An investigation by Chantelle Francis and Marnie Cohen
Jewish students around the world have been outraged by holocaust denial leaflets littered across university campuses, thanks to an anonymous conspiracy group based out of Geelong.
The pamphlets gained media attention worldwide in August 2016 but recently hit closer to home, targeting the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Deakin University.
The anti-Semitic leaflets direct students online to Chemtrails Geelong, a group that also believe the cloud trails from planes are a government ploy to poison citizens and destroy the environment.
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) described the propaganda as “deeply insulting” and promised to work with universities to ensure the safety of their students.
Despite community outrage Victoria Police determined that no offence has been committed.
Chemtrails Geelong appears to be run from a private residence in Newton, Geelong, but all attempts to make contact with the group to find out why it denies the Holocaust, or why it is targeting students with anti-Semitic leaflets, have failed.
Geelong Council are aware of the group and its actions. Spokesman Dr Geoff Russell, said: “The City understands why many people might find this site’s content both offensive and factually inconsistent with the vast majority of credible historical research into events such as the Holocaust.”
The pamphlets were found on Victorian campuses just days after Holocaust Remembrance Day and upon the Australian release of the Hollywood film Denial, which focused on the true story of a court case between a US historian and a Holocaust denier in 2000.
David Irving, a British Holocaust denier sued American historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publishing team at Penguin Books, after she claimed he was a liar and a falsifier.
Lipstadt and her legal team won the London case proving Irving was a falsifier for altering facts of the past to suit his own belief that the Holocaust did not exist.
The Chemtrails Geelong pamphlets were distributed at the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and Australian National University in Canberra over the past year.
Students at the University of Sydney confronted and filmed a man distributing the flyers in April.
The video was later posted to Facebook group Fascist Free USyd.
Eleanor Morley, a student who was present at the scene told the Guardian, “Once one person saw the Holocaust denial material that he was posting, other students joined in to express their outrage loud and clear.”
It was reported that students chanted “neo-Nazis off our campus”, while another asked, “You’re asking did the Holocaust really happen? Do you not believe 6 million Jewish people were exterminated by the Nazis?”
According to an Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) 2015-16 report, more anti-Semitic attacks take place in New South Wales and Victoria than in other states.
The report reveals that in the past year there have been over 80 anti-Semitic incidents in Victoria, over 100 in New South Wales, and less than 20 incidents in all other states.
Victoria and NSW are home to approximately 85 per cent of the Australian Jewish population.
The ECAJ report also notes that many other anti-Semitic incidents are not officially reported or passed onto the relevant body to be included in the report and therefore anti-Semitism in Australia may be much higher.
Though the Holocaust denial pamphlets originated in Australia, Chemtrails Geelong has successfully found an avenue to international distribution.
The same leaflets were also found across universities in the UK at University College London, Cambridge University, Edinburgh University and Glasgow University at the beginning of 2017.
While there has been a sudden outburst of Holocaust denial, this is not the first instance of anti-Semitism on campuses.
Despite outrage over such incidents from universities and the Jewish community, experts are urging students to remain calm.
A member of Deakin’s Contemporary Histories Research Group and Holocaust expert Dr Mathew Turner doesn’t believe Chemtrails Geelong pose a threat to students’ safety.
He labeled the group’s actions as “strange” and said that the pamphlets may actually lead to some productive and in depth discussions amongst historians.
“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, with very loud voices and with meticulous research, confront Holocaust denial… but I think, in some ways, the danger would be to not let those people speak rather than any dangers that they pose to anyone,” he said.
Whilst unsure of the motives behind Chemtrails Geelong’s pamphlets, Dr Turner said anti-Semitism is the main catalyst behind Holocaust denial.
“[Holocaust Denial] often motivated by anti-Semitism, some people just want to make trouble… they’re locked in a lot of conspiracy theories,” he said.
“From a historian’s perspective it is just a very strange thing to do.”
But with more flyers being distributed across the University of Queensland and University of Western Australia as recently as this week, universities are likely to find a solution for the insulting behavior in the near future.