After 60 years in Australia, Manfred Thurow has received hate mail telling him to go back to his homeland. (Expletives have been censored in this image.) (ABC Sunshine Coast: Kathy Sundstrom)
When Manfred Thurow saw a folded letter in his mailbox, he thought it was an invitation to a Christmas party.
- An 84-year-old man says he’s lived in Australia for 60 years and says he’s never had a problem with racism
- Recently, he received abusive hate mail in his letter box telling him to f*** off back to his homeland
- Other residents with German heritage have had problems and say the abuse has escalated in the past four months
It was not.
The 84-year-old, who lives at The Palms, a village for mostly over 50s at Warana on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, was confronted with a threatening, abusive letter targeting his German heritage.
“You f***ing Germans — f*** off back to your homeland — you are not welcome here, life will be made hard for you and all of you others!!!” the anonymous letter read.
Mr Thurow has lived in Australia for more than 60 years and has never experienced any kind of racial abuse like it.
“They must hate Germans whoever wrote that letter and I don’t know why,” he said.
“For over 60 years I’ve lived in this country and I’ve never had problems.”
Mr Thurow and his partner, Uta Hubsher, are among a group of an estimated eight families with German heritage living in the village of about 310 homes, who have received some kind of hate mail in the past year.
“Since I moved here, friends of mine run in trouble quite a bit, but the section I’m in, never any problems,” Mr Thurow said.
“It was a total surprise. I don’t think I’ve got any enemies at all.”
For Horst and Renate Stoffers, the abuse began about a year earlier.
The Stoffers have had their letterbox glued shut, they believe someone killed their plants, and they have seen someone who appeared to be taking unauthorised photographs.
They were not sure who the offender was, although there were some internal disputes with other residents months ago over extensions to their home.
But in the past four months the abuse had escalated, and it appeared to be spreading to other residents with German heritage and their friends.
Residents with German heritage (front row, from left) Uta Hubsher, Manfred Thurow, Peter Kuther and Hannalore Haug, and (back row) Renate and Horst Stoffers have all received racial abuse and hate mail. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Kathy Sundstrom)
Mr Stoffers was moved to tears as he described what was happening.
“[The abuse] started with us and it has now spread to neighbours. It’s beyond comprehension what people can do and try to do,” Mr Stoffers said.
“Anyone who lives in here of German heritage is attacked and promised to make our life hard, and that’s a threat to me.”
Mrs Stoffers wants the abuse to stop as it is taking a toll on her, as well as her friends and her 90-year-old mother who lives with them.
“It was peaceful and quiet until we moved here and all this trouble started and I don’t like that because I want my friends and us to live peacefully and in harmony, that’s what I want,” she said.
“It’s upsetting, my mother has been asking, ‘Must we pack our bags and move out?’ I don’t want that, I don’t want to give these people the satisfaction we are giving up.
“We want to stay here, with our friends and our families. That’s what we want.”
She hasn’t been able to sleep and has sought psychiatric help.
“They’ve been watching us, suddenly our plants started to die, completely stalking us. Then they try to get other people on their side.
“It has to stop, it really has to stop.”
The families believe another resident was most likely responsible but, as the letters were anonymous, they had no proof.
Mr Thurow took his letter to the nearby Kawana police station and was told it would be difficult to find the culprit.
However, officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Mark Cordwell has told the ABC that police were investigating.
“I understand the gentleman was quite upset by it,” Snr Sgt Cordwell said.
“We have a number of people to speak with and we will continue to progress it.”
He said it was a “concerning issue” and he had become aware of other residents with German heritage who had been receiving letters.
Hannalore Haug and Peter Kuther are upset as racist hate mail targets residents with German heritage in a Sunshine Coast over-50s village. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Kathy Sundstrom)
Mr Stoffers had also contacted the body corporate management, but no action had been taken to address the racism.
The body corporate manager, AAA Certified, has not responded to requests for comment. However, the incident was mentioned in the latest newsletter from a member of the body corporate committee.
“There has been an incident of racial hatred in our complex recently,” the newsletter read.
“It is too offensive to print here, but the sender should be aware that they are breaking the law and if Federal Police become involved, they will be charged!”
Body corporate lawyer Frank Higginson, from Hynes Legal, said disputes within body corporates were common.
“It’s probably not always racism. There are accusations about a range of things … But obviously this is really bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.”
Mr Higginson said it was hard for management to take action unless it was possible to “pin someone”.
“My experience with these things is usually that you know who it probably is, but unless you can point the finger and nail them … and usually that’s from a sneaky CCTV camera somewhere, it’s really hard for the body corporate to do anything,” he said.
“There is a section of the act that would prohibit this sort of behaviour, that you can go through the [Body Corporate and Community Management] Commissioner’s office process and subsequent enforcement proceedings, but you still need to have someone to commence that against.”
The Palms is a tranquil estate in Warana on the Sunshine Coast aimed at over 50s. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Tim Wong-See)