Die lewe van ingekerkerde gemeenskappe : ’n Vergelykende studie uit kampdagboeke en -herinneringe gedurende die Suid-Afrikaanse Oorlog, 1899-1902
Krugell, Johanna Elizabeth
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The South African War of 1899 to 1902 was a total onslaught that brought about the incarceration of thousands of people. Of the 219 000 non-British whites in the South African and Orange Free State Republics, at least 145 408 (66 percent) were interned during the course of the war in 50 concentration and 34 Boer prisoner-of-war (POW) camps. Inhuman suffering and hardships, resulted in the deaths of at least 29 045 of those prisoners. The incarceration of so many thousands of non-British European inhabitants of the two republics was a traumatic event in the history of the Afrikaner. Although the history of the concentration camps for whites and the Boer prisoner-of-war camps were well documented, there is little material available on some aspects of their incarcerated community life. The purpose of this study is to make a contribution to a balanced overall view of both the concentration camp inhabitants and the Boer prisoners’ of war incarcerated community life. A comparative study approach was used to determine the historical profile(s) of the incarcerated people’s community life. The focus is on how both the concentration camp prisoners and Boer prisoners of war experienced and dealt with an incarcerated community life. It is shown in this study how an incarcerated community life disrupted the Boer prisoners of war as well as the concentration camp prisoners’ lives both physically and mentally. Attention is also given to how the separation from loved ones and the lack of news contributed to the fact that prisoners experienced their incarcerated life as virtually unbearable. Their longing and hope for news of loved ones became increasingly intense in the course of the War. The survey also points out how the scorched-earth policy, arson and so much loss of life awakened in the prisoners a sense of stability and patriotism and how some for whom the loss of freedom was overwhelming, made several attempts to escape from the hateful life of captivity. The study also demonstrates how both the concentration camp inhabitants and Boer prisoners of war, despite very intensely experienced physical and mental disruption, displayed a survival, resilience and hope and how the different activities, outings, schools, the prisoners’ fine sense of humour and their profound devotion were important survival mechanisms in their coping with an incarcerated community life and that these contributed to their spiritual wellbeing and boosted their morale. Both the concentration camp prisoners and the Boer prisoners of war, regardless of different levels of physical and mental disruption, experienced their incarcerated community life as unbearable. Their having a resilient worldview and other similar survival mechanisms, however, contributed to their inner strength and gave meaning even to an incarcerated community life.
- Humanities