‘Words of hatred can lead to action’

Members of the Jewish community construct a tile mosaic of the Berlin synagogue that was destroyed during Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass.

Cape Town’s Jewish community commemorated the horrors of the Holocaust last week.

About 1000 people took part in a ceremony at the Jewish cemetery in Pinelands, on Thursday afternoon, for Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah in Hebrew). The names of children who died in the Holocaust were read out and members of the Jewish community used pieces of mosaic to build a model replica of the Berlin synagogue destroyed during Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass”, 80 years ago.

The Cape Jewish Board of Deputies used the occasion to speak out against hate speech.

“What it means to us is what words and hatred can lead to if unchecked. We need to learn that words can lead to action, and we need individuals to stand up to all forms of racism, whether it is anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia, and stop it in its tracks,” said the board’s chairman, Rael Kaimowitz.

A survivor of the Holocaust and her family spoke of how “the Shoah” affected the four generations of the family.

Ella Blumenthal, 96, was supported by her daughter, Evelyn Kaplan, granddaughter, Jade Kaplan, and her great granddaughter, Deena Wolpert.

“I am a survivor of the wars against us,” she said, “concentration camps like Majdanek, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, and after 70 years I am here, but unfortunately I lost my entire family, almost.

“But I am here to tell the world what those beasts did to us, and I am asking for the genocide to stop, and there should be peace in the world.”

Her granddaughter, Jade Kaplan, 18, spoke about how important it was for her to connect with her grandmother’s heritage.

She has visited Poland to understand what she went through. Jade said she wanted to continue her grandmother’s legacy to ensure future generations never forgot.

Evelyn Kaplan paid a special tribute to her mother for being a wonderful mother, grandmother and great grandmother despite what she had endured.

Pupils from Herzlia High School, a Jewish school, attended the commemoration.

“As a 17-year-old caught up in the world of sports and academics and modern technology, today is really a reminder that the blood that runs through these veins is Jewish blood,” said matric pupil Matthew Jacobsen.

“I do not need to hide the fact that I am Jewish. Even though anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is still a prominent thing in this world, it still does not stop me from living my daily life as a Jew.”

A memorial light was lit at the monument, which is based on the Star of David, and whose six equal triangles represent the Holocaust’s six million dead; and whose columns represent the death camps.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille attended the commemoration in both an official and personal capacity.

“Nine of my close family members, my father’s family members, died in the Holocaust, and I put a lot of effort into tracing what happened to them and where they died, and so it obviously means a great deal to me personally, and on days like this we really need to learn some history about the cruelty of human beings to each other and how we have to change that and build our future together,” she said.