Remembering a genocide

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Events, Forgotten Heroes, People | 0 comments

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.

Johan Wolfaardt, chairman of Heritage Potchefstroom Erfenis, listens to Ds Fanus Hansen speaking at the wreath-laying ceremony on 16 June 2021. They are standing in front of the women’s monument erected in 1918 to commemorate the people who died in the Potchefstroom camp

.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.

Bundled up against the chill of the winter morning, Renier van Rensburg (5) could enjoy the splashes of yellow in the wreath he helped to lay at the women’s monument on 16 June 2021. This was in stark contrast to the hundreds of children who lost their lives in the concentration camp from 1900 to 1903, due to illnesses contracted as a result of exposure to cold and a lack of nourishing food.

Remembering 1918

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 committee who was responsible for the raising of funds for the building of the women’s monument at the concentration camp cemetery. They were (front) PP van den Berg (chairman), Mrs D van Swieten, PC Albertijn (secretary) and HA Fourie. Behind them are AH Koomans, Johan Schutte, C Olen and Simon Schoeman. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

The women’s monument was made by CF Kirkbride, a well-known maker of tombstones in Potchefstroom. This was his advertisement in a publicity brochure, published in 1912, called Beautiful Potchefstroom.

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.

Leading the procession on their way to the concentration camp cemetery on 16 December 1918 some horse riders are seen crossing the Mooi River at the east end of Lombard Street. Photo: TAB

The horse riders were followed by men in dark suits and women in white dresses marching from town to the concentration camp cemetery on 16 December 1918 to attend the unveiling of the women’s monument. Photo: TAB

Some of the attendees of the 1918 unveiling of the women’s monument arrived by car. The pillars visible in the middle of this photo are still standing at the east end of Bremner Street. Photo: TAB

The large crowd attending the unveiling of the women’s monument in Potchefstroom on 16 December 1918. Photo: TAB

Students from the Potchefstroom University cleaned the concentration camp cemetery in 1951 according to the report in Wapad, the student newspaper of the PU. The white tombstones are still visible in the bottom photo.

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.

In 1965 the title deed of the concentration camp cemetery of Potchefstroom was officially handed to the past chairman of the Potchefstroom branch of the Afrikaanse Kultuurraad, Prof JAL Taljaard. On the photo is Prof Taljaard, Dr MA Heyns (mayor) AJP Burger (chairperson of the Vyfhoek-Noord managing committee), JC Combrinck, chairman of the Afrikaanse Kultuurraad and GJS Coetzee (secretary of the Kultuurraad). The photo appeared in the Herald on 1 October 1965 and was taken by Piet van Maarleveld (Fotokuns).

Remembering 2021

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.

Shortly after the onlookers heard how many young children died in the concentration camp, a wreath was laid by young members of AfriForum, representing a lost generation who could have been their great grandparents had they lived. They are Renier Janse van Rensburg (5), Kathleen Crots (9), Dale-Eric Crots (11) and Chanté Janse van Rensburg (9).

A group of Voortrekkers of the Totius Commando of Potchefstroom also laid wreaths at the women’s monument on 16 June 2021.


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

Read the Herald article on the event.


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