The memory of Nazi Germany as a source of religious complicity and resistance in apartheid South Africa — A roundtable discussion with John de Gruchy and Shirli Gilbert

The rise of right wing populist and political movements has meant that memories of Nazism are once again being used as a touchstone to frame discussions of contemporary politics. The same was true in the internal Jewish and Christian debates that occurred about the apartheid regime in South Africa. For both groups these debates centred on questions of particularity and universality, both in terms of how universal the lessons to be learned from the Nazi horror were and the extent of their obligations in light of those lessons. Both Christians and Jews were divided on these questions and those divisions shaped their willingness to participate in or resist the apartheid regime.

This roundtable discussion will focus on the work of two influential South African scholars, John de Gruchy and Shirli Gilbert. De Gruchy is a theologian who was a central member of a church movement that framed its opposition to apartheid in part through explicit analogy to Confessing Church movement in Nazi Germany. Gilbert is a historian of the Jewish community in South Africa and writes about, among other things, the complicated role of the memory of the Holocaust played in shaping Jewish politics and identity in South Africa.

The roundtable discussion will be held on Tuesday, September 24th 2019, 10am at the Sir Duncan Rice Library, Room 3 on the 7th floor.

The event is jointly hosted by CISRUL and the Divinity Department at the University of Aberdeen


Both Gilbert and De Gruchy will also give individual lectures at the University of Aberdeen. Shirley Gilbert, historian of the Jewish community in South Africa, will give the Hay of Seaton lecture on September 23rd at 6.30pm. The following day, John de Gruchy will give a lecture on “A Life-Changing Conversation: Doing theology in dialogue with Bonhoeffer” on September 24th at 5pm, in the King’s College Chapel.