The Yom HaShoah ceremony at Pinelands Cemetery this year was unusual.
Between the two sections of the programme, the audience was invited to participate in making a mosaic of the beautiful Oranienburger synagogue in Berlin.
Hundreds of people, including Premier Helen Zille, Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson, Members of Parliament, diplomats and interfaith representatives queued up to glue on tiles, symbolically restoring the beautiful synagogue.
The mammoth task of designing and completing the mosaic was undertaken by Lauren Palte and the art students at Herzlia. For months they have worked to glue thousands of coloured glass tiles to complete this magnificent art work.
This year marks the eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, when the assassination of Nazi diplomat Ernst Vom Rath formed the justification for planned antisemitic atrocities and pogroms in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland.
Over 1400 synagogues, many Jewish cemeteries, more than 7000 Jewish shops, and 29 department stores were damaged — 95 synagogues were burned in Vienna alone with the local fire departments confining themselves to preventing the flames from spreading to neighbouring buildings.
The Oranienburger was broken into, Torah scrolls desecrated, furniture smashed, piled up and set on fire. A police officer drew his pistol and ordered the Nazi mob to disperse, claiming that the building was a protected historical landmark, thereby allowing the fire brigade to put out the fire before it could spread to the actual building, but he was severely reprimanded by Berlin’s police commissioner for doing so.
The mosaic created at the Yom HaShoah ceremony this year will form a focal point of the Cape Town Holocaust Centre events to commemorate Kristallnacht in November.