13 May 1915: Bloemfontein’s night of broken glass
Du Bruyn, Derek
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Less than a year after the outbreak of the Great (First World) War, the sinking of the passenger ship, RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915 by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland and the death of 1 198 of its passengers and crew, including at least 128 from the then still neutral United States of America, led to much condemnation. In many Allied countries there also followed anti-German protests and riots, including in the Union of South Africa. On 13 May 1915, anti-German riots and the concomitant torching of German businesses took place even in Bloemfontein, where for many decades, people of various cultural groups had lived together in harmony. In this article the reasons for and consequences of the riots in Bloemfontein are analysed. Emphasis will, in particular, be placed on the way in which the local newspapers portrayed the events.