How the British invented the concentration camps
The prototype of the English concentration camps in Africa and around the world were probably camps in the state of New Mexico, where the US Army collected Navajo, Cherokee, and Mescalero before the formation of reservations. From 1863 to 1868, more than 3,500 people died there from hunger and disease. “Shooting by the Americans turned millions of redskins into hundreds of thousands, and this modest remnant is now kept in a cage under observation,” Adolf Hitler described in a 1928 speech.
That's what preceded this ...
The first Dutch settlements in South Africa appeared in the middle of the 17th century. Later there came the Germans and French Protestants. The settlers will be called Boers, they themselves - Afrikaners. Using the labor of black slaves, the Europeans quickly developed agriculture. The Cape colony flourished.
Reference:The Cape Colony was founded by Jan van Rybeck in 1652 in a bay near the Cape of Good Hope. Managed by the East India Company. Became the most successful among the projects for the resettlement of Europeans to Africa.
The colony occupied an extremely important position on the sea routes from Europe to Asia, and in 1806 the British Empire took it away from the weakened Holland.The Boers lived in relative peace with the British until 1834, when the “Act prohibiting slavery” came into force. The settlers did not think of doing business without forced labor of Africans and decided to start all over again. About 15 thousand people went deep into the continent, where they created the republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
The new region turned out to be rich in gold and diamonds. In the Boer republics, English miners, the Wheatlanders, rushed. Paying heavy taxes, migrants demanded civil rights. But there were so many Englishmen that they could come to power through elections. The Boers slowed down, the Wheatlanders insisted, the British Empire kindled. In 1899, the war began.
Boer War. In the photo on the left - the trench of the Boers, on the right - the position of the British, 1900. Source: Imperial War Museums / Wikipedia
The forces of the parties were hopelessly unequal. During the three years of hostilities, the empire increased its contingent to 450 thousand soldiers - against 83 thousand Afrikaners and 3 thousand foreign volunteers.
But the locals were great trackers and snipers. Having lost cities, they scattered over farms and inflicted painful blows to the enemy in the back. To destroy the partisans, they had to be deprived of bases and popular support. The British began a final solution to the Boer question.
The imperial army turned to the scorched-earth tactics. Farm burned to the ground. Fields sprinkled with salt to deprive fertility. Corpses were thrown into wells to poison water. Captured men were taken outside the country.
All women, children and elderly people were taken from their homes to tent “concentration camps”. Officially they were called "Refugee" (rescue sites). There were 45 for whites and 64 for blacks.
The administration did not intend to kill the camp inmates intentionally. Make significant efforts to solve supply and sanitation problems too.
A typical weekly ration for a white adult woman was to be 3 kilograms of flour, 900 grams of meat (usually canned), 100 grams of salt, 300 grams of sugar, 170 grams of coffee. According to calculations, he gave 30% less calories from the required minimum.
The situation was greatly complicated by frequent disruptions in food supplies. If the head of the family was listed as belligerent in the Boer army, his wife and children received food last or received a special ration without meat. By this, the relatives of the partisans were doomed to hunger. They were hit with measles, typhoid fever and dysentery.
In January 1901, English activist Emilia Hobhaus, founder of the Foundation for Women and Children in South Africa, visited several camps. She was shocked.
“I SAW THE CROWD THEM: IN THE COLD, UNDER THE RAIN, HUNGRY, SICK, DYING AND ALREADY DEAD. SOAP WAS NOT. WATER NOT ENOUGH. BEDS AND MATTRESSES ARE NOT PROVIDED. FUEL WAS A LITTLE, PEOPLE HAVE SEEKED HIM IN THE BUSH. WAVES WERE EXTREMELY SKUCH AND, AS I OFTEN OBSERVED, IT WAS DISCUSSED LESS THAN WHICH WAS PRESENTED. ”
In May, Hobhaus returned home and submitted a report on what she saw to the British government.
Since the autumn of 1900, Great Britain was ruled by the government formed by the Conservative Party. The Hobhaus report became a trump card in the hands of the opposition. The leader of the liberals, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, accused the authorities of using "barbaric methods."
Photos of exhausted and sick people hit the world press. Issue prisoners for refugees failed. In the camps, 50 children died each day.
An employee of one of the concentration camps wrote home: “The theory that only weak children die is fundamentally wrong, and after they leave this world, the mortality rate will decrease. Now those who were considered strong are dying. And they will all be dead by spring. ”
In the concentration camps, there was a two-tier food distribution system: the families of the men, who still continued to fight against the British army, received even smaller rations than the rest.Poor housing, poor nutrition and lack of hygiene led to the rapid spread of diseases such as measles, typhoid fever, and dysentery, especially among children. Many people died in such conditions. The bodies of the dead were unloaded into wagons and taken out of the camp. Were buried 4-5 in one grave. On the same cars from the city to the camp delivered rations.
Feminist Millicent Fossett led the official commission, which checked the conditions of the Boers and confirmed the findings of Emilia Hobhaus. To save the situation (and the reputation of the Conservative Party), the military administration in the concentration camps was replaced by a civilian. The number of medical personnel was increased, nutrition was improved. For work in the camp paid money that could be spent in the grocery stall.
In the meantime, the command of the British army decided not to evacuate the camps of women and children captured during the “sweeps.” This was not caused by considerations of humanity, quite the contrary. Thus, the burden of responsibility for the life of the civilian population among the burned farms and destroyed fields fell on the Boer guerrillas. They were deprived of mobility and food supplies.
By February 1902, the death rate among white prisoners in the camps decreased by almost 4 times and soon became lower than in most cities in England. But by this time about 26 thousand people had died, of which 24 thousand were children. The exact number of dead black Africans cannot be determined.
WHAT WAS NEXT:
- On May 31, 1902, the Afrikaners admitted defeat. The British Crown gained power over the Transvaal and the Orange State. Self-government was promised to the white population of the republics, amnesty was promised to the prisoners of war, and farmers would be compensated for the losses.
- To improve the economic situation after the war and to compensate for the loss of population in South Africa, the British organized the migration of 50 thousand Chinese.
- In 1971, one of the three submarines of the South African Navy was named after Emilia Hobhaus.