|Standard bearer SAJEX Captain Howard Shagom stands in front of the 1500
Capetonians who turned out to commemorate Yom Ha Shoah this year.
As Owen Futeran, Board of Deputies (Cape Council) chairman, reminded the 1500-strong crowd at Pinelands Cemetery on Yom Hashoah Vehagevurah, there is, in Judaism, a sacred duty to remember the souls of the departed. According to British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the act of remembering is one of our most important halachic responses to tragedy and to live in a way so that those who died “al kiddush Hashem” live with us and carry us forward.
Since the late 1940s, Holocaust commemorative functions and educational programmes have been held in Cape Town. Even during the war mass memorial meetings were organised in the City Hall by the Board of Deputies and the Zionist Council, when Jewish businesses would be closed and the hall packed out. Since 1976, Yom Hashoah ceremonies have been held at Pinelands No 2 and form one of the major events organised by the Board of Deputies.
This year the guest speaker was Tali Nates, the director of the new Johannesburg Holocaust Centre which hopes to open later this year. A child of Holocaust survivors — her father was one of the people rescued by Oscar Schindler — she has been extensively involved in Holocaust and genocide education both here and in Poland and Rwanda.
Tali devoted her talk to the one a half million children killed during the Shoah, and there were few dry eyes in the audience as she gave some poignant examples.
Menno de Jong spoke on behalf of the survivors, telling the audience how he spent the war years in hiding on a Dutch farm — for two years of which he lived in a locked room with his parents, often hiding under straw. Of his school class, there were only three survivors. Every teacher was killed.
This year’s service was particularly well attended and was a fitting tribute to the memory of the millions who died in the Shoah.