About a year ago, centre trustee John Moshal saw the printing press at Huddy’s Bookshop at the Piggly Wiggly centre in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. On inspection, he said he discovered that the typeset was for a pamphlet denouncing Jews by infamous Pietermaritzburg anti-Semite, Ray Rudman, who was active in the 1930s and 1940s.
“I had a look and saw a swastika typeset for a pamphlet which was the last pamphlet that this guy had issued. He was an anti-Semite of the most virulent kind.”
Moshal said Rudman lived in Pietermaritzburg and was “really a nasty, nasty man”.
“For me, it was poetic justice that he has died and his last virulent pamphlet was still on the machine - and that I bought and donated it to the Durban Holocaust and Genocide Centre.”
Moshal, whose grandfather came to Durban in 1888 to escape the Cossack pogroms in Lithuania, recalled: “I remembered my early days in the Jewish community when we were battling anti-Semitism. That’s what made me really interested, even though I heard it was not for sale. But I said to the guy - never mind the price, I want to buy it.”
Colin Hudson-Reed, owner of Huddy’s, said he had bought the printing press at an auction and, on seeing what was on it, decided to keep it alongside other relics, such as “the typewriter of someone wanting to write a novel with the first page still in it”.
“But it had a history so I put it on display in the shop.”
He added that it was “freaky” how Moshal walked in and discovered its significance for himself.
“It was almost like it was meant to be.”
Brad Cavanagh, who works at Huddy’s, agreed, saying: “As soon as John Moshal saw it, he didn’t hesitate to buy it. I am chuffed that it went to the right place, rather than into someone’s pub.”
Moshal said being Jewish “is not a great deal of fun when you come across people like this (Rudman)”.
He said that during his childhood there was a nest of anti-Semitic people in Merrivale, Pietermaritzburg, and one or two in Howick.
“That whole area was a hotbed of people who believed the Jews were evil and should be destroyed.”
The centre has changed its name from the Durban Holocaust Centre, bringing it in line with the national foundation to which it belongs - the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation - and to emphasise its broader focus on learning the lessons of the past to build a more tolerant future for all, according to a press release.
“Its schools’ programme is the essence of its work”, and last year more than 5000 pupils from schools across KZN visited the centre and took part in the workshops.
In addition to the Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany, the centre includes information and exhibits of other cases of genocide, from Bosnia to Rwanda, and oppressive regimes including apartheid South Africa.