A few apologies have settled an incident arising from the use of Nazi paraphernalia at a recent South African parade.
A float entered in the Fish Hoek Mardi Gras by a group of seven teen-agers featured a German military jeep used by the Nazis during World War II.
The vehicle that appeared in the late December charitable event sported four German flags with swastikas, while participants in the float wore German-style military uniforms with swastika-decorated armbands.
“They carried mock guns and squirted water on bystanders,” said an outraged David Donner, an organizer of last year’s Mardi Gras.
“I was shocked beyond belief, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said the German-born Donner, who immediately brought the incident to the attention of the Jewish community.
He expressed the hope that the success of the event would not be marred by the incident because the local community is in dire need of the funds raised by the Mardi Gras.
After hearing reports about the float, Philip Krawitz, chairman of the Cape Council of the Board of Deputies, described it as “completely unacceptable in a country where we have worked so hard to build good relationships among all groups.
“It is regrettable that such a radical display, perpetuating the symbols of Nazi atrocities, should be allowed to mar a joyous festival of fun.”
Kathy Nortier, coordinator of the Mardi Gras, was puzzled at how the float managed to slip by organizers.
“The Mardi Gras was founded in 1959 as ‘the festival that unites the spirit of the valley” of Fish Hoek, a seaside resort. “It is supposed to be completely apolitical. I am totally horrified and am terribly sorry.”
Nortier also issued an apology on a Cape Town radio station, with a copy issued to the Board of Deputies.
“It was an oversight on our behalf and was done in extremely bad taste. Apologies to any person or community that were offended. It was, however, not our intention to harm anyone.”
Nortier also gave assurances that “the necessary steps will be taken in order to ensure that this will never happen again.”
She also tracked down the organizers of the float and elicited an unreserved apology from Andrew Cunninghame, a Fish Hoek resident and father of Margaret Cunninghame, one of the teen-agers who took part.
Andrew Cunninghame wrote a letter of apology to the Board saying: “We now all realize that we underestimated the sensitivity of the Jewish people to the Nazi emblem.”
He said his daughter’s friend had obtained the jeep and he had given her and her group the go-ahead to enter the Mardi Gras. They had intended to exhibit the jeep as a vintage vehicle, he added.
Stressing in his apology that his father fought in World War II, Cunninghame said he took full responsibility for any offense the float had caused.
The Cape Council of the Board accepted the apologies.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.