Students at a South African university awoke Wednesday to images of Adolf Hitler and swastikas plastered over buildings on campus.
The large posters depicting the Nazi leader responsible for World War II and the Holocaust were put up in a prominent location at the University of Cape Town, apparently with no contextualization or explanation as to why they were there. They were quickly taken down.
The offenders were said to have put up the images in order to protest a nearby statue of British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes, so that “Jews could understand… the struggles of the black child” and the offense black students take to seeing the statue of a man “just as bad as Hitler,” according to a statement released by the South African Union of Jewish Students.
The South African Union of Jewish Students condemned the placards and demanded disciplinary proceedings be brought against the culprits.
According to the group, the offenders remain “unapologetic” and plan to follow up with a similar poster campaign in the coming weeks.
“These students’ attempt to re-appropriate the Holocaust for the purposes of their own political aims is unacceptable, and trivializes the greatest crime against humanity in history,” a statement by SAUJS read.
“When a swastika appears in a public place (especially without any context, as occurred today) this is often construed as an imminent threat of violence against Jews,” the statement continued, adding that “no attempt has been made by the protesters to understand this fear, or… the visceral emotional reaction experienced by Jews upon seeing symbols of Nazism.”
Rhodes, who served as prime minister of the Cape Colony in the 19th century, is widely scorned by black students for his historical discrimination and exploitation of blacks in the province during the colonial era.
“SAUJS supports the struggle of black South Africans to redress inequality and remove the structural discrimination which exists against them as a result of colonialism,” the statement read.
“[However,] the use of symbols of genocide against the Jewish people is not a justifiable form of protest,” it continued.
An earlier protest this week featured students tossing excrement at the statue of Rhodes.