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​​The City of Johannesburg museums joined the international community to celebrate International Museum Day on 18 May 2018 and warned that it was easy for nations to regress to committing human atrocities that have shaped our history.

“It happened, therefore it can happen again. This is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere,” read a quote by Primo Levi, which is boldly engraved on the inside-wall of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Museum in Forest Town. 

Levi was an Italian Jewish chemist, a writer, and Holocaust survivor.


The imposing three-story building on Jan Smuts Avenue was built to commemorate the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and Genocide for their courage and determination in resisting the dehumanising and oppressive systems. The building also commemorates the suffering of the people of Rwanda, the Jewish community and any other communities that have suffered similar fates.

During the tour of the museums which was organised by the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC), the museum’s Project Manager, Kim Nates, said as part of the International Museum Day, the centre was currently hosting a number of activities including the  photographic exhibition “Killing the Other” by acclaimed photojournalists Alon Skuy and James Oatway.

The exhibition opened on the 17 May and runs until 1 July 2018. More than 200 people attended the opening night. 

“The exhibition takes a look at the 10-year anniversary after the chilling xenophobic attacks of 2008 that spread throughout South Africa. It’s very important that we reflect on the atrocities that took place here in our country and not forget what happened,” said Nates.

Nates said she was caught by surprise by social media comments on the first day of the xenophobia attacks exhibition. 

“It became apparent that some of the community members don’t want to acknowledge the impact of xenophobic attacks that happened in their spaces. Often it’s easy to talk about the atrocities happening in other countries,” said Nates.

One of the powerful and horrific images on displayed is that of Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole being stabbed to death by three men in Alexandra township in 2015, which was published in the Sunday Times. The photograph once again attracted an international spotlight on South Africa and world-wide condemnation.

Another museum that was visited is in the heart of Parkmore, where the history of how Johannesburg and Sandton in particular began. According to JPC, the Driefontein Farmhouse, also known as the Wilhemi house was built by German immigrant Adolf Wilhemi in 1906 after the Anglo-Boer War and has been declared a heritage site. 

The farmhouse tells a story of the German immigrant family, their struggles, and their participation in the war and the triumph of women who turned the farm into a profitable venture while their men went to fight in the war.