Holocaust survivor writes letter to Pretoria fitness queen who allegedly posted Hitler was 'innocent'

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  • A 98-year-old Holocaust survivor has written an open letter to a Pretoria woman following a series of alleged antisemitic posts.
  • Simone Kriel, 28, allegedly wrote that there is a special place in hell for Jews and that Hitler was "innocent" of the Holocaust.
  • Kriel is being sued by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies for her comments. 

A 98-year-old Holocaust survivor has written an open letter to Simone Kriel, who is being sued for alleged online comments that Jews are "greedy as f**k" and that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was "innocent" of the Holocaust, during which around 6 million Jewish people were murdered.

Ella Blumenthal, who was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War Two in 1945, writes she was saddened by Kriel's comments, which – among other things – allegedly stated "[t]here is a special place in Hell for [Jewish people] and not even that is good enough for what they are doing to this world!"

A criminal charge has been laid against Kriel for allegedly posting the antisemitic and inflammatory messages on her Instagram page on 16 May.

Among other things, Kriel allegedly wrote that "the f***n Jews are greedy as f**k," that there is a special place in hell for them, and that Hitler was "innocent" of the Holocaust.

David Saks, associate director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), told News24 Kriel's rants started after she watched some antisemitic videos she had "found" on Facebook.

The charge was laid by the SAJBD through its legal representatives Ian Levitt Attorneys.

Blumenthal's open letter was published on the SAJBD's website

Here is the full letter

Dear Simone,

I was so saddened to hear your comments.

Saddened, because I was about your age in 1945 when I was liberated from that pit of hell they called Bergen Belsen.

I had lost everything that I had ever had. I had lost almost everyone that I had ever loved...

I, like millions of others, had fallen victim to the vicious propaganda machine the Nazis relied on to advance their evil agenda.

Today they call propaganda "fake news" but it is the same thing. And it is no less virulent or dangerous.

Simone, the link you saw was fake news. It was a lie. I know this because I lived the truth and I have carried it with me, in my heart, for more than seven decades.

You see Simone, you can never forget what I saw, what I endured and what I survived.

I am sad because like me, you too were a victim of lies that seek to breed hatred and disgust. Lies that seek to divide us and make us fearful of one another.

And I am also angry. Not at you, but at those who still seek to make others the victims of their own fear.

Simone, I am 98 years old. And if I have learnt one thing, it is that to live as a victim of fear, is to live in pain. I do not wish this on you anymore than I wish it on myself.

I would love to meet with you when circumstances permit. Maybe I will tell you my story, and you will tell me yours. I know we will learn that far more unites us, than divides us. And maybe together, Simone, we will find a way to shine light into our fractured world.

I send you my love,

Ella Blumenthal

According to the SA Jewish Report, Kriel, 28, lives in Pretoria and is relatively well-known in fitness circles. She identifies as Christian. She had about 3 000 followers on Instagram, and was brand ambassador for fitness brand PSN Lifestyle. The company reportedly ended the deal after complaints from the public about her antisemitic posts.

Kriel's page on Fitness magazine's website has also been closed. Her Instagram account no longer exists.

The SAJBD national vice-chairperson Professor Karen Milner, in whose name the charge was laid, said racist and inflammatory rhetoric of this nature was not only criminal but dangerous, and needed to be confronted as strongly as possible. This was particularly true in the current climate, when many people were feeling anxious, frustrated and confused, she said.

"It is at such times that conspiracy theories tend to flourish, and all too often Jews end up becoming the scapegoats," said Milner, a professor of psychology at Wits University.

Saks said the comments came "out of the blue" and that Kriel had previously dated a Jewish man, and had at one point considered converting to Judaism. But then she came upon some videos that turned her into a "passionate convert to an antisemitic world view", Saks said.

News24 could not reach Kriel by telephone for comment.

She told the SA Jewish Report: "I didn't go look for them [the videos], they just happened to pop up on Facebook. Out of curiosity, I had a look."

Kriel reportedly said the videos infuriated her. "No one will bully me into believing that their religion is more superior to mine... I'm Christian, and I will defend and speak up for what happened in the past, contrary to today's beliefs," she reportedly wrote.

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