UN shares lessons and stories from the Holocaust and Genocide with high school students

Group Photo. UNIC Pretoria

Group Photo. UNIC Pretoria

Pretoria, January 27, 2016 – Nearly 200 Grade Nine school children today heard first-hand accounts of how millions of Jews and others suffered or were killed in the Holocaust during the Second World War, as well as during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

Students at the Hoërskool Voortrekkerhoogte in Taba Tshwane, Pretoria took part in an educational interactive programme to mark International Holocaust Day, which falls on January 27. The programme organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Education Africa and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC), was aimed at raising awareness about past human atrocities and spreading the message of peace, unity and tolerance.

Renowned Jewish Historian Professor Dina Porat from Tel Aviv University in Israel said that commemoration was a time to reflect on the immense hardship, when more than six million Jews and others were killed merely because of their race. She shared vivid stories on situations which some young Jews found themselves in during the War and the choices they had to make in order to survive.

Arlene Sher of the JHGC conducted a highly interactive discussion with the students. In a recorded video message UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said “People worldwide- including millions fleeing war, persecution and deprivation – continue to suffer discrimination and attacks. We have a duty to remember the past – and to help those who need us now.”

The audience, which included Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr. Arthur Lenk, also watched a video in which survivors of the Holocaust talked about their experiences – gripping emotions of what it was like. In addition, Bonaventure Kageruka a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide spoke of his personal experience, in which almost a million Tutsi’s including his family and friend were killed by the Hutu tribe.

“In Rwanda at that time, even best friend turn against each other merely because they were a different tribe. Killing Tutsis because a day and night job,” said Bonaventure who also alluded xenophobic remarks from South Africans where he now lives.

Director of UNIC Pretoria Maureen Nkandu said this Day was more pertinent to youth because they were exposed to many cultures and nationalities and needed to learn about the importance of co-existence in harmony. “Let us inculcate the spirit of respect for Ubuntu or human dignity in everything we do,” said Ms. Nkandu.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an annual global memorial day in honour of victims the Genocide. Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly on 1 November 2005. This year, a number of activities in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town are planned to mark the Day