South Africa

South Africa

South Africa is a state in Sub-Saharan Africa .  This region includes those states on the continent that are roughly south of the Saharan desert . These states are grouped together because of their common history of colonial domination, a history that influences the view of European history in general. Also, in these states, Muslims are not the majority population, or if they are, they are a slight majority, as in Nigeria, and thus there is a different level of engagement with the Holocaust than in North Africa.

In SOUTH AFRICA, prior to 1994, Holocaust education and commemoration was organized within the Jewish community which included several hundred Holocaust survivors. (The Jewish community comprises less than 1% of the South African population.) Two exhibitions, one in1985 and another that ran from early 1994-1995, brought Holocaust history to a wider audience.  As the political landscape changed, one of the first priorities of the democratically elected government was to change the national curriculum. read more

This led to a curriculum informed by the new Constitution and  Bill of Rights, and ultimately to a decision to include the study of the Holocaust as a case study of human rights violations, as one of several tools in the national reconciliation project. However, the state lacked the infrastructure to support the implementation of Holocaust education.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is clearly at the forefront of Holocaust education in the region.  Inspired by the 1993–94 tour in South Africa and Namibia of the Anne Frank House’s traveling exhibition, a group of South Africans created Africa’s first Holocaust museum, the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. From its inception in 1999, the Cape Town Centre has worked with educators to develop lessons on the Holocaust, but it intensified its efforts in 2007 when the National Department of Education instituted a new history curriculum.  The curriculum, designed to “emphasize the theme of human rights,” included instruction on the Holocaust for grades nine and 11. The ninth-grade unit—with a total suggested instructional time of 15 hours—focuses on the topics “Why the Weimar Republic failed as a democracy, the rise of Nazi Germany, the outbreak of World War II in Europe and in the Pacific and people’s experiences.” The Holocaust is specifically mentioned under the unit’s “Content and Concepts.” In the 11th-grade unit, “Nazi Germany and the Holocaust” is included as a case study under the topic of “Ideas of Race in the late 19th and 20th centuries.”

In response to the growing demand for teacher training across the country, the trustees of the Holocaust Centre formed the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation (SAHGF) to coordinate the establishment and policy of two further Holocaust Centres in Durban and Johannesburg.. The Foundation has also developed classroom support materials to assist this process. The Educator’s Pack, “The Holocaust: Lessons for Humanity” includes an educator’s manual, a DVD, and a poster set.. The education resource pack, is concerned with historical accuracy with regards to the Holocaust and “ is about the reading, writing, and arithmetic of genocide. It is about such Rs as rethinking, reflecting, and reasoning. It is about the responses to prejudice, racism, discrimination and scapegoating. It is about human rights and human dignity.”  Lessons connect both antisemitism and racism to the larger umbrella of Euro-centric “scientific” racism emerging from the 19th century. They draw parallels between the rise of Nazi Germany and the construction of the racial state in South Africa as well as between the Nuremberg trials and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The curriculum also features individual stories from Holocaust victims, much in line with the IHRA guidelines to “individualise the history by translating statistics into personal stories” and to “use witness testimony to make this history more ‘real.’”

The SAHGF, through its three Holocaust centers, has done much both within and outside the public education system to further Holocaust awareness.  Regional departments of education have invited the SAHGF to conduct teacher training programs across the country.  The SAHGF is the only non-governmental organization offering Holocaust education programmes to high school students. To date more than 100,000 high school students have participated in these programmes.

The SAHGF is committed through its programmes, to use the platform of History to engage with contemporary issues. To this end, the SAHGF has hosted exhibitions and programmes providing NGOs, academics, teachers, learners and government departments with the opportunity to discuss and raise public awareness of the issues of the day.  The Foundation  also runs workshops with diverse adult groups that explore the themes of “stereotyping, the fragility of democracy, the impact of propaganda, and how to become an activist rather than a bystander.”  The Public Programme of the Foundation includes film screenings, lectures, panel discussions, a visiting scholar’s  programme and  the 27th January Holocaust commemoration in partnership with the United Nations. With funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and other organizations, the Foundation has developed traveling exhibitions, films based on survivor testimony and education materials.

Two other organizations have worked in South Africa: the Anne Frank House and Shikaya. In partnership with the SAHGF, the Anne Frank House’s traveling exhibition “Anne Frank—A History for Today” has been touring South Africa since 2009. In the first years of the programme,  Anne Frank House representatives trained local youth “peer guides.”   Since 2012 the Anne Frank House has handed the exhibition to the SAHGF and it now travels under their auspices. Shikaya, which emerged from a partnership between the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and Facing History and Ourselves, also works in South Africa, though Holocaust education forms only part of Shikaya’s programmes.. The name comes from the Shangaan word “Xikaya,” which means “to go back to your roots.”  In 2007, Shikaya developed a program titled Facing the Past, which “uses Facing History’s pedagogy and methods to help educators address apartheid in their classrooms.” Shikaya focuses on Weimar Germany and the development of Nazism as a case study to provide a safe entry point into a discussion of contemporary problems. The organization has conducted outreach in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng.

An educator’s workshop held at Bizana, Eastern Cape
Staff from the Department of Correctional Services with programme coordinator Marlene Silbert taking part in a group workshop at the Centre
An educator’s workshop held at Evander in Mpumalanga
An educator’s workshop held at Badplaas, Mpumalanga
Learners from Garlandale High School viewing the exhibition, facilitated by Cape Town Holocaust Centre educator Linda Hackner
The travelling exhibition Surviving History - Portraits from Vilna presented the life stories of ten individuals who survived the Holocaust in Lithuania


GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
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GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Country updates 2014, published ahead of the Salzburg Global Seminar session Holocaust and Genocide Education: Sharing Experience Across Borders

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United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia Articles


Anne Frank House

Cape Town Holocaust Center

Durban Holocaust Center

Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Center


UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?, 2013 .

South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation (SAHGF)



Nates, Tali. “Holocaust Education in South Africa.” Discussion Papers Journal, Volume II. The Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme. 2012.

Petersen, Tracey. “Moving beyond the toolbox: teaching human rights through teaching the Holocaust in post-Apartheid South Africa.” Intercultural Education, 01/2010.




Tali Nates, Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, Director

Tali participated in conferences in Yad Vashem and Ghetto Fighters house in July 2014. A chapter Avital wrote was included in the book God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors.


Tali and Richard Freedman, together with Freddy Mutanguha and Aloys Mahwa have piloted a course in South Africa and Rwanda on combating extremism through education, and how to promote pluralism through learning about the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, and Apartheid. More information here: