Book Talk

Les Orphelins by Bessora

A small audience of Capetonians, many of them French-speaking, was treated to a fascinating account of a book currently available in French, called Les Orphelins, by its French-speaking author, Bessora, when she visited Cape Town.

A shocking piece of information that came out during her talk is the history of children brought to South Africa from Germany after the War. With the Nationalist Party in power in 1948, sentiment among those in positions of authority in the country lay with the defeated Germany. Many conservative Afrikaners sympathised with the Nazi cause, and so a movement was set up to assist the country to provide ‘suitable’ homes and families for Aryan children orphaned during the War. These children were products of the Nazi Lebensborn initiative, a programme established essentially to breed children seen by the Nazis as being ‘racially valuable’.

83 of these children came to South Africa, and were adopted by Boere elite families, including Prime Minister DF Malan. One of the adopted children served his country well – at least, that is, from a Nationalist Party perspective. He grew up to be General Lothar Neethling, a man known as the ‘poisoner-in-chief’ for the apartheid regime. A gifted scientist, he used his knowledge to further the Nationalist government’s biological and chemical warfare programme. 

Samuel Bak and the Art of his Time

Local resident, Dr Ute Ben Yosef, has written a book about the work of the artist Samuel Bak, famous for his paintings reflecting “the destruction and dehumanisation which make up his childhood memories” of life during the Holocaust. A child prodigy, he held the first exhibition of his work at the age of 9, while in the Vilna Ghetto.

Women of Action a history of the Union of Jewish Women

Independent researcher, Karen Kallmann, who is also the chairperson of the Cape Town branch of the Union of Jewish Women and sits on the Cape Jewish Board of Deputies, has written a book recording the history of the Union of Jewish Women.

This voluntary organisation has had a profound impact on South African society in general and within the local Jewish community, and also worked with people in pre-State Israel. Established over 90 years ago, the breadth of its work is exceptional.

The book acknowledges the important contribution made by the many women who worked tirelessly to help others.

• Published in the September 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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