A group of neo-Nazis celebrated the birthday of Adolf Hitler on Thursday at a shopping center in Melbourne, according to the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) organization, who quickly condemned the gathering.
Approximately 20 neo-Nazi men celebrated at a family-friendly restaurant called the Bavarian at the Knox City Shopping Centre, according to the ADC.
Among the attendees included Thomas Sewell, leader of the National Socialist Network, an Australian neo-Nazi political organization.
The photo shared of the incident saw the men performing a Nazi salute, holding a frame of Hitler as well as two balloons both taking the shape of the letter "H" (short for "Heil Hitler).
Statements made on the incident
“Last Thursday was a sad and dark day for our democracy. Something is very wrong in Victoria, and we should be all alarmed by this brazen and stomach-churning outrage that will forever be a stain on our state," said ADC Chair Dr. Dvir Abramovich. "This beyond-despicable display of Hitler worshipping and depravity belongs in Nazi Germany of the 1930s, not in a local restaurant where parents and children gather. Imagine the terrifying horror a Holocaust survivor would feel if they witnessed this public expression of singular evil which they probably never thought they would see in their lifetime.
"These modern-day guards of Auschwitz openly fantasize about an Aryan Australia in which they can march those they deem as unworthy— Jews, Muslims, the disabled, members of the LGBTIQ+ community, indigenous Australians and other ethnicities— into death camps."
After police were called to escort the men from the center, Sewell wrote on the incident saying that "despite not breaking any laws and not disturbing a soul, we were set upon by a dozen scum from Victoria Police who were terribly upset that we were celebrating this holy day instead of the government-approved gay or pedophile holidays.
"Being confronted by system violence while our families and babies were present we were forced to eat our Hitler Cake while being escorted from the shopping center under threat of political violence," Sewell continued.
Australia's Victoria state will reportedly promote a law that bans Nazi salutes in the coming months after neo-Nazis clashed with transgender rights protesters last month in Melbourne. After the incident on Thursday, Abramovich urged the government Daniel Andrews, the current premier of Victoria, to quickly implement the ban they promised on the salute, as well as "develop a plan of action to combat this violent extremist ideology."
Zvika Klein and Reuters contributed to this report.