continued to coalesce and form.

Antipodean Resistance became the progenitor of contemporary Nazism in Australia. These were not swastika-tattooed, shaven-headed, boot-stomping Nazis of the Romper Stomper variety. Often, they were young, some at university, clean-cut, respectable-looking males, politically savvy and internet savvy. For two years, 2016-2018, Antipodean Resistance gained publicity and notoriety through its provocative and hateful posters inciting violence, predominantly through graphic images of shooting Jews and homosexuals. One poster called to “Legalise the execution of Jews” with a photo of a Jew about to be shot by a Nazi in 1941; other posters urged homosexuals to commit suicide through graphic drawings. Antipodean Resistance was loudly and proudly Nazi. It made a big splash in the right-wing extremist milieu, attracted police action against members, then it went quiet. It reassembled into the Lads Society, basically a front for Antipodean Resistance in the guise of a male gym.

However, the real successor to Antipodean Resistance – sharing leaders, members and ideology – is the National Socialist Network (NSN) which went public in January 2020. In contrast to Antipodean Resistance, NSN’s main activities were strategically and deliberately much tamer, consisting of online posting of images of black-clad members with the NSN flag, and comments and articles blaming Jews for the evils befalling Australia, and making veiled threats against Jews and others. Members put up NSN stickers of their emblems, cheap and bland, as a form of advertising the brand rather than being composed of hateful or murderous images. NSN members also paint large graffiti murals, mostly composed of the group’s initials. However, their low-level activities are just a veneer hiding their genocidal beliefs. Like Antipodean Resistance, NSN have engaged in hiking and camping trips into the mountains, for bonding, strategizing, and promotional photo-shoots.

In a combined celebration, occurring on Australia Day and International Holocaust Remembrance Day, NSN took a highly provocative step – by burning a cross in the Grampian mountains in Victoria in January 2021, an act quite rare in Australia. This elicited much publicity for NSN, and outrage against them by the public – they could no longer be ignored. That same month, another Nazi group was quietly formed – the European Australian Movement (EAM), founded and led by Thomas Sewell, a leader within NSN, and publicly inaugurated online in March.

Despite the optics and antics of Antipodean Resistance posters inciting murder, NSN cross burning, open admiration for Hitler and a desire to emulate Nazi Germany, and prominent Nazi leader Thomas Sewell proclaiming in August 2020 that: “National Socialism is the greatest system ever created by our people to fight against Jewish enslavement” – these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of Nazism in Australia, of seeing only what is above the surface. They are the vanguard – open and public, preparing the pathway, espousing their ideology to the world.

But beneath the public platform of all these openly and publicly known Nazi groups, there are seemingly ordinary people who support Nazism, or what they think is Nazism, and want it to be instituted in Australia. It is these people, some identities known, many unknown, posting on extremist sites, who call for an end to democracy, for race-war, for the rehabilitation of Hitler, and deny the Holocaust while advocating another genocide of the Jewish people, that “this time it will be a real genocide of the Jews”. They use the euphemistically termed slogan “White revolution is the only solution!” They view this as an existential necessity to save the “White race”.

Many of these modern-day Nazis and sympathisers see parallels between now and a hundred years ago in Germany. They speak of being in “Weimar 2” or of “Peak Weimar 2.0” – of today being reminiscent, a repeat even, of 1920s Germany, of the democratic republic of Weimar which is portrayed as an era of unbridled sexual freedoms, not just for women, but for homosexuals and other so-called ‘sexual deviants’, of such ‘decadence’ undermining the family, the church, and the nation. And behind it all – the mythical figure of “the Jew”.

Just as “the Jews” were blamed for the political instability, economic malaise and ‘social degeneracy’ of Weimar (and of the West in general), so too today are “the Jews” blamed for all contemporary problems. Some Nazis call for “Kristallnacht 2.0” – for a nation-wide violent and murderous attack against Jews. Other Nazis openly talk of taking power by 2033, on the centenary of Hitler taking power in Germany. Many see this as a continuing and an existential war between “the Aryan” and “the Jew”, a war that in their minds can only be ended with the complete annihilation of the Jews from the earth.

Over the last several years, some people have been moving further to the political right. They have moved from being civic nationalists, or Christian nationalists, or white nationalists, or white supremacists, to becoming either an adherent or a supporter of National Socialism, and of working towards establishing a National Socialist state and society. Their two overriding pre-occupations have been ‘racial invasion’ and ‘sexual degeneracy’.

The catalyst and driving force for much of this has been a revitalised sense of identity across the board for all peoples, and specifically of ethnic and racial identity, especially since the demise of the Soviet Union. For right-wing extremists, this sense of identity has been heightened and escalated by the rise in immigration of those of non-European ethnicity to Europe, North America and Australasia. Others are motivated by opposition to equality for women and to the sexual freedoms of LGBTI people in society today.

Many of these individuals are active on the internet, especially on extremist sites like Gab and Telegram, spruiking their racist and hateful views, being reinforced and encouraged by like-minded others across the globe. They are not necessarily members of groups, but are part of an online community that share the propaganda and call for white-revolution and race-war, thus forming the seedbed in which violence is increasingly seen as legitimate, necessary and desirable, to use against ‘racial enemies’ and ‘sexual deviants’.

Others who may not embrace National Socialism support it nevertheless as being the most potent means to enact violence against perceived enemies, notably Jews. Their hatred of Jews is expressed through a belief in a myriad of antisemitic conspiracy theories – paranoid fantasies about “the Jews” controlling governments, the banks, and the media, seeking world domination, as well as old tropes about Jews as Christ-killers, and as inordinately powerful and evil. Some even accuse “the Jews” of planning a genocide against the non-Jewish peoples of the world, especially Europeans. Some ethnic Europeans believe that if it was not for Hitler, “the Jews would have already Wiped our Race out”.

While some right-wing extremists still cling to a predominantly anti-Muslim narrative, many have moved further to see Muslims as merely the symptom rather than the cause. As one white ethno-nationalist phrased it: Jews are “the disease,” Muslims are “the symptom.” Many subscribe to a simplistic and superficial belief in “the Jews” as the root cause for the presence of Africans, Asians, Arabs and Muslims in Western lands, and believe that if they destroy the root cause, then the problems will go away, by them returning to their ancestral homes. They believe that National Socialism will make this happen.

For believers in these fantasies, everything of significance that happens in this world must be made to ‘fit’ the ideological strait-jacket of a Jewish conspiracy. These include a belief  in the White-Replacement theory (also referred to as White-Genocide), Covid-19 conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccination and anti-5G activists, opposition to Covid-19 government lockdowns, opposition to the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement, opposition to equality for minorities, belief that ‘the Left’ are running roughshod over society and infest academia, and the increasing tolerance for open antisemitism throughout societies.

Increasingly, many right-wing extremists across the board are calling for Race-War, with a two-pronged interconnected goal: to save the European races and to exterminate Jews, in a total war. They see this as an existential necessity. Old Nordic myths are revitalised for this war – Valhalla awaits those Aryans who die in battle in this race-war.

The world has seen what happens when Nazis are in government and control all the levers of power. It is a regime built upon the murdered corpses of the innocent – political opponents, racial outcasts, and all those deemed ‘unfit’ for life. Ultimately, when Nazis rule, no-one is safe from persecution or eradication.

The looming threat of Nazi-motivated violence comes not just from organised Nazis that we see and who form the vanguard, but also from those individuals, the unconscripted foot soldiers, who quietly support Nazism and race-war, who spew propaganda and spread the idea of hate and murder to a vast audience online. Both these – openly organised Nazis and their online volunteer soldiers – pose threats not only to human life but also to Australia’s liberal democracy and way of life. Delaying taking action against them will ultimately prove more costly than taking decisive action now.

About the Author
Julie Nathan is the Research Director at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community, and is the author of the annual ECAJ Report on Antisemitism in Australia.
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