concentration camp

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The term “concentration camp” was used to describe camps operated by the British in South Africa during the Second Boer War from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902, and the term grew in prominence during this period.

The camps had originally been set up by the British Army as “refugee camps” to provide refuge for civilian families who had been forced to abandon their homes for whatever reason related to the war. However, when Kitchener succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief in South Africa on 29 November 1900, the British Army introduced new tactics in an attempt to break the guerrilla campaign and the influx of civilians grew dramatically as a result. Kitchener initiated plans to

flush out guerrillas in a series of systematic drives, organised like a sporting shoot, with success defined in a weekly ‘bag’ of killed, captured and wounded, and to sweep the country bare of everything that could give sustenance to the guerrillas, including women and children … It was the clearance of civilians—uprooting a whole nation—that would come to dominate the last phase of the war.

lord kitchener

lord kitchener

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener KG (24 June 1850 – 5 June 1916) was a senior British Army officer and colonial administrator who won fame for his imperial campaigns and later played a central role in the early part of the First World War, although he died halfway through it.

As Boer farms were destroyed by the British under their “Scorched Earthpolicy—including the systematic destruction of crops and slaughtering of livestock, the burning down of homesteads and farms, and the poisoning of wells and salting of fields—to prevent the Boers from resupplying from a home base many tens of thousands of women and children were forcibly moved into the concentration camps. This was not the first appearance of internment camps. The Spanish had used internment in the Ten Years’ War that led to the Spanish–American War, and the United States had used them to devastate guerrilla forces during the Philippine–American 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.

Eventually, there were a total of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps.

The camps were poorly administered from the outset and became increasingly overcrowded when Kitchener’s troops implemented the internment strategy on a vast scale. Conditions were terrible for the health of the internees, mainly due to neglect, poor hygiene and bad sanitation. The supply of all items was unreliable, partly because of the constant disruption of communication lines by the Boers. The food rations were meager and there was a two-tier allocation policy, whereby families of men who were still fighting were routinely given smaller rations than others (Pakenham 1979, p. 505). The inadequate shelter, poor diet, bad hygiene and overcrowding led to malnutrition and endemic contagious diseases such as measles, typhoid and dysentery to which the children were particularly vulnerable. An additional problem was the Boers’ use of traditional medicines like a cow-dung poultice for skin diseases and crushed insects for convulsions. Coupled with a shortage of modern medical facilities, many of the internees died.

As the war raged across their farms and their homes were destroyed, many Africans became refugees and they, like the Boers, moved to the towns where the British Army hastily created internment camps. Subsequently, the “Scorched Earthpolicy was ruthlessly applied to both Boers and Africans. Although most black Africans were not considered by the British to be hostile, many tens of thousands were also forcibly removed from Boer areas and also placed in concentration camps.

Africans were held separately from Boer internees. Eventually there were a total of 64 tented camps for Africans. Conditions were as bad as in the camps for the Boers, but even though, after the Fawcett Commission report, conditions improved in the Boer camps, “improvements were much slower in coming to the black camps.”

Mother with her dead child – Boer War: Concentration camps.

Mother with her dead child – Boer War: Concentration camps.

For a long time, until the late 20th century, Afrikaners (Boers) didn’t like British (English) people, the United Kingdom and even the USA as an allie of the United Kingdom. They remembered the Brits destroying their farms, poisening their lands, and starving their women and children. Afrikaners (= Boers) call the Brits and white Anglo-Africans rooinek (Redneck). Probably a reference to the fact that Englishmen, being new to Africa, wore inadequate headgear (such as solar topees (pith helmets) or no hat at all) and thus sunburned more easily than Afrikaners. Other theories have it being a reference to the then red collars of British military uniforms, or to the red markings that British farmers put on their imported merino sheep.

Jaga, the British colonial regime was very tough in many African nations, in India, in Palestine and their Caribbean and South-American colonies. Nazi propaganda tended to glorify British institutions, and above all the British Empire. Adolf Hitler tried to court Britain into an alliance, his propaganda praised the British as proficient Aryan imperialists.

Typical of the Nazi admiration for the British Empire were a lengthy series of articles in various German newspapers throughout the mid-1930s praising various aspects of British imperial history, with the clear implication that there were positive parallels to be drawn between British empire-building in the past and German empire-building in the future.

A particular theme of praise was offered for Britishruthlessness” in building and defending their empire, which was held as a model for the Germans to follow. Above all, the British were admired as anAryanpeople who had with typical “ruthlessnesssubjected millions of brown- and black skinned people to their rule, and British rule in India was held up as a model for how the Germans would rule Russia, through as the historian Gerwin Strobl pointed out that this parallel between German rule in Russia and British rule in India was only made possible by the Nazis’ ignorance of how the British actually ruled India.

King Charles granted the The Stuart family and London merchants who owned the Royal African Company a monopoly of the trade to supply slaves to the British colonies of the Caribbean. From the outset, slavery was the basis of the British Empire in the West Indies. Until the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, Britain was responsible for the transportation of 3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic. To facilitate this trade, forts were established on the coast of West Africa, such as James Island, Accra and Bunce Island. In the British Caribbean, the percentage of the population of African descent rose from 25 percent in 1650 to around 80 percent in 1780, and in the 13 Colonies from 10 percent to 40 percent over the same period (the majority in the southern colonies). For the slave traders, the trade was extremely profitable, and became a major economic mainstay for such western British cities as Bristol and Liverpool, which formed the third corner of the so-called triangular trade with Africa and the Americas. For the transported, harsh and unhygienic conditions on the slaving ships and poor diets meant that the average mortality rate during the Middle Passage was one in seven.

 

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