The cemetery associated with the Johannesburg Concentration Camp in Turffontein is called Suideroord, and I went to examine it on 14 June 2008. I will admit that it did nothing for me, if anything it seemed so typical of government designed institutions, and to be frank it is probably the sort of place you would walk past every day and never really know what it was about.
The images I am using here are a mix of those I took originally and some that I took in 2012, they are almost interchangeble,
The fact that there was a concentration camp in Johannesburg is surprising, although logically it was inevitable, given the amount of refugees that were coming to the town. (Johannesburg was founded in 1886 so it was still a relatively new town).
The camp was situated in Turffontein, at the race course, although I have read that it was behind the track and not a part of the track. The truth I expect is somewhere in between. There are a number of rumours and conspiracy theories about this camp and logically some of them do leave more questions asked than answered, In fact that was probably my biggest argument about this “Memorial”, There is a decided lack of information at the actual site and nobody to ask! I suspect that is why Irene Concentration Camp Cemetery is a good one to visit, they have taken the time to tell history, and provide information as opposed to merely having a lot of puzzling memorials and not much else. To this day I still do not know whether there are any bodies actually buried at Suideroord. The big question is why are the people buried here and not in the municipal cemetery in Braamfontein? I suspect it has to do with the inmates being under the control of the military and the cemetery being under the municipality. I did read that the land had been donated specifically for the purpose of burials of inmates, but again I cannot positively confirm it.
The memorial consists of a series of coffin shaped terraces.
And you can only really appreciate that when you view the Google Earth image.
It would be interesting to know what the original layout of the cemetery was, but that information is probably gone forever. The names are listed on a plinth on the top terrace, and it is here where the plaque on my second image is found.
A number of the original headstones have been preserved in the small entranceway, but I am sure there were many more originally. Where have they all gone to?
The dedication plaque may also be found in this entryway.
There is also a plaque commemorating the original farm owners at the site.
As a piece of history the site is really important, however when it comes to understanding what you are seeing it fails dismally.
And I think this is part of the problem I have with the whole concentration camp saga. The version we were taught in school was highly skewed and did not contain any facts that would stand up to scrutiny, and those who froth and foam about the behaviour of the British do not stand at the gates of a place like this ready to cut grass or explain just what you are seeing. The truth has been left by the wayside, just like these memorials have been. The cemetery may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates -26.272334° 28.024066°
© DRW 2008-2018. Images recreated 04/03/2016