Uproar over Nazi imagery used in UCT protest

2015-03-19 14:14
Nazi swastikas plastered on the pillars of Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town. (Scott Haig-Roberts, Supplied)

Nazi swastikas plastered on the pillars of Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town. (Scott Haig-Roberts, Supplied)

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Cape Town - The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) has expressed its shock at the use of Nazi imagery in ongoing protests at the University of Cape Town over the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes.

According to a statement from SAUJS Western Cape, posters bearing the face of Adolf Hitler and large swastikas were found plastered on the pillars of Jameson Hall on UCT’s upper campus on Wednesday morning.

The appearance of the imagery was said to have been without explanation or context, and promptly taken down by concerned students around 10:30 on Wednesday.

It was later revealed to the union that the posters were used by students organising the ‘Black Monday’ campaign, intended as a protest against the continued presence of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes on the campus.

“In a combined meeting with SAUJS and the UCT Students’ Representative Council, the students responsible for the posters explained that they were meant as an attempt to show that Cecil John Rhodes was ‘just as bad as Hitler’,” chair of SAUJS Western Cape Jonathan Levi told News24.

“They explained that it was impossible for white students to understand ‘the struggle of the black child’.

“Thus, the swastikas were supposed to serve the purpose of putting their struggle against the statue into a form that ‘Jews could understand’.”

The SAUJS, though, said it was 'shocked and appalled' by the use of the images, stating Nazi symbolism should never be used to make a political point.

"These students’ attempt to re-appropriate the Holocaust for the purposes of their own political aims is unacceptable, and trivialises the greatest crime against humanity in history.

“SAUJS believes that the shock that people experience upon seeing images associated with Nazism should never be exploited for political aims.”

The students involved were said to be unapologetic for the use of the images, and said they had similar poster campaigns planned for the remainder of the week.

‘Deeply insensitive’

News24 spoke to David Jacobson, executive director for the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Cape Town, who felt it was deeply insensitive to use such imagery, even ironically.

“Whilst we support and endorse the right of students to protest against the historical and structural discrimination experienced by black South Africans, we strongly condemn the appropriation of Nazi symbolism to communicate this pain,” the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies said in a statement.

“We understand the issues surrounding the debate over the removal of the Rhodes statue," Jacobson added.

“It’s just the wrong imagery being used to make a point. The students need to find a more appropriate image.”

News24 spoke to the manager of communications and media liaison at UCT, Pat Lucas, who confirmed that the university is aware of the complaint.

She said the university is investigating the issue, and will release its own statement shortly.

To read more about the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign at UCT, click here.

Read more on:    uct  |  cape town  |  cecil john rhodes  |  education

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