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On Eve of Chanukah, New Museum Marks ‘miracle’ of New South Africa

November 20, 2001
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Shortly before the start of Chanukah celebrations marking the miracle of release from oppression, two Jewish South African businessmen plan to open a museum in Johannesburg to mark the miracle of the peaceful transition from apartheid to a democratic South Africa.

Twins Solly and Abe Krok, 72, leading South African industrialists, are prominent philanthropists for Jewish and general causes in South Africa.

Solly Krok conceived the idea following a visit several years ago to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

“The motivation came from being a mensch, for humanitarian reasons,” Solly Krok explained. “Everybody is entitled to a place under the sun. We had to tell the story so that the immorality of the previous regime doesn’t happen again.”

Slated to open Nov. 30, the apartheid museum illustrates the modern history of South Africa, focusing on the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

The opening comes little more than a week before the start of Chanukah, which commemorates a different victory — that of the Jews over their Syrian oppressors.

Multimedia exhibits in the museum will show the causes and effects of a state-sanctioned system of racial discrimination and the struggle against it, which culminated in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

The museum was called “the greatest building to come out of this country for the last 20 years” by “Bunny” Britz, emeritus professor of architecture at the University of the Orange Free State.

The museum came about as a result of a casino license issued to a consortium in which the Kroks have a prominent role.

The consortium built a major casino on the site next to the museum. The casino also houses a recreation of early Johannesburg as a gold-mining town and a disused gold mine that visitors can explore.

South African gambling legislation requires cultural elements, as well as tourist attractions, as an integral part of any casino venture — and the museum was part of an effort to give something back to the community.

The museum will have a board with a wide spectrum of representatives with business and museum expertise, as well as a commitment to the vision of a new South Africa.

An international board of patrons also is being set up that will consist of leading human rights figures.

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