Colin Tatz has passed away at 85

November 19, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Colin Tatz AO,  a Natal University and Australian National University graduate, has been Professor of Politics at the University of New England, Armidale, and at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Colin Tatz

He became the director of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Colin Tatz was born in South Africa. In 1964 Tatz received his PhD from the Australian National University. He is an author of several books and published articles on race politics, genocide, the Holocaust and antisemitism, and racism in sport.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff told J-Wire: “Colin Tatz was a doyen of genocide studies academics, a distinguished scholar of the Holocaust, a champion of combatting racism. On a personal level, it was Colin Tatz who awoke in me the importance of raising awareness of these issues and during the course of his career he acquired a universally-acclaimed reputation for his outstanding work and his erudition. 

“He leaves a massive gap in Holocaust scholarship specifically and genocide studies more broadly.”

Colin Tatz was awarded an AO in 1997.

AIJAC’S Jeremy Jones writes: From the first time I met him, as a student, he was an endless source of wisdom, knowledge and guidance (and enjoyable arguments).

He had strong opinions which he communicated with skill, erudition and razor-sharp wit. He encouraged me to write for the Institute of Contemporary Genocide Studies and made sure I came to know many of the smartest, passionate people in academia and activist circles. We communicated regularly and a highlight was receiving an invitation to any of his book launches, where one always met a diverse group of his friends, colleagues and admirers.

His many writings will contribute to his legacy. A few years ago he was invited to give a keynote paper at a major international Psychology conference and I had the honour of Chairing the Opening Plenary, on the subject of Racism.

Ill health prevented him coming to Melbourne so I was asked to read out the paper – rarely if ever have I received such positive feedback and undue credit for another person’s words! He also played a role in what is still one of the most surprising events in my life – when I was the winner of The Australian Human Rights’ Medal for 2007. I learned after the event he had written testimony for me which would have probably caused Nelson Mandela to blush, telling my nominator that he knew what needed to be done to make the judging panel take notice. The last time we chatted was last year, at the launch of his beautiful and essential book Black Pearls, which documented and celebrated the lives of great Indigenous Australian sportsmen and sportswomen. I send my sincere condolences to his family and those closest to him – he was a real Pearl, a gem of a man, who will be sorely missed.

Peter Wertheim, the co-CEO of the ECAJ and as Chair of the Fund for Jewish Higher Education, writes: With the passing of Colin Tatz the Jewish community has lost one of its academic giants, and Australia a great public intellectual.

Colin spent much of his life as a social scientist studying the phenomenon of institutionalised racism and exposing its darkest consequences.   His abhorrence for apartheid in his native South Africa brought him to Australia, where he won admiration for his publications on the effects of discrimination against our indigenous communities, and the successes of indigenous Australians in the face of adversity.

Colin’s work on comparative genocide, including the Holocaust, stand as monuments to the power of reason and scholarship to combat the destructive irrationality of racism.  It will now be the task of the new generation of scholars who Colin fostered to build on his mighty legacy.

Konrad Kwiet, the resident Historian at the Sydney Jewish Museum, told J-Wire: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Colin Tatz – one of Australia’s leading scholars in the fields of Racism and Antisemitism, Genocide and the Holocaust.

I have lost a colleague, mentor and close friend from whom I learnt so much over the past 44 years. I admired his unswerving commitment and courage as scholar and humanist to reveal and draw attention to the discrimination and murder of Australia’s First Nation and other indigenous peoples, of Jews, Armenians and other unwanted groups.

Throughout his life, he remained undeterred in his passionate quest for historical truth and democratic values, social justice and human rights.

The museum’s CEO Norman Seligman added: “The Sydney Jewish Museum is deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Colin Tatz. Colin played an important role in many of the programs of our Museum and he conducted numerous seminars and workshops.

Well known as a powerful orator, his lectures attracted wide audiences and sparked vigorous debates. All his endeavours were infused by his passion for a just and fairer society resting on democratic values, social justice and human rights. These principles are also enshrined in the mission of the Sydney Jewish Museum. We wish his wife Sandra and all his family a long life.


He is survived by his wife Sandra and his children.

Born: 18 July 1934:  South Africa

Died: 19 November 2019, Sydney

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