“The frightful mortality of the concentration camps was the second reason given for laying down arms. “Secondly, that the placing of our families in the concentration camps has brought an unheard of condition of suffering and sickness, so that in a comparatively short time about 20 000 of our beloved have died there, and that the horrid probability has arisen that by continuing the war our whole nation may die out in this way.”
Obviously, the potential extermination of their entire nation could not be viewed with equanimity by the Boer leaders. Writing in the London Times, 13.12.1903, Lord Courtney commented: “When they heard of the horrors which had been heaped upon those closest and dearest to them – deserted in the field, robbed of provisions, clothing and covering – then their resolution gave way and they accepted peace.”
The Anglo/Boer War was the Afrikaners’ Holocaust, resulting in the deaths of perhaps 20% of the total Afrikaner population of the Transvaal and Orange Free State – most of them women and children. It ruined their farms and their country. The Afrikaners have never forgotten the martyrdom of their people. The whole land was filled with sorrow and misery: but the spirit of the people was undaunted. The Afrikaners were filled with an inexorable determination to survive.
This was a conflict on which no Britisher could look back with pride. But it did have one overwhelming effect. It created the Afrikaner nation. The moral victory was theirs. The Boer War may have been the Afrikaners’ greatest tragedy. It was also their finest hour.