Max Kaiser, 2019. Photograph: Nabil Asakly

Max Kaiser

Between Nationalism and Assimilation: Jewish Antifascism in Australia in the Late 1940s and Early 1950s‘ (PhD in History, 2019).

This thesis argues that Jewish antifascism was a major political and cultural force in Australian Jewish communities in the 1940s and early 1950s. It charts the emergence of a non-nationalist and anti-assimilationist Australian Jewish antifascist political subjectivity, and examines its ideological basis, cultural and political practice, and the circumstances of the rapid demise of its hegemony.

This thesis focuses on transnational dimensions of the political imagination and, while drawing on relevant historiography, also develops a partisan framework. It analyses the complex historical positioning of Australian Jews within Australian white supremacy and settler colonialism, and tracks the emergence of an Australian Jewish antifascist political subjectivity from a complex political ethic of Holocaust memorialisation. It outlines how this ethic was geared towards a horizon of redemption and radical social change, and how this orientation led to possibilities for political solidarity with other oppressed peoples.

This thesis paints an intellectual and cultural portrait of the vibrant Australian world of Jewish antifascism, and consequently uncovers a previously obscured history of radical Jewish thought in Australia. This thought is contextualised in terms of its relationship to international political forces, including a transnational Jewish antifascist movement, Zionism, Communism, global decolonisation and the Cold War.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Sara Wills, Dr Jordana Silverstein