Obj. ID: 43156 Memorial to the Six Million in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1959, 1995
Memorial to the Six Million
Who is Commemorated?
Jewish victims of the Holocaust
The monument is set upon a large stone platform and consists of six large fists holding shofarot that face inward. In the center is a 15 foot high (approx. 5 meters) eternal light consisting of Hebrew letters spelling Lo Tirtzach (thou Shalt Not Kill). The shofarot are so big, that the foundry had to cast each of them in four parts. Each fist is 1.5 meters high and the total height of the shofarot is 6 meters.
The sculptor, Herman Wald, described the monument in a letter to London’s Studio Magazine:
"This monument depicts six mighty bronze fists, each five feet high, bursting out of the ground as a protest of the dead, each fist representing one million Jews who perished under Hitler, and each gripping a ram's horn, the Jewish ritual trumpet standing twenty feet high. In pairs they create three arches; the arches of trials and tribulations that the Jewish people have all gone through during all the generations of persecution. In the centre there is a flame shaped Eternal Light, spiraling fifteen feet up...” (H.Wald) https://www.hermanwald.com/pages/Public_Work.aspx
The large stone platform that holds shofarot is inscribed in Hebrew, Afrikaans and English:
The plaque to the left from the stairs is inscribed in Afrikaans and English.
ewicourende herinnerinc aan
die ses miljoen jode.
Slacoffers van die mens se
onmenslikheid teenoor die mens
wat in 1939 - 1945 in die
oodekampe van Europa vercaan het.
"Vergeet dit nie"
everlasting memory of
the six million Jews
victims of man’s inhumanity to man
in the death camps of Europe
‘thou shalt not forget’
The plaque to the right from the stairs is inscribed in Yiddish:
Gedenkt di zeks milyon yidn vos
zaynen umgekumen al kidesh ha-shem
un al kidesh ha-am
Translation: "Remember the six million Jews who perished as martyrs for the Holy Name and the holy people.”). Then follows a sixfold “GEDENK!” (“Remember!”) with the names of five concentration camps and the number of six million.
The platform has an additional dedicatory plaque in Yiddish and English:
האבן מנדב געווען
ה' און פרוי
דעם צטן אפריל
Translation: This foundation was donated by Mr. and Mrs. M. Yale. ??? April 1959
This foundation was donated by
Mr. and Mrs. M. Yale.
The 17th of April 1959.
Lying flat at the front of the platform is a plaque installed when the memorial was renovated and rededicated: in 1995:
This memorial was
rededicated by the
South African Jewish
community in memory
of the martyrs and
liberation of the
fifty years ago
27 April 1995 – 27 Nissan 5755
Jewish Communal Monument Committee and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies
We are grateful to Louis Wald, who allowed us to use images of the memorial.
Beginning in 1955 plans were discussed by South African Jewish leaders for a monument to Holocaust victims. South Africa had a large Jewish population from Lithuania and other countries, almost all of whom had lot family. By the mid-1950s a large number of survivors had also settled in South Africa. A competition was held and Herman Wald, a Jewish sculptor born in Cluj, Hungary (now Romania) was chosen in 1957 and work began on the massive project which was completed and dedicated in May 1959. Thousands attended the dedication which received international attention. The memorial became the site of annual Holocaust commemoration events.
In the decades following its dedication the monument was vandalized and fell into disrepair. It was rededicated in 1995. Survivors from concentration camps formed a guard of honor; the ner tamid (“eternal light”) was kindled; a cantor chanted the Hazkarat neshamot (the prayer for the repose of the deceased), Kaddish (the memorial prayer for the dead), and Yigdal (a prayer about God’s greatness); and a choir sang the Partisan Song (“Never say there is only death for you”) and Ha-Tikvah, the Israeli national anthem, followed by Psalm. 91.
According to the New York Times (May 11, 1959) the monument costs about $40,000.
The Memorial to the Six Million is now an iconic Jewish landmark in South Africa. Each year the Remembrance to the Six Million ceremony is held at the monument with the base serving as the platform for the speakers and choir.
Wald and his wife Vera are buried next to the monument, according to the artist’s last wishes.
“4.000 gather at memorial to 6m. Jews,” Rand Daily Mail, May 11, 1959., https://lh5.ggpht.com/-l8UlY7e3xas/T-Y-eE-6jBI/AAAAAAAASnU/q6IXSURjgss/s800/HWNA199.jp (accessed January 23, 2022)
Bracker, Milton. “Victims of Hitler Honored in Africa,” New York Times, May 11, 1959., https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/0B6hOlyym3AtlOGxUQ3RDZE42RGc?forcehl=1&hl=en&resourcekey=0-kz4kaYHzhzmSTW2ZRK_QdA (accessed January 23, 2022)
“Foundry drama has happy ending,” The South African Engineer, September 1, 1957., https://lh3.ggpht.com/-B7dXgUKVefg/TV3resSnPUI/AAAAAAAAG8w/CUl2-_gp0H4/s800/HWNA069.jpg (accessed January 23, 2022)
"Herman Wald," website, https://www.hermanwald.com/Default.aspx (accessed January 23, 2022)
“Holocaust Remembrance Day," Musings while allatsea (blog), January 27, 2020., http://allatsea.co.za/musings/holocaust-remembrance-day/ (accessed January 23, 2022)
Steele, John, “Moulding a massive monument,” Engineer and Foundryman, July 7, 1959., https://lh4.ggpht.com/-dLiehThU89o/TYII4QVYGgI/AAAAAAAAIQw/Mtos3Td2AwU/s800/HWNA173.jpg (accessed January 23, 2022)
Wald, Louis, “Blog: The Sound of the Shofar Will Be Heard in Silence,” May 10, 2017.
“Westpark Cemetery,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westpark_Cemetery (accessed January 23, 2022)