I have written previously about Emily Hobhouse, a Brit who fought for justice for the Afrikaans women and children dying in their thousands in 109 British concentration camps during the second Anglo-Boer War. A total of 48 000 people died in these camps, primarily of hunger and disease, and the Boers lost 10% of their population. There were camps for black and for white people, and due to the lack of information about the black camps, the real death toll could be much higher. The British employed a scorched earth policy, so the Afrikaner’s land (mainly farmland) was also destroyed.
This was not the first appearance of internment camps, as the Spanish had used internment in Cuba in the Ten Years’ War, but the Boer War concentration camp system was the first time that a whole nation had been systematically targeted, and the first in which some whole regions had been depopulated.
We visited Winburg, a tiny town in South Africa, where one of these camps was situated. It is primarily an Afrikaans town, but there was no animosity to us as English speaking, which shows how times have changed. This is a very sensitive issue in South Africa’s history and several generations back, the relationship between the English and Afrikaans speakers in the country was rather fraught.
White Afrikaners are descended from the Dutch, who arrived in South Africa in 1652. They have developed their own language. The British, on the other hand, arrived much later (1820), and have much closer ties to Europe. When I grew up in an Afrikaans neighbourhood in the 1960s and 1970s, there was much more animosity to the English speakers than there is now.
The memorial is rather overgrown which was rather sad, but on the other hand maybe it means that we have moved on.
Prayers for their souls.
Something that never fails to amaze me is the ability of mankind to find ways of killing others. I hope that one day I can visit this site as well as the concentration camp in Auschwitz, not because I have a morbid fascination to see the sites but rather to apologise to those who died there.