The public holiday of 16 June is known as Youth Day, commemorating the death of 60 youths shot by police in 1976.
But for the Afrikaners 16 June signifies the day the British forces started the genocide of the Boer nation.
On 16 June 1900 Lord Robberts set the Proclammation in action which ordered the British forces to burn the property of the Boers and to force women and children into appalling concentration camps.
This year the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings (FAK) launched an initiative to inspire local residents to lay wreaths at concentration camp cemeteries.
On their Facebook the FAK wrote:
Today on Youth Day the Afrikaners remember the more than 22 000 concentration camp children who died, but also celebrate the heritage of the camp children who lived.
Out of the ash heaps of the scorched earth policy, they, through intense service, established an Afrikaans language, arose economically and bargained for a political solution for their children.
These all are inspiring stories that speak of faith, courage, endurance and victory.
In Potchefstroom this ceremony was organised by Heritage Potchefstroom Erfenis. Between 50 and 80 people, representing members of Heritage Potchefstroom Erfenis, AfriForum, the Totius Commando of the Voortrekkers and Solidariteit attended the ceremony.
It took place at the women’s monument, the large obelisk standing in the cemetery of the concentration camp at the east end of Burger Street, next to the church of the DR congregation Potchefstroom East.
.According to the inscription on the monument 967 children, 117 women and 57 men who died in the concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War were buried here.
To the people of Potchefstroom it was always important to remember these lost lives.
A local monument committee was founded to raise funds for the design and building of the obelisk. This was regarded as Potchefstroom’s own women’s monument after the National Women’s Monument was unveiled in Bloemfontein in 1913.
The widow of General Koos de la Rey unveiled the monument on the Day of the Covenant (16 December) 1918. About 5 000 to 8 000 people participated. A procession, led by horse riders, marched from the town to the concentration camp.
The tombstones in the cemetery were removed in 1963 when the cemetery was converted to a Garden of Remembrance. On 9 November 1963 the care of the Garden was handed over to the Potchefstroomse Afrikaanse Kultuurraad.
This was done during a ceremony when the cenotaph with the names all the people who died in the camp was unveiled by the State President, Adv CR Swart.
The ceremony on 16 June 2021 included a message by Ds Fanus Hansen of the Potchefstroom East DR Church. The church currently takes care of the cemetery.
Johan Wolfaardt told the heart-wrenching and harrowing story of the concentration camp in Potchefstroom.
The ceremony was concluded with the laying of wreaths and flowers by various organisations and individuals. The first wreath was laid by Miems Lamprecht on behalf of Heritage Potchefstroom Erfenis.
The Potchefstroom concentration camp was at one time the largest in the Transvaal. As in every other concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War circumstances were critical. A measles epidemic swept through the camp during the winter of 1901, causing the death of over a thousand children.
Details on this will be included in my article on the Potchefstroom concentration camp, which will be published in a few days’ time. If you want to receive an email alert for my articles on the history of Potchefstroom, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the Herald article on the event.