A Yom Hashoah (Holocaust) remembrance service held at the Pretoria Hebrew Congregation complex last night was attended by a record number of diplomats, political leaders, the Christian Friends of Israel and other dignitaries.
Grade 11 and 12 students from various schools also attended the solemn ceremony. Six million Jews – men, women, children and babies – were killed during the Holocaust and last night many cried as they remembered that time.
Louis Pearlman, chairperson of the Pretoria Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, opened the proceedings, emphasising that the root cause of anti-Semitism was as rampant as ever, “simmering under the surfaces of Europe, the UK, the USA and the Middle East as an ever-present threat – a constant reminder of the prejudices and hatred directed towards the Jews for over 2 000 years. With the passing of time, only the reasons have changed. The bigotry itself endures”.
Veronica Phillips, a 90-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, told her personal story. She was born in 1926 in Budapest, Hungary, and survived the international ghettos in Budapest, Ravensbruk, Penig and Johanngeorgenstadt Concentration Camps and the Death March.
She told of how her father was murdered and her cousins were shot in front of her, but her mother and brother and her survived the Holocaust. While Veronica suffered eight miscarriages after tortuous treatment in Bergen Belsen, resulting in her never having children of her own, but she is grateful that, thanks to her brother, she has family today.
She asked herself: “Why did I survive, how did I survive and who am I?” She answered her own question in tears: “Veronica Phillips, a geneticist, a scientist and one of the last survivors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp.”
Her poignant recollection of her time in the camp and the Death March left the huge crowd emotional.