Survivors of the Holocaust were among the hundreds of guests who attended a ceremony at the Pinelands Jewish Cemetery last week to commemorate the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis.
Tzvi Brivik, the chairman of the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies, said Yom HaShoah veHagvurah was a day established by the Israeli Knesset in 1953 as a worldwide commemoration of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.
The date, on the 27th of Nissan on the Hebrew calendar, marks the anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April 1943. It was the largest Jewish resistance to the Nazis and it inspired other revolts in extermination camps and ghettos throughout German-occupied Eastern Europe.
“This ceremony is being held one day after South Africa celebrated Freedom Day when the first democratic election was held in 1994. The basic rights and freedoms that were fought for during apartheid are entrenched in our constitution and still pertinent today,” said Mr Brivik.
“The Holocaust saw Jews’ rights being taken away slowly but surely leading to the extermination camps – an event which changed the way the world understood the devastation of lives and genocide as a consequence of rights being taken away.”
Mr Brivik said Yom HaShoah was a day for Jews to reflect on their privileges and how they could be taken away. Many who had lived through the Holocaust were no longer alive or able to share their stories, he added.
The ceremony included speeches by second-generation survivor Michal Roozendaal, third-generation survivor and deputy Israeli ambassador Hila Rose Fridman and chief rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein.
Guests were also invited to write the names of survivors or messages of hope on white pebbles and place them by the memorial statues at the cemetery.
As part of a new initiative with the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre, third-generation survivors were invited to place cut-out butterflies by the memorials.
Senior SANDF officers ended the ceremony by placing the Star of David and wreaths at the memorial statues.