Thirty Four years ago when I visited Sydney for the first time, I walked into The Customs House in Circular Quay, and saw something that has remained unresolved (for me) since 1985!
Please read on!
I visit Sydney several times each year to see my family, as well as for business. However, I don’t ever get to Circular Quay, one of the major tourist areas in the world!
Last Sunday, 24 November 2019, while in the area, I decided to revisit the building, to satisfy my curiosity!
AND THEY WERE STILL THERE!
Inside the entrance of the building.
What do you make of it?
I called in at the information desk in the lobby of the building, and I was given this information sheet.
The receptionist told me that two Jewish tourists recently called in at her desk quite distraught after walking into the building, and seeing these symbols.
I searched the net on the subject. This what Wikipedia has to say about these symbols – quite detailed and informative:
Swastika – Wikipedia
Swastika – Wikipedia
As part of this Wiki article above, you can read:
Post–World War II stigmatization
Because of its use by Nazi Germany, the swastika since the 1930s has been largely associated with Nazism. In the aftermath of World War II it has been considered a symbol of hate in the West, or alternatively of white supremacy in many Western countries.
As a result, all of its use, or its use as a Nazi or hate symbol, is prohibited in some countries, including Germany. Because of the stigma attached to the symbol, many buildings that have used the symbol as decoration have had the symbol removed. In some countries, such as the United States’ Virginia v. Black 2003 case, the highest courts have ruled that the local governments can prohibit the use of swastika along with other symbols such as cross burning, if the intent of the use is to intimidate others.
I decided to write to the Australian Jewish News, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and J-Wire (online zine)
These were the replies:
Vic Alhadeff – NSW Jewish Board:
As the leaflet says, it’s there as Buddhist/Hindu culture. Nothing to be done.
Henry Benjamin – J-Wire:
You would have a problem visiting Bali. The swastika is part of the island’s culture.
The AJN did not respond!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
Should a public building in Sydney, Australia have these images displayed in its entrance, and with no visible explanation given – only when I asked at reception!
These may be positive symbols in Asia, but what about in a country that has a large population of Holocaust survivors and their descendants.
What do you have to say on the matter?
I called the front desk at Customs House this morning, and spoke to Veronica, who told me that there is a plaque in the foyer. Neither Jill nor I saw it!
Veronica kindly took a couple of photos for me and also pointed me to an item on their website – see below
My updated notes arising from this last image:
The plaque states that during WWII the floor was covered – interesting!
Both right and left facing swastikas are on the Customs House floor (not just counter clockwise as per the plaque above).
Thanks and best regards
The Customs House
The pamphletCustoms House