By Allon Lee
A version of this article appeared in the Melbourne newspaper, The Herald Sun, on December 27, 2007.
The concern over controversial Croatian rock musician Marko Perkovic’s upcoming Australian tour may surprise some but it is understandable because of the serious allegations surrounding him.
Overseas reports claim Perkovic, 42, is openly sympathetic to the World War Two Nazi-collaborationist Ustashe regime, which sent thousands of Jews, gypsies and Serbs to their deaths.
There are claims that he opens concerts with a slogan popular with the Ustashe regime and that he attracts neo-Nazis who wear Nazi-style black shirts, carry banners with racist slogans and offer Nazi salutes.
Other allegations include that in a September 2003 performance Perkovic gave a Nazi salute, he organised a public demonstration honouring the Ustashe in August 2003, and, in 2002, he sang a song commemorating the Jasenovac death camp.
After concerned Dutch authorities cancelled a 2003 performance, Perkovic allegedly told a Croatian newspaper: “It is all to blame on the Jews. I have nothing against them and I did nothing to them. I know that Jesus Christ also did nothing against them, but still they hanged him on the cross. So what can I expect as a small man?”
His Australian tour sponsors, the United Croatian Clubs of NSW and the Geelong-based Australian Croatian Association, challenge the accusations.
Immigration officials have granted Perkovic a visa to perform in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth, on the proviso that he undertakes tolerance counselling prior to his arrival.
While we trust that the immigration authorities have investigated the allegations, and we welcome the counselling, the Australian Government must also ensure Perkovic respects Australian values and laws while he is here.
In Britain, Europe and the US far-Right and neo-Nazi groups have a significant presence and use music to peddle hate, raise funds, and recruit followers.
Leading far-Right political party, the British National Party (BNP), has used songs in election campaigns that do not appear racist but in context are.
BNP leader Nick Griffin admits that music is a “great way of getting our message to children because they will listen to songs again and again and pick the words up straight away, whereas maybe one in 100 would bother to listen to a speech.”
German neo-Nazi concerts have doubled since 2000 to approximately 160 per year and an estimated 100 bands and 10,000 followers belong to the scene.
In Eastern Europe, large numbers of unemployed and disaffected youth have seen neo-Nazi music and movements flourish.
In America, Prussian Blue, (named after the chemical residue of Zyklon B, the gas used in Nazi death camps) comprising the blonde, blue-eyed 14-year-old twin girls, Lynx and Lamb Gaede, epitomise the cynical use of the seemingly innocent to spread hate.
Prussian Blue’s acoustic folk-rock and bubblegum pop songs are mostly covers of neo-Nazi standards.
Their first producer said 11 and 12 years old is the “perfect age to start grooming kids and instil in them a strong racial identity”. In 2005, there were reportedly efforts to bring Prussian Blue here.
While support for Australia’s far-Right music scene is limited, it exists.
At various times, Australian skinhead bands with followings locally and overseas included Fortress, Squadron, Spear of Longinus, and Southern Cross.
A concert by local neo-Nazi band Blood and Honour at a Croatian social club in Melbourne recently raised concerns.
British and American neo-Nazi bands also tour here and immigration officials must start paying more attention.
Given the centrality of music to the international racist far-Right, and its targeting of young people, the last thing Australia needs is more such music of hate.
Allon Lee is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.