(JTA) — The high school student who interrupted a South African Jewish school’s performance of a play about the Holocaust with chants of “Heil Hitler!” and other anti-Semitic taunts has expressed remorse.
The principal of Edenvale High School, Larry Harmer, also apologized for the incident at a meeting Monday with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, though he reportedly told parents in a memo sent home the same day that he believes “there has been much that has been incorrectly reported in the media‚ which has blown the incident out of all proportion.”
In the May 18 incident, middle schoolers from the King David Victory Park School were performing “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” as part of a one-act play festival at Waterstone College, a private K-12 school in Johannesburg.
Harmer also told parents that the teen heckler “apologized several times‚ pleading it had not been meant in a malicious or hurtful way. The ‘Heil Hitler’ was merely in recognition of the Nazi uniform worn by the King David learner.”
He also told parents that his school strongly condemned anti-Semitic or racist behavior, and will expand its teaching program to include sensitivity behavior.
While the King David students were performing the story of a Jewish boy who perished in a concentration camp, at least one Edenvale High student began to taunt them. The student or students continued to taunt the Jewish students, their teachers and parents as they retreated to the dressing rooms and packed up early to leave.
During Monday’s meeting, according to a statement from the Jewish Board of Deputies, Harmer agreed to work with the umbrella group in introducing through the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre an educational and sensitivity training program at his school to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.
The Jewish Board of Deputies said it welcomed Edenvale High’s “unequivocal condemnation of the incident.”
“It further appreciates the willingness shown by the school to implement appropriate measures aimed at sensitizing its learners to the importance of avoiding behavior likely to cause hurt and offense, whether on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or any other such grounds,” the statement said.