Tag: Concentration Camp

Forgotten Children

One of the many aspects of gravehunting is the finding of children’s graves. It is is inevitable that children are often the most vulnerable when they are still very young, and, the earlier one goes back in our history, the more precarious that young life could be. Often you encounter the graves of children that die shortly after being born, and often enough their mothers would die with them, or shortly afterwards. 

Occasionally their lives would be cut short by disease or illness; childhood diseases like measles or diphtheria were often fatal to a young child, and while their gravestones very rarely mention their causes of death, you can only imagine the heartbreak that must have existed in the household when a baby or toddler was taken from them. In some cases more than one child is remembered on a headstone, and often a parent may be remembered on the child’s headstone.

Equally poignant are the small statues that often decorate the half sized graves, statues that usually are the first to be vandalised, and in some cases there are rows of beheaded statues in children’s plots, or small porcelain feet are all that is left of the cherub or angel that once adorned the child’s grave. The much used “never forgotten” phrase is also common, but in many of the cases not only are the parents of those children long departed themselves, but, even the next generation are well into their middle ages and the existence of these children is now in the realm of the genealogist or, a curious gravehunter like myself. 

I have two children’s graves in my family, the one closest to me is of a 1st cousin called Rita, who drowned at the age of 4 and who is buried in Sterkfontein Cemetery in Krugersdorp, I do remember her as a naughty, curly haired moppet, 6 years younger than myself, who doted on her grandfather, but alas there was not a lot of love from her mother. I found her grave awhile ago, and there is no headstone, and even the exact position is difficult to ascertain due to the layout of the plot.  But in my family tree I have her marked down and I know that she existed.

RIP. Rita Elizabeth Kyriacou. 06 Sept 1967 – 20 Mar 1971

I also have graves that I visit when I am at certain cemeteries which have a special place in my heart, one being that of a child who is buried with her soldier father in Brixton Cemetery, and the other is that of Claire Wallace, daughter of the writer Edgar Wallace in Braamfontein.

My latest find is a simple grave that says “Pookety” engraved on it; in Burgershoop Cemetery in Krugersdorp.  I have no idea of the gender or age, but with a bit of investigation I may be able to find out more, assuming that the graves around it are numbered consecutively.
 
Another of my heartbreak graves is probably one of the older graves in the Johannesburg area. Two sisters: Anna Maria, and Cecilia Maria Smit, aged 13 and 10 respectively, were struck by lightning on 01 Dec 1876. They were buried in the farm cemetery very close to where I worked and they were possibly killed on the very farm where our office was.  Today we are so divorced from these two girls who died 136 years ago that it is very unlikely that any of their family even know that they existed.
 

Of course childhood deaths can be seen in any cemetery, there is a large plot in Braamfontein Jewish Cemetery where many stillborns or babies are buried in unmarked graves. And while their burial is recorded in the register, there is no real way to know the grave numbers as these have been lost/stolen over the years. By the same token, a large section in Brixton Cemetery is given over to children’s graves, and many of those are marked in the register as “unknown”.  Lives that came about and never saw fruition. 

Children's plot. Braamfontein Jewish cemetery.

Children’s plot. Braamfontein Jewish cemetery.

I have always considered that children’s graves are very special and they often reflect the love of a parent for a child. In some cemeteries toys and mementos abound on those small graves, in others simple words of affection are engraved on simple headstones, but often there is just an empty space where a headstone should have been, the name known only to those who laid it to rest, or who wrote it in the register. And just maybe in some faded family album somewhere there is a photograph but nobody knows who the photograph is of.

My final thought goes to the many thousands of children who were lost in the concentration camps during the Boer War, or in any conflict for that matter. Their lives should not have been about struggling or pain, but about experiencing the joy of childhood and the smiles and love of parents. 

 

I am not finished with “Pookety” yet, I hope to identify the grave one day, and I hope to stop by at Baby Sol’s grave, and visit Claire again, and I will pass the memorial to the children that died in the Westdene bus disaster, and pause to photograph an angel, and read a faded inscription, and get all soppy and sentimental because often those silent memorials speak more to me than any elaborate granite monolith ever can.

A postscript.
I returned to Burgershoop on 17 September 2012 and catalogued the graves around Pookety, and after consulting the register I am about 98% sure that the grave is that of  Gerald Norval Allen Watt, aged 6 months, buried in grave J1546, on 17 January 1918.

Pookety is the first grave on the left of the row.


© DRW  2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016 
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:56

Heidelberg Concentration Camp Cemetery

This post ties into the visit I made to Heidelberg in January 2012 but only deals with the Concentration Camp  graves in the Kloof and Camp Cemetery (aka Kampplaas). It is situated just outside Heidelberg and close to the N3 offramp. To be honest, the cemetery and concentration camp graves didn’t really leave much of an impression with me.  
 
The history of the camp may be found at http://www2.lib.uct.ac.za/mss/bccd/Histories/Heidelberg/

heidelberg_camp 005


I was led to believe that the graves were restored before these images were taken so I have no idea what condition they may have been in before.

 
 

The graves are mostly unmarked, and I do not know whether this is the original position of them or whether they are merely symbolic.
There are markers on some of the graves, but many of the markers are illegible after so many years.

I had originally missed the plaque that was on the road outside the camp (I have no idea how I missed it). but detoured to photograph it when I returned to Heidelberg in May 2012

In that visit I concentrated mostly on Kloof Cemetery which is really beautiful.

Between my original visit and this one a memorial wall had been erected with the names of the inmates of the camp that are buried in these two cemeteries.

Again it is difficult to know what graves are of victims, although if they were children and died between 1900 and 1902 the odds are quite large that they were. There are a few mounds amongst the graves and these had been “restored” so I can make the assumption that these were graves associated with the camp.

 
There are a number of scattered graves that do have illegible markers on them, but they are in the minority. In July 1901 measles struck and many of the graves probably belong to the children that died as a result of the epidemic. 
 
The irony is that this cemetery does hold a number of graves of Imperial soldiers who died during the ABW.  
 
There is also a small dedicated Jewish Cemetery at Kloof, and it did make an interesting diversion.
Strangely enough it also has a very fine collection of angels and statues that were worth photographing. There are two very impressive examples that I was amazed to find.
 
Kloof is a wonderful cemetery that holds a lot of history, and is really worth visiting, but it is in dire need of an information plaque that tells a bit more of the history of this site. All of the graves in Kloof have been photographed and may be seen at the relevant eGGSA Library page
 
Random Images of Kloof Cemetery
   
 
   
   
 
DRW © 2012 – 2020. Images recreated 22/03/2016, more images added 30/04/2017, links recreated 04/03/2018
Updated: 15/02/2020 — 09:42

Hello Heidelberg.

I have been planning a trip down to Heidelberg for quite some time. For starters there is an ABW and Concentration Camp Cemetery to see, as well as the long closed Transport Museum that I dealt with in a previous blog entry. And while there are CWGC graves in Heidelberg, they have already been photographed so I didn’t really have anything specific in mind to find gravewise. My plan was to visit 4 cemeteries (Kloof, Camp, Rensburg and Schuins Street), although that was all time and weather dependant.  Naturally the day I went to Heidelberg there was an accident at the Crown Interchange, causing me to have to make a detour, and anybody knows that in JHB that means delays and yet more delays.
 
I finally hit Heidelberg just after 10am. My first destination being the Camp Cemetery (aka Kampplaas). It is situated just outside Heidelberg and close to the N3 offramp. To be honest, the cemetery and concentration camp graves didn’t really leave much of an impression with me.  
 
  
There are more concentration camp victims buried in the Kloof cemetery, but that was last on my list. My next cemetery of call was the Schuins Street Cemetery, which I navigated to using my untrusty GPS. Amazingly I did not end up being sent via Bloemspruit. The cemetery is on a dirt road; on one side is the Muslim Cemetery, and on the other an old African cemetery. Both have CWGC graves in them which means they date from the 1940’s, although I suspect the African cem is much older.
 
The image above is of the Muslim area of the cemetery and it is well tended and orderly.  The African cem is in a poor condition, it is very overgrown and many headstones have been lost or destroyed over the years. It is fenced, but I believe there are even more graves close by in the veld. Again I was faced with the question: what to photograph? there is just so much, but so little is actually legible, so a few panos were taken and I headed off to my next destination: Rensburg Cemetery.
 
I believe that Rensburg was named after a farmer called Van Rensburg, who, during the Boer War, failed to get out of bed to report an incident on the railway lines, so the British authorities burnt his farm and confiscated his livestock, all because he slept late! The cemetery is on the edge of town and isn’t very big, but has a very interesting mix of older graves, but for some strange reason, half of it was cleared of vegetation, while the rest was a madhouse of blackjacks.
 
 
 
Rensburg completed, I headed off to Kloof Cemetery, and of all the cems I visited in Heidelberg, this was the grand old lady. It is a magnificent cemetery, the oldest grave I found being dated 1849, and there is a mix of everything in it, from ABW right through to “modern” graves.
 
The cemetery has an Imperial soldiers plot, as well as a Burghers plot, and there are also camp graves in it; I believe that these are deaths were caused by a measles epidemic and even today the mounds are still visible over 100 years since the deaths occurred.

Imperial war grave plot

I took a lot of photographs in this cemetery, and have added them to the relevant pages on the Eggsa website, but it is worthwhile making a return visit there one day, because hindsight often reminds one of the images that you should have taken but neglected to take.

Heidelberg Burgher Memorial

Heidelberg Burgher Memorial

It was almost time to leave, and on my way out of the town I paused to grab a pic of the magnificent NG Kerk (aka The Klipkerk) that was built in 1890.
 
  
As well as the beautiful old town hall with its elaborate globe fountain out front.
 
 
And a last look down the street, and it was time to go home. 
 
 
Mission accomplished. Heidelberg is a pretty town steeped in history, it is also one of those places that is passed en route to elsewhere, which is really a pity because with a lot of research I am sure there is a lot more to see. The big drawcard is the Transport Museum, if they can get that working again then I am sure rail enthusiasts would be there like a shot.  I had an enjoyable day, and took over 560 photographs, so it was all worthwhile in the end.

I returned to Heidelberg in May 2012 and revisited the old cemetery and a number of other places in the town. Read about that visit here 

 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated and links fixed 22/03/2016, some images added 30/04/2017
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:55
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