More than 1000 people gathered at the Jewish cemetery in Pinelands last Thursday to remember the Holocaust.
InternationalHolocaust RemembranceDay,orYom HaShoah as it is known in Hebrew, commemorates the six million Jews and 11 million others who died in the genocide committed by the Nazis during World War II.
This year is also the 80th anniversary of the start of the Holocaust and the start of the war in Poland.
Miriam Lichterman, of Sea Point, 97, was 17 when the Nazis invaded Poland. She was moved into the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941 and from there to Majdanek concentration camp, then Auschwitz-Birkenau from July 1943 until December 1944, then on to Ravensbrück from where she was liberated in May 1945 at the age of 23.
Ms Litchterman’s parents were taken from the Warsaw Ghetto on transport to Treblinka in 1942 on the eve of Yom Kippur, a Jewish holy day, where they were murdered. Her brother died in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943.
Ms Litchterman’s elder sister, Henia, went to Palestine before the war with her husband, Alter, and their little son, Moshe. It was only many years later that she met them again.
“Today I still marvel at the divine presence and strength that kept me from falling on the snow-, blood- and body-covered roads,” she said.
She recalls wondering at the time whether anybody would survive the hell she found herself in to tell the world what had happened.
She urges the youth to never forget the Holocaust so that its horrors are not visited on future generations.
Ella Blumenthal, 97, from Sea Point survived the Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen camps and the Warsaw Ghetto.
Most of her family perished in concentration camps, except her niece, who was two years younger than her.
Ms Blumenthal recalls how she survived not being taken into the gas chamber in 1944.
“The order had come down to gas 500 Jewish women, and there were 700 of us who had come off a cattle train. The only reason they didn’t carry out the order was simply because there was a slightly larger number of us,” said Ms Blumenthal.
“We must carry on the remembrance so that the world doesn’t forget about the atrocities that were caused by the Nazis,” she said.
It is 70 years since the first Holocaust Remembrance Day was held, but according to the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD Cape), the world has taken a long time to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust.
Rael Kaimowitz, the board’s chairman, said: “The message for us as South Africans, as members of the world community, is to show what can happen when hatred is not stopped. There have been incidents in Sri Lanka, Christchurch and California where we see what hatred leads to,” he said.
Mr Kaimowitz said that as the descendants of Holocaust survivors they would not turn their backs on the suffering of others.
“There is no place for anti-Semitism in the world today. But let’s also stand up and say there is no place for Islamophobia or for the senseless murder of over 300 Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka,” he said.
There should be no place for hatred, he added, against anyone on the basis of their religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
Pupils from Herzlia High School attended the Yom HaShoah, and the school choir sang the Partisan Song, a Yiddish song considered one of the chief anthems of Holocaust survivors, with cantor Ivor Joffe.
Herzlia Grade 12 pupil Zac Bagraim said the youth had a duty to remember the Holocaust.”We as a future generation have a duty to commemorate, a duty to learn from the lessons and implement them in the world, not to hate, to stand up against injustice and to not tolerate anti-Semitism,” he said.
Deputy mayor Ian Neilson, who attended the event, said the Holocaust should never be forgotten.
“We must do what we can to ensure that nothing like this is repeated again,” he said.
Everyone who attended received a “No place for hate” pin and a pledge card against hate, which attendees placed inside the Taharah House of the Jewish cemetery
“These pledge cards will be put into a book and be used to show politicians and leaders that we will not stand for a South Africa where hate is accepted,” said SAJBD Cape director, Stuart Diamond.