SA Organisations

Incumbent on young to pass on Shoah memories

  • 2a-Mary Kluk tightcrop
Yom Hashoah is one of the main events on the Jewish civil calendar, and organising the annual ceremony in the main centres countrywide, is an important part of the Board’s mandate.
by MARY KLUK | Apr 14, 2015

For me, it is both moving and inspiring to see how these solemn gatherings are respected and supported by our community, even in centres where the Jewish presence is now very small.

This week, ceremonies once again took place in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. What lent special poignancy to this year’s ceremony was that it marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and other remaining Nazi death camps. 

The practice in recent years has been to bring out a Holocaust survivor to be the keynote speaker on these occasions. As I have stressed before in this column, the opportunities for us to hear at first hand from those who experienced those horrific events, are fast diminishing.

Even those who were young children during the war years, are now well advanced in years and the day is not far off when none will remain to give testimony to what they experienced. It is incumbent on the present and future generations to take responsibility for passing on their stories when they are no longer among us.

It must always be borne in mind that the term “survivor” in the context of the Shoah does not only mean those who fell directly into Nazi hands. Those who survived by going into hiding would also fall into that category, as would those who were protected or escaped to other countries through, among other things, the heroism of such diplomats as Raoul Wallenberg and Chiune Sugihara.

There were also those who were able to get out of Europe in the nick of time, such as through the Kindertransport. The latter involved the relocation to the United Kingdom of some 10 000 Jewish children from Germany, Poland and elsewhere in the months leading up to the war. In terms of the arrangement with the British government, the parents had to remain behind and the local Jewish community had to bear all costs involved.

This year, we brought out as our keynote speaker Hugo Marom, one of those whose lives were saved through the Kindertransport. Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, he and his brother, Ruby, arrived in London on the last transport before war broke out. Their parents, like those of nearly all other Kindertransport children, died at the hands of the Nazis.

One can but imagine the trauma and dislocation they must have felt, transplanted to a country where they had no friends or family, where they did not speak the language and whose inhabitants for the greater part did not want them.

What is inspiring about Hugo Marom is that notwithstanding these harsh experiences, he went on to build a successful life for himself, serving with distinction in the British and Czech Air Forces and thereafter becoming a pioneer of aviation in the newly-created State of Israel.

We are very grateful to him, as we are to all those survivors who have addressed us over the years, for undertaking this arduous and emotionally demanding visit, one involving not only speaking to our community, but engaging extensively with the media as well.

For our part, we can only take to heart the message he had to share and to resolve in turn to pass what we learned from him on to the next generation.    

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00 - 13:00.

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