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In democracies, political parties speak in code to their public. This can be found in the way the National Socialist party appealed to the German voting public during the years of Weimar democracy, as well as in how modern parties appeal to their public. The National Socialist party, of course, was formally called the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or the NSDAP. It was informally referred to by the derogatory nickname of the “Nazi” party.

The nickname of “Nazi” for the NSDAP arose because the National Socialist party originated in Catholic Bavaria. “Nazi” is a contraction of the name, Ignatius, just as Joe is a contraction of Joseph, and Patsy is a contraction of Patrick. In German, “Ignatius” is pronounced “Ig-nar-tsi-us”. The short form of Ignatius, “Nazi”, sometimes meant something like a “simple Joe”, meaning a beer swilling, Lederhosen wearing simpleton or peasant, but also referred to the fact Ignatius was regarded a stereotypically Bavarian name. It also points to the fact that the Bavarians tend to be Catholic, since Ignatius tends to be a rather Catholic name. The Germans tend to poke fun at the Catholic Bavarians in much the same way as the British poke fun at the Catholic Irish. To refer to this originally Bavarian party as the “Nazis” was like calling an Irish political party in Britain the “Patsies”, and a party member a “Patsy”. At the same time, Nazi was also a contraction of Nationalsozialismus, so it was a very witty and clever party nickname. In Weimar politics, the opposite of Nazi was Sozi, the supporters of the Social Democrats. Sozi is, of course, pronounced “Zo-tzi”.

One popular misconception is that Germans who voted for the National Socialist party in the 1933 Weimar Republic elections were bloodthirsty monsters who wanted genocide. Nothing could be further from the truth. Either then or now, no political party in a democracy could get away with running a campaign based on the promise of the mass murder and brutality of millions. Nor is there any evidence that the National Socialists ever got into power with plans to systematically commit genocide from the very beginning. Far from promising the voting public genocide, mass murder and racial bestiality, the National Socialist party campaigned using the expression Entfernung. If you examine the original German edition of Mein Kampf, you will find NSDAP party leader (the word Führer merely means “leader in German), Adolf Hitler, using the word Entfernung. The word fern in German means “far”. So the verb entfernen means “to take far away” or “to remove”, and Entfernung is the derivative noun meaning “removal” or “taking far away”. The NSDAP campaigned on the basis of the Entfernung of the Jews, who were caricatured as being a “threat”.

This naturally compares to the way the Liberal Party of Australia campaigned in the lead up to the 2013 Australian elections to “turn back the boats”. The boats referred to the arrival of boats of asylum seekers from overseas. Although boats full of asylum seekers arrive on the shore of all first world nations in the world, Australia is unique in systematically incarcerating asylum seekers, often for many years. Now newly elected Australian Prime Minister, Liberal Parteiführer Tony Abbott—coincidentally also a graduate of St Ignatius School—wishes to force rickety boats to turn back and force asylum seekers to go back where they came from. “Go back to where you came from” is a common racist taunt in Australia that immigrants are subjected to. It is what Germans today refer to as Ausländerfeindlichkeit or hostility to foreigners.

Image“Turn back the boats”: when boat loads of Jewish Holocaust survivors started to arrive in Australia after the war, they were negatively caricatured in the Australian media as undesirable racial “imports”

It must not be forgotten that the refugee convention to which Australia is a signatory was actually created in the wake of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis created by the Holocaust, during which some Jews seeking asylum did indeed have their boats turned back: “go back to where you came from”.

In many ways, Australia is the racial paradise that the National Socialists could only dream of creating. For well over half a century, even decades after the Holocaust, the immigration policy in Australia was governed by the White Australia Policy that shut out non-whites from entry into the country. Today such racial discrimination is forbidden under Australian law. It would be impossible for any Australian political party to campaign for the restoration of the White Australia Policy without the vast majority of Australians being horrified. Instead, politicians in Australia speak in code, just as they did in Weimar Republic Germany. Just as Entfernung meant something much more sinister, so too does “turn back the boats” constitute a code for something far more broadly symbolic. It means that the Liberal Party of Australia stands for a policy that is all about telling foreigners to “go back to where you came from.” It is a codified promise to return to a cryptic form of the White Australia Policy without ever explicitly saying so.