Boer War - Vereeniging Concentration Camp

Boer War - Vereeniging Concentration Camp Social Studies Civil Rights Government Tragedies and Triumphs World History

This photo, from the UK National Archives, depicts a Boer War concentration camp where nearly one thousand people were forced to live in close quarters.  The photo's description tells us:

The camp at Vereeniging was set up in September 1900, and by October 1901 housed 185 men, 330 women and 452 children. It had no direct water supply - water was brought by cart - and there were only 24 latrines. Most inmates lived in bell-tents and there was a dispensary and a school.

In a timeline regarding the concentration camps, South African History Online references letters and reports dealing with the ever-worsening plight of nearly 120,000 camp inmates. 

This entry, for 21 November 1901, includes comments from Acting State President S.W. Burgers and State Secretary F.W. Reitz directed to the British Prime Minister:

This removal [of Boer families from their homes] took place in the most uncivilised and barbarous manner, while such action is … in conflict with all the up to the present acknowledged rules of civilised warfare. The families were put out of their houses under compulsion, and in many instances by means of force … (the houses) were destroyed and burnt with everything in them … and these families among them were many aged ones, pregnant women, and children of very tender years, were removed in open trolleys (exposed) for weeks to rain, severe cold wind and terrible heat, privations to which they were not accustomed, with the result that many of them became very ill, and some of them died shortly after their arrival in the women's camps.

Displaced Africans were also forced to live in concentration camps.  After a commission was appointed to examine conditions in the white camps, Emily Hobson and others raised concerns that a similar undertaking had not occurred for the black camps.  The following is noted in the timeline for the 24th of March, 1902:

Mr H.R. Fox, Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society, after being made aware by Emily Hobhouse of the fact that the Ladies Commission (Fawcett Commission) ignored the plight of Blacks in concentration camps, writes to Joseph Chamberlain, Colonial Secretary. He requests that such inquiries should be instituted by the British government “as should secure for the natives who are detained no less care and humanity than are now prescribed for the Boer refugees”. On this request Sir Montagu Ommaney, the permanent under-secretary at the Colonial Office, is later to record that it seems undesirable “to trouble Lord Milner … merely to satisfy this busybody”.

Media Credits

Photo and its description online, courtesy UK National Archives.  Catalogue reference: CN 3/47 (1901).

Quoted passages from "The Plight of Women & Children in White Concentration Camps during the Anglo-Boer War," courtesy South African History Online.


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"Boer War - Vereeniging Concentration Camp" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Aug 17, 2019.
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