eric abetz

In the author’s note at the conclusion of his gorgeous book of Jewish refugee stories Cafe Scheherazade, Melbourne author Arnold Zable humanises the refugee experience, writing:

“Whenever I hear of another outbreak of conflict somewhere on the globe, whenever I see images of columns of refugees snaking across war-ravaged landscapes, my thoughts turn back to the tales of survivors, living in Melbourne, many of whom I have known since my childhood.”

Many of these refugees almost didn’t make it. Public opinion in Australia during the late 1940s viewed these desperate men and women, many victims of Nazi death camps, in much the same way as the Andrew Bolts and Rita Panahis and Piers Akermans of today regard asylum seekers from modern conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, etc -- as queue jumpers, potential terrorists, people unable to integrate, people who represent a threat to our way of life and our security.