Reflecting on 25 Years of Holocaust education 

As we approach our 25th anniversary, the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre reflects on a quarter century of Holocaust remembrance and education. Established in 1999, this pioneering institution, founded by Myra Osrin, holds the distinction of being the first Holocaust Centre on the African continent, and one of the first in the Southern Hemisphere. What began as a courageous vision has evolved into a place of memory, commemorating the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and all victims of Nazi Germany. 

Over the years, the Centre has garnered national and international recognition for its unwavering commitment to highlighting the consequences of prejudice, racism and discrimination. Beyond serving as a memorial, it has become a dynamic space fostering an understanding of the dangers posed by indifference, apathy, and silence. As we approach our silver jubilee, it is fitting to reflect on the significant milestones and impactful initiatives that have shaped the Centre’s identity. 

The heart of the Centre lies in its extensive programme offerings, which include exhibitions, films, symposia, and commemorations. These initiatives extend beyond the Holocaust, delving into the broader context of genocide – notably the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. By drawing attention to both connections and differences, the Centre plays a pivotal role in raising awareness about the “road to genocide,” emphasising the importance of vigilance against potential human rights abuses. 

From its inception, one of the Centre’s primary objectives has been to promote Holocaust education. The Centre’s commitment to education was evident from the outset, with its inaugural teachers’ seminar attracting over 300 educators from across the Western Cape in 1999. Marlene Silbert, the Centre’s founding Education Director, played a pivotal role in developing a school programme in close collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department.  

Since 2007 the study of World War II and the Holocaust is a mandatory part of the high school national curriculum. Nearly 60 000 learners, accompanied by their teachers, have visited the Centre, where they are supported in their studies and where they learn about “Lessons for Humanity” from the study of the Holocaust. 

The Centre conducts workshops for diverse adult and tertiary groups, including trainee teachers, military academies, civil servant groups, and public and private companies. The education team conducts Teacher Training workshops across the region, providing support and resources for in-service educators teaching the subject in their classrooms.  

Over the 25 years of its existence, the Centre has provided a full programme of public events. These have included international traveling exhibitions, film screenings, and lectures, using Holocaust history to focus a lens on contemporary issues. 

The permanent exhibition remains an immersive and powerful teaching tool, not only for learners, but also for the 25 000 local and international visitors per annum. 

Throughout its 25 years, the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre continues to fulfil its aim of becoming a place of learning and memory. The success of the Centre can be attributed to a number of factors, among them the key role played by our cherished Holocaust survivors in Cape Town, the Board of Trustees, and our invaluable volunteers. The generous ongoing support of our benefactors has made the Centre’s many achievements possible.  

In 2023, the Centre welcomed a new director, Jakub Nowakowski, who for the previous 13 years served as a director of the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, Poland.

As we continue this important work, we invite you to join us in our mission to promote tolerance, understanding, and remembrance. Together, we can work towards creating a more caring and just society, in which human rights and diversity are respected and valued.  

Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre:,

• Published in the December 2023/January 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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