Public Works

Herman Wald did many large scale public works in South Africa. Broadly they fall into the categories:

  • Memorials to Ernest Oppenheimer
  • Holocaust Memorials
  • Commercial Works
  • Synagogue Elements
  • University of the Witwatersrand Works


Johannesburg City (1960 – Bronze – 7.5m wide)

Impala Stampede, Impala Fountain, Oppenheimer Fountain

"The Stampede was my first impression in this country, nature’s most graceful charge that competes with any man-made efforts, unconditionally acclaimed by child or adult, by amateur or connoisseur, unbound by time, fashion or ‘isms’." (H.Wald)

The Stampede or the Impala Fountain is probably Johannesburg's most well known art work. It was commissioned by Harry Oppenheimer of De Beers in memory of his father Ernest and donated to the City of Johannesburg. After having being vandalized it was restored by Herman Wald's son Michael and reinstated at a new location at 45 Main Street Johannesburg in 2002. Over the years innumerable images of the work have appeared in tourist brochures, postcards and newspaper articles and cartoons.


Memorial to the Six Million

Westpark Cemetery Johannesburg (1959 - Bronze - 5.1m high)

Memorial to the Six Million, Monument to the Six Million, Holocaust Memorial, Westpark Cemetery, Johannesburg

"This monument depicts six mighty bronze fists, each five feet high, bursting out of the ground as a protest of the dead, each fist representing one million Jews who perished under Hitler, and each gripping a ram's horn, the Jewish ritual trumpet standing twenty feet high. In pairs they create three arches; the arches of trials and tribulations that the Jewish people have all gone through during all the generations of persecution. In the centre there is a flame shaped Eternal Light, spiralling fifteen feet up. Through the ram's horns the Dead are blasting out the Sixth Commandment: 'Though shalt not kill', while the centre eternal light is stylized through the medium of the Hebrew lettering, to form a flame which spells in Hebrew 'Lo Tirtzach (thou Shalt Not Kill)'." (H.Wald)

This is a highly significant landmark for the Jewish community in South Africa. Each year the Remembrance to the Six Million ceremony is held at the monument with the base serving as the platform for the speakers and choir. The photographs below were taken in April 2009. The first shows the scale of the hands and the second an indication of the number of people that attend the event.


The Diamond Diggers

Kimberly (1960 – Bronze – 1½ life)

The Diamond Diggers, Kimberly, Oppenheimer Fountain

Also commissioned by Harry Oppenheimer of De Beers in memory of his father Ernest. Kimberly diamond mines launched De Beers in the 1870’s. The work described was in the press as a tribute to the men who pioneered the diamond industry.


Sandringham Gardens Johannesburg (1946 – Bronze, twice life size)

Kria, Holocaust Memorial, Sandringham Gardens, Johannesburg

The work stands at the entrance to the main building at Sandringham Gardens - the centre for care of the Jewish elderly.

"'Kria', meaning the rending of garments, is a symbol of Jewish mourning, originating from biblical days and still practiced today. The figure represents the present day Jewish people in defiance of it's enemies, yet with dignified hope and feet firmly planted on the ground saying 'I am here to stay on earth', which is the birthright of any man, Jew or any other race." (H.Wald)


Johannesburg (1967 – Bronze – twice life)


Commissioned by the Old Mutual Building Society for its Saint Mary’s Arcade building in Joubert Street.

Unity is Strength

Johannesburg (1969 – Bronze –  1½ Life size)

Unity is Strength, Absa Johannesburg  

Originally commissioned by the United Building Society. Now at the Absa building in Main St Johannesburg. The use of emphatically varied facial feature types was a strong plea for unity amongst and equality for all South Africans. 


Springs Synagogue (1951 – Kiaat Wood - 8.5m wide)


The arched perforated wood panel screens the elevated choir room from the synagogue.

"In a way I have also fulfilled a childhood ambition for I remember as a choirboy I carved my name into the back or the grille in our shul and now I have the honor to carve the front.

There is the Chassidic devotion of orthodox Jewish hands offering their prayer in traditional manner. Another motif is the Menorah coming from the time of Titus the Conqueror. Then there are the ten commandments at the foundation.

The entire composition is embraced by the tallis which symbolizes the four corners of the world. "Metaphorically the Lulaf give the impression of lighting the Menorah with the flame of their devotion"". (H.Wald)

Wings of the Shechinah

Berea Synagogue Johannesburg (1967 - Copper – 6m high)

Wings of the Shechinah, Berea Synagogue

The gleaming copper wings frame the 'Aron Kodesh', the marble framed cabinet which houses the torah scrolls and is at the focal point of the synagogue.

"When I was approached to design the main wall of the Berea Synagogue. I felt that l was faced with a number of problems. It is no simple matter to reconstruct a conception derived from Biblical days, when the Covenant was carried in the desert. One of the greatest artists of them all from antiquity was approached to make a carriage for the Covenant. His name was Bezalel who did the carving of the Cherubim in which the Covenant was carried. I have attempted to reinterpret the conception that Bezalel used.

I had to take into account that the Law forbids the use of living figures in sculpture, so I could only use the non-figurative part of the Cherubim theme - namely, wings to embrace the Ark in which the Law is carried. On the tip of the wings will be inscribed, the essence of it all, the Ten Commandments, as if floating in air. The aim is to give the impression that the message they carry is floating across the whole world. The chains which form the background of the Aron Hakodesh symbolize the continuity and strength of the Jewish nation - the Golden Chain as it is known in Jewish lore." (H.Wald)

Man and his Soul

University of the Witwatersrand (2011 - Bronze – 2.5m high)

>Man and his Soul, University of the Witwatersrand

This 2.5m high version of Man and his Soul was erected in November 2011. See here. It was donated to the University of Witwatersrand who paid for the production costs. Michael and Louis Wald managed the prodcution process. It was scanned electronically then cut out in foam using a milling machine then cast into bronze.

The human figures are the embodiment of the spiritual essence. Wald stated that ‘this conception tried to depict the vicious circle between Life and Death, running with such uncountable centrifugal speed that could take Man an eternity to catch up with its secret. This is the reason the half moon shapes chase each other with the ethereal speed of light’. The bodies are abstracted from the sensual by means of an attenuation of the forms, which exaggerates the natural proportions of the heads, legs and arms. Simplicity and delicacy are the defining components of the flowing design of this sculpture. (Andrea Lewis)

The Unknown Miner

University of the Witwatersrand (2011 - Bronze – 3.0m high)

The Unknown Miner, University of the Witwatersrand, Oppenheimer

This cast was made in 2011 and erected in November. See here. It was donated to the University of Witwatersrand Engineering Faculty who paid for the production costs. Michael and Louis Wald managed the prodcution process.

The Unknown Miner is a casting of the original prototype of the five miners and stands at the east entrance of the newly renovated Chamber of Mines building that partially houses the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment. The portico entrance presents a striking view of the three-meter bronze sculpture to all who enter the building and is a fitting introduction to the new domed interior atrium. The dark bronze provides a dramatic silhouette highlighted against the sun when one leaves the building. The outstretched arms and muscular rippling of the body provide a reminder of the important contribution of the mining industry and mining education to the economy of the country. The mining boots stand firm in the concrete and give ballast to the slight twist in the torso. Although The Unknown Miner has some characteristics of social realism, the work contains symbolic elements paying tribute to many unsung heroes. These men and women, from diverse backgrounds and cultures, laboured and sacrificed to create the mining industry and to establish Johannesburg as the ‘City of Gold’ from 1886.. (Katherine Munro and Natalie Knight)