Examining Atrocities

Visiting expert Avital “Tali” Nates talked about South Africa’s efforts to teach young people about the Holocaust and genocide.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 4, 2012) – The daughter of a death camp survivor, Avital “Tali” Nates of South Africa, visited the University of South Florida Tuesday and lectured on the topic of  Holocaust and Genocide Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa.”


Nates, who was born in Israel, serves as the director of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in South Africa. Her father and uncle were Holocaust survivors; their names were included on Oskar Schindler’s famous list, which inspired Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film of the same name.


Nates spent the hour talking about the Holocaust, about genocide in Rwanda and other parts of Africa, and talking about connections when studying those historic events. And, she discussed Apartheid in South Africa, referring to herself as a “witness to history.”


In South Africa, students are taught about the Holocaust in grades 9 and 11. After learning about the Holocaust, the students are then taught about Apartheid because to learn about the latter, you first need to know the former and understand the connections between the two.


Teaching about the Holocaust and genocide in South Africa, she said, is difficult.


“How do you teach about atrocities and pain in a country that is suffering atrocities and pain,” Nates asked during the lecture in the Grace Allen Room at the USF Tampa Library.


Nates was at USF at the invitation of USF Professor Edward Kissi, who met her at a UNESCO conference earlier this year.


“You meet some of the most extraordinary people when you work in the field of educating the world about the horrors of genocide,” Kissi said. “She is very knowledgeable and doing great work.”


Kissi was among policymakers and educators representing 14 nations who gathered to begin the process of developing practical ways to prevent genocide through education. When he found out Nates was coming to the United States, he discussed extending an invitation from the Institute on Black Life with its director, Cheryl Rodriguez, and Nates graciously included USF in her plans.


“I had discussed with her the need for her center and our department to work together on genocide and human rights studies,” he said. “Now she will get to witness USF’s global reputation in person and see what outstanding resources our campus has, with Africana Studies offering a certificate program in Genocide and Human Rights, the USF Library’s outstanding Holocaust Studies Center and programs, as well as its remarkable special collections, databases and oral histories.”


Nates has lectured throughout the world about Holocaust education, genocide prevention, reconciliation and human rights. She has participated in Holocaust education missions to Eastern Europe, as well as educational missions in South Africa and Rwanda. She was chosen as one of the top 100 newsworthy and notable women in South Africa in 2010.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.