musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

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 © 2012-2018. Images recreated 22/03/2016, more images added 30/04/2017, links recreated 04/03/2018
Updated: 09/05/2018 — 12:52

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

Heilbron. 16/17-11-2011

On the 16th of November I went down to Bethlehem to rediscover some of my roots, and along the  way I passed the sleepy little town of Heilbron. It’s almost midway between Bethlehem and Johannesburg and has a wonderful old cemetery and an equally impressive ABW memorial. I visited the cemetery on my way to Bethlehem and on my return,  and that alone made my trip worthwhile. I was sent images of the Concentration Camp Memorial  on a previous occasion, but now need to relook those.  
The cemetery is simple to find, it is literally the first place you pass on your left hand side as you turn onto Langemark Street.  Its not too small, and has a Concentration Camp plot, and an Imperial Soldiers plot too.

Concentration Camp Memorial

According to the plaque on the memorial, 781 women and children lost their lives in the camp. I do not know whether the cement slabs are actual graves or symbolic ones, but given that a number of memorials are on individual graves it is possible that the former is the case.
Portion of the Concentration Camp plot

Portion of the Concentration Camp plot

(1500x604)

(1500×604)

The Imperial Soldiers plot has roughly 42 individual headstones as well as a standard SA War Graves Board monument similar to the one found at Braamfontein, Burghershoop and Primrose. The plot is loosely fenced and well tended, although I suspect that the graves had been redone recently in line with the other Imperial Soldier graves.

Imperial Soldiers Plot

The memorial lists the names of of soldiers who were originally buried at Kromellenboog, Wolvehoek, and Heilbron. They were subsequently reburied in this cemetery. There are other interesting ABW era graves in the cemetery and I suspect a few Burghers may have found their way here too. 

On my way home from Bethlehem I stopped at the Riemland Museum which was closed, and then discovered the Heilbron  Anglo Boer War Memorial. What really made this one even better was the stunning NG Kerk Heilborn Moedergemeente Church behind it. Its a magnificent building in an immaculate condition, but unfortunately its cornerstone evaded me so I was not able to put a date to it.

The ABW Memorial with the NG Kerk behind it.

As usual the sun was in the wrong spot to get a very clear image of the church and memorial, but the memorial is an attractive one and contains the names of Burghers who lost their lives in the ABW, presumably from this district.
 

 

The Church from the side gate

The Church from the side gate

It is not easy to cap seeing something like this when you pass through a small town. The museum  looked like a fascinating place to. A tantalising plaque explained that “This stone was unveiled by J Festenstein, President Heilbron Hebrew Congregation. 3 January 1912.” The Titanic was almost completed by then.

Heilbron was definitely a historical place, I am just curious what else could have been hiding in that small sleepy town. Next time I am going to go do some research first and take a bit more time to see what may be hidden away from the passer-thru. I do have to try find out where the Concentration Camp was situated, and I really need to date that church.
 
DRW ©  2011-2019. Images recreated 20/03/2016
Updated: 08/04/2019 — 19:12

Vereeniging Concentration Camp Cemetery

When I went to this cemetery I was looking for war graves and was not even aware that there were any concentration camp graves in it. The cemetery is also known as Beaconsfield Cemetery, but it was originally known as Vereeniging Old Town Cemetery. There are 48 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War in the cemetery. 
 
 
The history of the associated concentration camp may be found at British Concentration Camps of the South African War.  When I visited it the cemetery was in a very poor condition, with uncut grass, vandalised buildings and the feel that the local municipality were not interested in maintaining it in any sort of condition.  It was also very exposed with very limited shade and few trees.   
 
I also recall it was very hot day and finding the graves I was after was a very difficult task, but I did manage to find them all. However, the concentration camp graves are a different story. These were made out of sandstone and were already in a poor condition in the 1960’s (http://es.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Vereeniging-CCC.pdf).
 
A double sided screen wall lists the names and date of death of those who died in the camp.
 
  
 
The site was restored in September 2011 by a team from the Erfenis Stigting so they may be in a different (and better) condition to what they were when I originally saw them in 2008. There are only 29 visible graves and I did not photograph all of them, many are just marked “Onbekend”.
 
 
The majority of deaths in this camp were from measles and not British soldiers as seems to be the general consensus. Childhood diseases proved to be as effective at causing deaths during the ABW as enteric fever was.
 
 
The sad state of this cemetery is indicative of  the poor state of maintenance in many small town cemeteries, and the poor state of the concentration camp graves is indicative of those who are quick to apportion blame for the deaths on the British, but who have never picked up a weedeater and gone out there to restore the graves of their own people.   More images of the cemetery are available at eggsa 
 
DRW @ 2008-2019. Recreated images 06/02/2016, link recreated 05/03/2018 
Updated: 09/04/2019 — 08:13

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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