Where are the Jews?

In the light of the infamous pro-Palestinian rally at the Sydney Opera House on October 9, 2023, where amid chants, flag-burning and various other actions, it was said that “gas the Jews” was heard. A police investigation has concluded it was ‘where are the Jews”?.

So, was it “Where’s the Jews”? Was it “Where’s your Jews”? Was it “Gas the Jews”? Was it “Kill the Jews”? Was it “F the Jews”?

There are those who take comfort in the supposed bulletproof conclusion that it wasn’t “Gas the Jews” at all, but merely “Where are the Jews?”

That, they say, is benign and therefore shouldn’t have aroused the ire of those damn pesky Jews at all. The very ones, who, according to Greens senator Jenny Leong, have their tentacles everywhere. Those very same Jews, who, according to John Lyons, are conspiring to do, well, something.

But, you see, we pesky Jews do not regard “Where are the Jews?” (if indeed that was the phrase used) as benign at all.

Let’s do a little journey into history, always illuminating.

Back in around 1890, my great-grandmother, aged about 26, having had enough of the poverty and pogroms of Latvia, decided to chance all and took a boat intending to go to America, but ended up in Scotland. She had many reasons to leave, not the least of which were that she was a young woman, first widowed and recently remarried, with two small children and two dead ones from husband no 2. Her courage and foresight were remarkable

Back in Eastern Europe, during Easter and Christmas, the Jews would hide their children in separate fields so that the marauding Cossacks or other anti-Jewish civic minded citizens, wouldn’t find them or might only find one. They barricaded themselves in their houses, because, you see, these very same marauders went around shouting, “Where are the Jews?” and then with their pitchforks or other handy tools massacred as many as they could.

This, by the way, was both a pre- and post-war convenient method of execution. The infamous pogrom of Kielce in 1946, in which 42 were killed and 40 wounded, was committed by the locals becoming enraged that a few Jews had the temerity to return from the hell holes of either the camps or exile in Russia, and set upon them with pitchforks and the like.

Likewise in August  of 1945, the paltry number of Jews who returned to Krakow were set upon by their neighbors, in the synagogue on the sabbath, with three or five being killed and many injured.

Professor Jan Grabowski, in his groundbreaking and award-winning work, “The Hunt for the Jews,” set out in excruciating detail how, during World War II, the Germans went about hunting down the Jews with the help of the Polish blue police. The hunt was accompanied by the chant of “Where are the Jews?”

The historian Barbara Engelking, in her work, “Such a Beautiful Sunny Day,” discusses much the same history, albeit in a different part of Poland.

The chants of “Where are the Jews,” “Give us your Jews,” or similar, are not benign expressions of love. These are expressions of hate that are being normalized within our community.

Centuries-old antisemitic tropes are being wheeled out and used by mainstream commentators online and in the daily media. Words such as “tentacles” would make Goebbels proud. The allegations of the Jews allegedly being in the pay of foreign powers evokes the Dreyfus trial and and the infamous forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The failure of those who can to call out this behavior is egregious. The failure to recognize what trauma those words evoke in the mostly survivor and second-generation community in Australia is blind at best and racist at worst.

Australia was once a welcoming country which gave shelter to many fleeing persecution. It is now arguably becoming a repository and safe haven for racists and antisemites to peddle their poisonous messages.

My great-grandmother had the courage and foresight to leave her home and seek a better life. In so doing, she saved the entire family. My father’s family, ending up in variously Belzec or a pit thanks to the Einsatzgruppen, had no such luck.

But they all shared one thing — they knew the meaning and the implication  of the words “Where are the Jews?”

It is time everyone else did too.

About the Author
A family law barrister and amateur Holocaust historian with an interest in writing about what is important right now.
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