- Dr. Roni Mikel Arieli
The Indian South African anti-apartheid activist and youth leader, Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, was sentenced to life in prison during the Rivonia trial (July 1963). Over the period of his 26-year imprisonment on Robben Island and in the Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, Kathrada kept seven secret notebooks in which he recorded quotations that he admired from books and newspapers smuggled into prison. Notebook number three contained thirteen entries that Kathrada selected from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1952), which was smuggled onto Robben Island, and circulated among the prisoners there during the 1960s. This lecture traces the ways in which the Diary found its way into the “leadership” section on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, and other prominent opponents of apartheid were imprisoned. Using Kathrada’s insights about the Holocaust through a careful reading of the thirteen chosen extracts from the Diary, in conjunction with Mandela and Mbeki’s post-apartheid testimonies of their reading of the Diary, this lecture presents the significance of Anne Frank in the struggle against apartheid, as well as during the transition from apartheid to democracy.
Dr. Ron Mikel Arieli is the USHMM 2019-2020 Phyllis Greenberg Heideman and Richard D. Heideman Fellow.