Museum of memories a must-see

The horrors of the holocaust, which cost six million Jews their lives, are to be unveiled in a world-class museum, which is expected to become a "must-see" local tourist attraction.

The Durban Holocaust Centre, housed at the Durban Jewish Centre in Old Fort Road, will be officially opened on Sunday, when one of the guest speakers will be a local survivor of the holocaust, Jack Puterman, who will speak about his experiences in a concentration camp.

The centre, modelled along the lines of the internationally-famous one in Cape Town (the same designer, Linda Bester, has had a big hand in the Durban centre) has cost more than R1-million and has been financed by benefactors from the local Jewish community.

It is the brainchild of Mary Kluk, president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, who said even though she majored in Jewish studies, she had "learned a lot" about the Holocaust era that she had not known during preparations for the centre.

The history of the holocaust and of Nazi Germany is now part of the school curriculum and it is expected that about 700 pupils a month will visit the centre.

While aimed at high school pupils, the public is also welcome (entry is free) and it is certain to become a stopover for local tour guides and their visitors.

"One of the difficulties for people to grasp is the enormity of the holocaust," said centre tour guide, Lynn Matisonn, who on Wednesday gave the local media a sneak preview of the centre.

The history of the holocaust, which has many parallels with South Africa's apartheid era, begins with outlining details about racism, then anti-semitism.

Visitors trace the rise of the Third Reich propaganda machine, the labour, concentration and death camps, as well as the famous Anne Frank story. There is even a gas chamber.

Workmen were still putting the finishing touches to the centre on Wednesday and they still have to put up the barbed wire on the concentration camp display.

Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who fled to Holland from Germany with her family and after the occupation by Germany, hid in an attic. Her diaries (read by Nelson Mandela while he was in prison) are world famous.

The family was betrayed and sent to a camp towards the end of the war, and Anne, her mother and sister died of disease, while her father survived. Matisonn said they hoped for permission from Anne Frank House in Holland for a replica of the bedroom where she hid.

At the end of the thought provoking tour, visitors can go to a peaceful Garden of Remembrance where there are six fountains: one for each of the million Jews killed.

The centre will be open for viewing on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9am-2pm. It will open for school tours after the Easter holidays.

Tourists can contact Maureen Caminsky for further details and bookings at 031-368-6833.