Andile Mngxitama’s tweets about the Holocaust have drawn a furious reaction. File picture:Masi Losi/ANA Pictures

Durban - A defiant Andile Mngxitama, the leader of Black First Land First (BLF), has refused to apologise or delete a controversial tweet about the Holocaust, saying those who condemned his comment were hypocrites.

He further launched an attack on those who spoke out against the tweet, saying they did not care about the suffering of others, adding that the Holocaust was an “insignificant footnote in (the history of) human suffering”.

Mngxitama received condemnation from the Jewish community after he tweeted: “For those claiming the legacy of the holocaust is ONLY negative think about the lampshades and Jewish soap.”

Richard Freedman, the director of the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation, explained that during the genocide there were rumours and myths that some of the bodies of the victims were used to make soap and that lampshades were made from the victims' skin. However, this was just a myth and there was no record of this ever happening, said Freedman.

“What we know is that in some camps the ashes from the burnt bodies were used as fertiliser and that hair from the bodies was shaved off for filling beds, and in some cases the gold fillings in their mouths would be plundered.”

Freedman said Mngxitama’s tweet was insulting to the victims of the Holocaust. “It displays an inaccurate understanding of the history of the Holocaust, but more importantly it reflects an appalling lack of compassion for human suffering.”

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) labelled Mngxitama’s tweet as hateful, crassly offensive, demeaning and hurtful.

“It is deeply distressing that anyone could so casually and publicly dehumanise an entire people in this way. How much more outrageous it is when emanating from a public figure who heads a political voice,” said Mary Kluk, the president of the SAJBD.

She said the tweet was an attack on the rights to dignity and equality of Jewish South Africans.

Asked if he was willing to remove the tweet, Mngxitama retorted: “I will not take the tweet down, I will not apologise. If anyone should apologise it is them (the SAJBD and the Jewish people). They should apologise for being part of the white system that oppresses black people. They should apologise for the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Mngxitama said the outrage created by his tweet had exposed the double standards and “racist Zionist sensibilities”.

“It also exposes their lies that they are the smartest people on Earth, because if they were, they would know that I was paraphrasing Helen Zille.”

On March 15, Western Cape Premier Zille tweeted: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water etc.”

After a frenzy of negative publicity and public pressure, Zille apologised.

BLF has taken Zille to the Equality Court and the SA Human Rights Commission over her tweet.

“When Zille erased 350 years of the suffering of black people it was not an issue for them (Jews). It just shows they don’t care about the suffering of others,” according to Mngxitama.

He said the Holocaust was an “insignificant footnote in human suffering” because “we as black people live through a holocaust”.

Kluk said the Board of Deputies was reviewing its options on what action to take against Mngxitama. These included taking him to the Equality Court or the SA Human Rights Commission, she said.

However, Mngxitama was not bothered.

“Let them do so, then we can have an honest discussion about their cynical evil silence in the face of oppression.”

Freedman said Mngxitama should visit one of the three Holocaust centres in the country “and also examine the South African national school curriculum, which includes the study of the Holocaust in Grade 9 as a case study of human rights violation”.

After the condemnation, Mngxitama sent another tweet about the Holocaust. It read: “I concur with @helenzille that the aroma of the burning flesh from the furnace of the holocaust may wet the appetite of the S.A. cannibals” (sic)

The Mercury