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Durban - The Jewish community is up in arms over a picture – posted on Facebook – of a group of school pupils giving a Nazi salute outside the Durban Holocaust Centre.
The picture, which has been described as insensitive and hurtful, was taken just moments after the Grade 9 history class at Kingsway High School, near eManzimtoti, toured the centre on Wednesday.
Principal Geoff Harrison said he did not want to comment on the issue until he had all the information.
A statement would be posted on the school’s Facebook page, he said.
“However, there will be an unreserved apology. Kids will be kids and they have done something stupid here. I don’t think they know the true meaning of a Nazi salute,” he said.
The centre was built as a place of remembrance for the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust in Nazi Germany during World War II.
The picture, with the subject line, “Kiff day at Holocaust Centre”, shows a group of pupils in front of the centre showing the Nazi salute and indicating the iconic Hitler moustache with their index fingers, with their teacher standing by.
A former Kingsway pupil, who asked not to be named, came across the picture of her alma mater on the Facebook page, “Love Kingsway High”, and took exception to it.
It was originally posted on a pupil’s Facebook page with the Love Kingsway High page tagged, allowing it to appear on the newsfeed.
“It’s just shocking. What are they teaching these children? What really irritated me was the teacher is in the photo with the pupils, smiling,” the woman said
She said she came across the photo when browsing Facebook on Wednesday evening and immediately commented, “It’s a sad day in history when school children think it’s ok to do this… they may say it was a joke but 6 million dead Jews aren’t laughing. It’s similar to singing the old South African anthem in front of the Apartheid museum… shocking! I thought my old school was better than this…(sic)”
The post and photograph were taken off the page the next morning.
Mary Kluk, director of the Durban Holocaust Centre, said the picture was inappropriate, but she was sure it was not malicious.
“The group of children were delightful and the teacher is well known to us; she visits the centre every year,” said Kluk, who explained that Nazi Germany and the Holocaust formed part of the Grade 9 curriculum.
“The picture was taken just after the children had visited the centre. It is a bit insulting and inappropriate, but I’m certain, once we’ve contacted Kingsway High, they will rectify the situation.
“It is unfortunate but I’m certain it’s more youthful insensitivity rather than malicious,” she said.
Kluk said school groups visited the centre every day for a three-and-a-half hour workshop.
Professor Antony Arkin, chairman of the KZN Zionist Council, condemned the picture as insensitive and hurtful.
“One of the purposes of the Holocaust centre is to sensitise people about this kind of behaviour and make them realise that it is unacceptable.
“We realise that children will be children but we hope that this will get them and the general community to realise the viciousness and the racist ideology of Nazism continues.
“I would hope that the school would take measures to ensure that the teacher and the pupils are aware of the seriousness of what happened and they must do everything to ensure that this will never happen again,” Arkin said.
Linda Nathan, president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, agreed.
“This is an unfortunate incident which is probably reflective more on youthful insensitivity than malice. However, the learners have to understand why these gestures are so hurtful to our community,” Nathan said.
“The Durban Holocaust Centre has been in touch with the school and hopefully has encouraged them to turn this incident into a positive opportunity for learning. However, we as a community cannot minimise this incident and walk away from it.”