Anti-Semitism in South Africa could spur Holocaust education

JOHANNESBURG — South African students could soon be formally learning about the Holocaust at school.

The country's Yad Vashem Memorial Foundation has proposed the introduction of Holocaust education into government-run schools after students shouted anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi slogans at two school sporting events.

The first incident took place during the annual sports day at the Sasolburg High School near here, when a team's pageant employed a Nazi theme — with cheerleaders sporting swastika armbands and brandishing fire extinguishers to "exterminate" the opposing team, the Kudus.

Team members, in a play on words, chanted "Kill the KuJews."

The second incident took place during a rugby match between Glenvista High — a school in Johannesburg's southern suburbs where only a handful of Jews live — and King David High School in the affluent northern suburb of Linksfield.

Glenvista pupils taunted their Jewish opponents with the Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Hitler."

The referee, who is Jewish, ended the match. According to their coach, the offending players later apologized.

In both instances, apologies were received from the school headmasters of Sasolburg and Glenvista.

Ronnie Mink, chairman of the Yad Vashem Memorial Foundation and deputy principal of the King David High School, is visiting Sasolburg to discuss implementation of the Holocaust education program.

Russell Gaddin, honorary life president of the South Africa Board of Deputies, the Jewish community's umbrella group, said he did not think the anti-Semitism was orchestrated, calling it the "actions of silly children who do not understand the ramifications of their behavior.

"The most disturbing aspect is the lack of supervision of an adult body to prevent this type of thing," he said.