Letter sent to all Australian members of Parliament (150 total) including the Prime Minister- Kevin Rudd. Also sent to all State branches of the RSL (Returned Serviceman's League), and the Governor General.

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12th April 2010

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write this letter to bring your attention to a matter of great importance to the future of Australia. It concerns the approaching annual Anzac day commemorations and their appropriateness in this country today. Whilst certain parts of the population reminisce and celebrate Australia’s involvement in its many armed conflicts, an increasing number of Australian citizens either come from, or are descendants of, people who lived in enemy territory during such wars. For many Australian people, this is a time of pain and sadness, remembering the suffering of their own loved ones and countrymen. 

As a multicultural country, I believe that some of the principles that every Australian should hold dearly in their hearts are:

  • The right of all Australians to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin.
  • That Australia is a culturally diverse, tolerant and open society, united by an overriding commitment to our nation, and its democratic institutions and values.
  • That actions which promote the idea that a particular group has a right to commemorate their own history, but another group does not, is incompatible with the kind of society we are and want to be. No group should be made to feel shameful about their history. Let he who has no sin throw the first stone!

These should be ideals and values that are common to all Australians, irrespective of whether they were born in this country and irrespective of whether their ancestors came from the British Isles, Europe, the Middle East or Asia, or elsewhere.

It is time to shove into the rubbish bin of History the whole idea that we are/were the good guys and the others were the evil, the bad and the ugly. No one is blameless. In any conflict, it is the people who suffer, those on the losing side probably more than those of the winners.

Australia needs to become mature as a country, and lead the rest of the world in this respect, by facing up to the facts, that it was involved in wars in which many heinous war crimes were committed against our enemies, both soldiers and civilians, and that we, knowingly collaborated with other nations who were guilty of such crimes.

Keeping in mind that many Australians either came from, or are descendent from these countries, I offer a few specific examples of our complicity. I do not seek to find justifications from either side, merely note who suffered.

During the Second World War, Australia, together with Great Britain and its allies formed an alliance with Russia, which had committed massive war crimes in Poland. The Katyn

Massacres, where 22,000 Polish Soldiers were executed and buried in mass graves is but one example. Russian soldiers raped, looted, and desecrated their way through Poland. At the end

of the war, the Allies ‘gave’ Poland to Russia (even though the sovereignty of Poland  was supposed to be the whole reason why the war started) What should Polish/Australians celebrate on Anzac day?

During the Vietnam conflict, millions of people lost their lives, and a large part of Vietnam was destroyed by defoliation. Agent Orange (and other ‘Rainbow Herbicides’) continue to foul the waterways, cause diseases and birth defects, and poison the food chain We all remember the grotesque image of the naked, crying little girl fleeing after being Napalmed. What should Vietnamese/Australians celebrate on Anzac day?

There is a sizable population of German immigrants who were invited to emigrate to Australia after World War Two. Over two million Germans lost heir lives after the end of hostilities in 1945. The policy of the British and US during the war, to target civilians in order to demoralise the German people resulted in hundreds of German cities and towns being firebombed. Hundreds of thousands of innocent victims (mainly women and children) perished by being ‘roasted alive) The brutal and horrendous treatment of surrendered/captured German soldiers after the war is something which I hope that Australia is not proud to have been associated with. Myself, coming from German extraction, usually feel nauseous on Anzac day.

Atrocious war-crimes were committed against the Japanese civilian population by the deliberate policy of fire-bombing civilian centres during the last six months of World War Two. At this time Japan was practically helpless, but would not surrender. Starting with the fire-bombing of Tokyo (100,000 mainly women and children roasted alive), and over the next six months more than 30 cities had a similar fate. This culminated with the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima (civilian targets). 

I do not seek to promote discussions about the justifications for the above acts, and there is no doubt that all of the ‘enemy’ nations were themselves not without blame. This letter is not about blaming, justifying, or pointing the finger. The wars are long over.

It is time that we learn to respect our fellow Australians. The Anzac day tradition, whilst certainly noble in its original ideals, no longer has a place in our multicultural society, and should be abandoned, or replaced with a day when ALL Australians can reflect on the suffering and sacrifices made by people from their country of origin.

 I do not know of the process whereby this idea can be achieved practically, and it may have to be brought before some legal tribunal such as the Racial Vilification Act or other, as Anzac Day is insulting, humiliating, and intimidating to many Australians.

Please give this matter some consideration, and I hope that you will support the principle of what I have put forward.

I write this letter with the greatest amount of respect for ALL people of ALL nationalities who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,

Sincerely yours,

 

Peter Hartung
Adelaide Institute
(Director)

www.adelaideinstitute.org

 

 

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