musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Boer

Suideroord Concentration Camp Cemetery

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 © 2008-2019. Images recreated 04/03/2016
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:18

Krugersdorp Concentration Camp Cemetery

The many victims of Krugersdorp Concentration Camp are buried in Burgershoop Cemetery in Krugersdorp, and I have been in that cemetery on a number of occasions since I first went there in June 2008. That visit was not about the camp cemetery but more about the military graves in the cemetery. 

Cemetery main entrance

When I originally made that visit the camp cemetery was in a dismal state, as was the whole cemetery for that matter. The grass was uncut, weeds were everywhere, and frankly I could not understand why those who continually raise the issue of the camps were not in there tending the graves!

By the time I left South Africa in 2013 the cemetery, and particularly the concentration camp graves were in a much better condition; the latter being restored by the Erfenis Stigting. As a result most of the images I am using are from June and September 2012. Notice the difference?

From what I have read, the Concentration Camp was established on 19 May 1901, and was one of the biggest camps in the Transvaal with 5488 people in the camp. It was situated north east of what is now Coronation Park on the site of what is now the Dr Yussaf Dadoo Hospital. A blockhouse; Fort Harlech, one of the few still remaining today, overlooks the site. 

Burgershoop Cemetery is literally “up the road” from the concentration camp site and it contains a wide variety of graves ranging from concentration camp deaths, to Jameson Raid, Boer War, both World Wars, miners and ordinary people.

It is difficult to know what the death rate was for the camp, but one source mentions that there are over 1800 concentration camp graves in the cemetery. The stone for the crematorium was unveiled on 13 December 1961.

As far as I can tell the grave markers are symbolic, and very few are actually marked as belonging to a specific person, this is one of the exceptions.

Most of the graves are of a similar pattern, a rectangular kerb with a headstone engraved “Konsentrasiekamp 1899-1902, Rus in Vrede” and filled in with pebbles as below.  

 

Restoration started in 2011 and not only the concentration camp were being restored, but other ABW were getting attention. 

The cemetery is a very historic one, and it is sad that it had reached such a state of disrepair, but given that it seems to be a common problem this attention it was receiving was very welcome. More information on the camp may be found at  the British Concentration Camps of the South African War website

It is tragic to walk amongst these unmarked graves and to try to imagine the funerals that passed this way over a century ago, and to know that even today the bitterness still remains as does the hatred of the British. I have learnt one thing though; there are two sides to every story, and when I was in school we were only taught one side; and therein lays the tragedy because I was never told about the Black Concentration Camps. That bit of information was conveniently left out when the hand wringing was being done and blame being apportioned.

 

The Krugersdorp Native Refugee Camp was situated on the farm Roodekrans, and later they were relocated to the farm Waterval.  There are no visible graves for those victims that I am aware of. The sites of those camps are probably inaccessible and it is doubtful whether there would be anything to see anyway.  

 

Burgershoop cemetery in general.

Burgershoop is also the final resting place of many people, and it was quite an interesting cemetery to walk around because of the diverse range of graves in it. Unfortunately I never really felt safe here at all, and never really ventured far from my car. I did however cover a lot of ground and saw many things that saddened me. One area of the cemetery has a preponderance of children’s graves and the small statues have often been the targets of vandalism at some point. 

This small plot is next to the the Jewish section that used to be fenced at some point but the fence was very porous when I last visited. 

Incidentally the Krugersdorp Prison faces onto the Jewish Cemetery and it sounds like a very noisy place.  

There is also a crematorium at the cemetery and it was in use while I was there. 

There is a small Muslim burial area too at the bottom of the cemetery and I have images of it when it was very overgrown and from when I visited in 2011 which showed that it had been cleaned up.

Muslim burial plot. (1500×393)

A register does exist, and it is arranged in date order, from 1904 to 1940 although the first 3 pages are taken up by children’s graves. The register used to be held at Sterkfontein Cemetery in Krugersdorp, but that may no longer be true. You were also able to get lookups done at Sterkfontein (last info was 2012).  An accurate cemetery map did not really exist when I was there so I started to create my own based on two that they had at Sterkfontein. Unfortunately I did not finish that project so use this map at your own risk

 

Random images

(1500×441)

Burgershoop Cemetery may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates 26°6.164’S 27° 45.610′.

DRW 2008-2019. Images recreated 04/03/2016, Link recreated 05/02/2018, some images added 02/06/2019

Updated: 02/06/2019 — 16:00
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