Wendy Kahn Responds to the MRN

by SAJBD on 29 January 2015

in General

In her article in Politicsweb, Wendy Kahn responds to the MRN and highlights some of their offensive comments against the Jewish community:  Click here to read more.


Ten years ago, the UN General Assembly designated 27 January – the date of the liberation of Auschwitz – as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Tuesday a solemn ceremony took place at Auschwitz to mark the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the death camp. As an executive member of the World Jewish Congress, I had considered attending,  but decided in the end to attend the event organised by the Durban Holocaust Centre. South African Jewry was represented by Ann Harris, and Mascha Schainberg, a survivor of Auschwitz now living in South Africa, attended as a guest of the World Jewish Congress and Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation. The SAJBD was able to facilitate Mascha’s attendance through working with its contacts in the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that she was provided with the necessary travel documents. We much appreciate how the authorities, in recognition of the special circumstances attached to this matter, so willingly assisted us in this regard.

Mascha was one of 300 survivors of Auschwitz from around the world who, as a joint venture of the WJC and Shoah Foundation, were brought out to attend the ceremony. It is sobering to reflect that at the 60th anniversary gathering, 1500 survivors were present; ten years from now, a bare handful will remain. Those survivors who remain need – indeed, are owed – the firm assurance from all of us that their stories will not be forgotten when they are no longer amongst us. It is therefore incumbent on us all to accept upon ourselves the sacred duty of remembrance and of passing their testimonies on to the next generation.

When remembering, and teaching about, the Holocaust, it is crucial to emphasize that Auschwitz was the culmination, not the starting point, of Nazi genocide. That process began not with deeds but with words. Before being deprived of their rights, livelihoods and finally their lives, Jews were systematically demonised – in the political arena, media, academia and every possible forum. As a result, they came to be regarded as a disloyal, destructive element to be shunned and despised. Once this view had sufficiently taken root, it became possible to move on to the next step, which was to deprive Jews of their civil liberties and economic freedoms. Physical attacks (notably Kristallnacht) came next and finally the onset of programmatic mass killing.

That hateful words can all too quickly lead to hateful deeds is an enduring lesson of the Shoah, and one that has never been more relevant than in the times we live in. Both in our own country, and in many other parts of the world, we are witnessing a continual spewing of vitriol against any given target. That, indeed, is one of the paradoxes of living in a democracy: Freedom of expression is a core value, but all too often it serves to expose the underbelly of hatred and prejudice. It is incumbent on those who abhor bigotry in all its forms – and we can safely affirm that they constitute the great majority – to denounce it and to continually educate themselves and upcoming generations not only about how evil, but also how fundamentally irrational it is.

Relating to this, there has been a spate of violent attacks against foreign nationals in Gauteng. The Board (refer to our Facebook) has condemned these repugnant acts and appealed to the Jewish community to contribute to a fund it is setting up to assist the victims. The details are: Account name – SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Standard Bank Killarney, Account number: 200305190, Reference: Your name+Xenophobia. Section 18A Certificates available on request.



Today, world leaders and Holocaust survivors will be among those gathering at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 27 January 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army. Between 1940 and 1945, at least 1.3 million people, mostly Jews, were deported to Auschwitz, and of these, over 1.1 million were murdered.

The World Jewish Congress, together with the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation, has invited one hundred Auschwitz survivors from around the world to participate in this historic remembrance ceremony. They include South African Masha Shainberg, who will be accompanied by her daughter. She will join with other survivors and world leaders at this historic event.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated by the UN General Assembly on 1 November 2005. It commemorates the victims of Nazi genocide during World War II, including an estimated 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies and many thousands of mentally and physically disabled people and 9000 homosexual men.


Dear Community Member

Along with so many of our fellow South Africans, the Jewish community has been shocked and angered by the recent attacks against foreign nationals and their property in Gauteng. Scores of innocent people who came to our country in the hope of bettering their lot have been victimised and deprived of their livelihoods simply because they were born elsewhere. Despite certain claims that the violence and looting was essentially criminally motivated, the reality is that only businesses owned by foreign nationals were targeted. For that reason, such actions can only be regarded as hate crimes based on nationality.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has condemned these repugnant attacks, while also calling on the authorities to prosecute those responsible and do all they can to ensure the safety of those who have suffered.

As a result of this xenophobic persecution, many people have been robbed of their livelihoods and now find themselves destitute. The SAJBD therefore appeals to the Jewish community to contribute to a fund it is setting up to help ease their plight and assist them in getting back on their feet. The Jewish community responded very generously to the SAJBD’s appeal during the 2008 xenophobia crisis. We hope very much that its members will respond with similar generosity this time round so that we, as a community, can do our part in assisting the victims of the latest outbreak of xenophobic violence.

Donations for Xenophobia Relief:

Account name: SA Jewish Board of Deputies

Bank: Standard Bank Killarney

Account number: 200305190

Reference: Your name+Xenophobia

Section 18A Certificates Available on request



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