IN exploring one of history’s darkest chapters, local director Aron Attiwell’s upcoming film Fading Numbers highlights why issues of anti-Semitism and white supremacism in Australia are as relevant today as they were 75 years ago.
Attiwell told the Herald the film, shot in Fremantle and Mandurah, “comprises multiple survivor stories [combined] into one overarching narrative”. This narrative was the result of extensive collaboration with the Holocaust Institute of WA, as well as real Holocaust survivors, to ensure the film reflected an accurate portrayal of historical events.
When asked about how the film related to an Australian audience, Attiwell spoke of the mass emigration to Australia after the Second World War.
“When people think of the Holocaust, they think European history,” he said.
“But a huge number of survivors actually left Europe to live in Australia.”
Despite this, there is currently a distinct lack of Holocaust education, both in school curriculums and the greater community, according to Attiwell. This is something he hopes the release of his film can help fix, through screenings at schools and museums around Australia, opening the door for renewed discussion on both historical and modern-day oppression.
In reference to the film’s title, Attiwell said how the memories and stories of the Holocaust have been “fading” as the number of survivors has slowly decreased.
This, combined with the current lack of education, has led to an increase in anti-Semitic views, where “there have been swastikas promoted on the streets”.
Attiwell was referring to a recent incident in Gosnells where a man with a swastika on his forehead attacked a mother and daughter with a flame thrower. The Herald also reported last year on an anti-semitic attack on Hilton academic and author Felicity Newman after the council cut down an ailing tree in front of her house (“Racism takes root,” June 20, 2020).
Federal Labor MP Anne Aly has expressed similar concerns over the rise in white supremacism in Australia, particularly the recent attempts of US-based terrorist groups to gain a local foothold.
“While these groups and ideologies have always been present in Australia, we are seeing a more coordinated effort to recruit and influence,” Dr Aly said.
The attempts of one such group, known as The Base, whose Neo-Nazi posters have been displayed in Perth’s Hyde Park, even included the recruitment of a Perth man who once ran for Federal Parliament as a member of One Nation.
Dr Aly also spoke of the “huge role” that education played in reducing the influence of extremist right wing groups, especially in regard to young people, whose extensive use of social media has made them “particularly vulnerable” to radicalisation and recruitment.
While she agreed that specific programs, including films, are a crucial part of this education, Dr Aly also expressed her desire for broader education strategies “across all disciplines”.
This would include the teaching of critical thinking and research skills that would help make students more scrupulous and less susceptible to extremist groups and their hateful views.
In a show of bipartisan support, Fading Numbers has been given the thumbs up by federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg and WA education minister Sue Ellery.
The film will be released later this year.