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Saturday, 7 May 2016



In 1862, when Adam Yamey's great-grandfather Franz Ginsberg was born, his birthplace BEUTHEN (now Bytom in Poland) was deep within German territory. After 1918 when borders shifted, Beuthen was still in Germany BUT ONLY JUST because it was surrounded on three sides by Poland which was no more than a mile from the city's heart.

While Franz Ginsberg was a Senator in the parliament of the Union of South Africa, legislation, inspired by the Minister of the Interior DF Malan (an architect of apartheid), was being formulated (in March 1930) that would severely restrict the entry into the country of Eastern European Jews. Franz Ginsberg was firmly against this.

One of Franz’s many objections was connected to the impermanence of Europe’s national borders. He said:
Considerable difficulties will arise with this Bill ... There have been perfectly new boundaries created in Europe since the war (i.e WW1), countries that formerly belonged to Germany have become, for instance, Polish ... there is Silesia too. My birthplace is in Silesia and I am very glad to think that I would not come under the ratio of prohibited countries (i.e countries, such as Poland, whose Jews were to become subject to a quota on immigration to South Africa), although that might have been the case if the boundary laid down in the Peace Treaty had been shifted a few miles...

Sadly, the South African Government passed the Quota Act of 1930. DF Malan defended its passing. According to the issue of the JTA published in November 1931:
"The Quota Act, he (i.e. Malan) declared, was introduced in the interests of the whole country, including the Jews. There was a feeling of unrest over the low type of immigrants coming from Eastern Europe, and the whole country demanded legislation to limit this immigration. The unrest threatened to develop into a feeling of hatred against the Jews, and as a result of the Quota Act this bad feeling has died down. 
Cynically, Malan was presenting his anti-Jewish legislation as something that would benefit Jews already in South Africa. This was not long before South Africa’s version of the Nazis, the Greyshirts, started becoming really active.

Read more about how Franz tried to defend the rights of Eastern European Jews to enter South Africa, as well his fights for the rights of many of the less priviliged members of South African society in “Soap to Senate: A German Jew at the Dawn of Apartheid” by Adam Yamey. The book is available from Amazon and www.lulu.com

to discover more writing by Adam Yamey