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Durban - The behaviour of the Grade 9 Kingsway High School pupils who caused a social media uproar with their Nazi salute after visiting the Durban Holocaust Centre “is typical of teenagers”.
This is according to principal Geoff Harrison, who on Friday responded to the controversy surrounding the group picture of the school pupils, which was posted on Facebook after their visit to the centre this week.
“The pupils’ behaviour was more typical of youthful insensitivity than a support for Nazism,” said Harrison of the picture which shows the group standing outside the centre, giving the Nazi salute and indicating the Hitler moustache with their index fingers.
Their teacher is seen standing next to them.
Harrison apologised profusely on behalf of the school.
“Kingsway apologises unreservedly for the most insensitive photo on Facebook.”
Harrison said the atrocities committed against the Jews could only give rise to repulsion regarding anything associated with the Nazis.
“We are most grateful that the Holocaust Centre has been available for us so our pupils can learn from the mistakes of the past.
“I believe it is also important that 13 and 14 year-olds do not know the significance of a salute, and their generation are only now being exposed to the history of World War II,” he said, emphasising that the “unfortunate” gesture did not fit in with the ethos of the school.
Linda Nathan, president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, said the Jewish community was encouraged by Harrison’s “positive” and “sensitive” response.
“This is an unfortunate incident which is probably reflective more on youthful insensitivity than malice,” she said.
“However the pupils have to understand why these gestures are so hurtful and we as a community cannot minimise this.”
On social media most people welcomed Harrison’s apology, while others said the public’s reaction was exaggerated.
“Big deal about nothing… my impression was innocent kids joking around. My point is the school can’t be blamed,” said Dave Wilson.
“The teacher in the photo should have stopped the kids, or did she not make a connection either because the boys in front look like they are doing the Usain Bolt gesture when he wins a race.”
Ellie Coetzee said often pupils tended to focus on new information by “sometimes being inappropriate”.
“They are young and still need to learn life’s lessons.” - Independent on Saturday