exploring the concerns of the south african jewish community
In this article, Tali Nates discusses how memorialising the Holocaust and 1994 genocide in Rwanda enables South Africans to grapple with racism and xenophobia in South Africa.
The Holocaust and Genocide Centre allows us to bring to public attention and keep in public memory the abiding dangers of supremacist thinking, whether based on race as in wartime Germany or on ethnicity, as in Rwanda. The Centre does, and should remind us, daily, how quickly ordinary people can turn from living and learning alongside one another to exterminating each other with deadly justification … may you through this very powerful memorial teach us as South Africans to reconcile rival memories, to recognise the pain of others and, most importantly, to become more fully human”.
Prof. Jonathan Jansen, September 2015, at the JHGC building dedication ceremony.
In April 1994, while South Africans were jubilantly voting in the country’s first democratic elections, in Rwanda, a mere three and a half hours’ flight away, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, as well as Hutu who opposed the genocide, were being slaughtered[i].
1994. Two countries in Africa. Two very different paths.
Not that South Africa’s transition to democracy has been easy. As xenophobic violence has shown, South Africans too have the potential for horrific violence against an “other”.