Leeds postgraduates complete internships in South Africa


This summer three postgraduate students from the University of Leeds completed successful internships with the South African Holocaust and Genocide Foundation (SAHGF), as part of the AHRC project ‘Mobilising Multidirectional Memory to Build More Resilient Communities in South Africa’. Maya Caspari (School of English and School of Languages, Culture and Societies), Ruth Daly (School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies) and Emily Paul (School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science) worked on respective projects in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. The foundation’s three centres in each city serve as memorials to victims of the Holocaust and also provide educational displays and workshops on the consequences of prejudice and racism and the dangers of indifference, apathy and silence

Maya, Ruth and Emily not only completed their own individual projects but, along with research assistant Emma Parker (School of English), organised a two-day academic symposium and knowledge exchange event on the subject of ‘Life Narratives and Human Rights’ at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. These events responded to the foundation’s wider dedication to creating a more caring and just society in which human rights and diversity are respected and valued. We congratulate Maya, Ruth and Emily on their productive summers and caught up with them (see below) to hear stories about their time in South Africa.


Pictured: Dr Matthew Boswell, Maya Caspari, Ruth Daly and Emily Paul working at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre

Emily Paul: “I had a fantastic time interning at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. The JHGC has recently moved into an amazing new building, and it was a privilege to be there just before it officially opens to the public. I worked at the centre for 7.5 weeks in total, and was able to help out with a variety of projects during that time. I assisted the education team with School visits to the centre, and produced a database of the their School and University contacts, together with other databases. I also compiled content for the JHGC’s new website, produced a new centre visitor book, and assisted with other admin tasks and special projects. Everybody at the JHGC was extremely welcoming and friendly, right from the first day of my internship. I am extremely grateful for my time working in Johannesburg and for the opportunity to explore South Africa. I learned new skills, formed new friendships, and got to know a beautiful country. I am very proud to have assisted with the inspirational and important work that the JHGC does.”

Maya Caspari: “I had a very engaging 6 weeks working at the Durban Holocaust Centre. The team were incredibly welcoming and I had the opportunity to work on varied and interesting projects, which gave me an understanding of the centre’s work and further insight into the complexities of mobilising multidirectional memory in an institutional context. These included updating the centre’s website, taking new photographs for use online,  interviewing staff about the centre’s history for the web and developing its digital presence. Towards the end of my trip, I also had the privilege of working with Rwandan genocide survivors to organise a commemoration event and record their testimony. Overall, my time in Durban was made particularly special due to the generosity of everyone I worked with. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn more about the city and its history, as well as the work of the centre, through spending time with and speaking to so many interesting people. The experience was invaluable both professionally and personally.”

Ruth Daly: “I worked at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre where I undertook archival research into the institutional history of the SAHGF. This was an interesting experience which allowed me to observe, and reflect upon, the ways in which Holocaust memory and education is mobilised in South Africa, specifically in relation to the foundation’s engagement with broader human rights violations. I spent the duration of my time at the centre engaging with archival material, and interviewing a number of key members of staff, both past and present. Their commitment to growing the archive creates a distinct sense of the centre’s evolution since its inception. The opportunity to interview the founder of the CTHC, Myra Osrin, and former Director of Education, Marlene Silbert, both illuminating and inspiring women, was a particular highlight for me. This internship has been a valuable opportunity, both personally and professionally; it has allowed me to expand on my skill-set, while also enhancing my research at Leeds. It has been a privilege to engage with those who shared their time and knowledge so generously.”

Photograph: Maya, Emily and Ruth explore the beautiful beaches of KwaZulu-Natal