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Title:'Enemy aliens' in wartime: civilian internment in South Africa during World War I
Authors:Manz, StefanISNI
Dedering, TilmanISNI
Periodical:South African Historical Journal (ISSN 1726-1686)
Geographic term:South Africa
World War I
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/02582473.2016.1246593
Abstract:This article explores the previously neglected history of civilian internment in South Africa during World War I. German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish nationals were classified as 'enemy aliens'. They included mostly male immigrants, but also several hundred women and children deported from Sub-Saharan colonial contact zones. The main camp was Fort Napier in Pietermaritzburg, holding around 2,500. Based on sources in South African, German and British archives, this multi-perspectival enquiry highlights the salience of the South African case and integrates it into wider theoretical questions and arguments. The policy of civilian internment was rolled out comprehensively throughout the British Empire. Not least lessons learnt from the South African War (1900-1902), when Britain had been widely criticised for harsh conditions in its camps, led to relatively humane prisoner treatment. Another mitigating factor was the pro-German sympathies of the Afrikaner population. Nevertheless, suffering occurred through isolation and deportation. Remembering the First World War mainly as a 'soldiers' war' on the Western Front generates too narrow a picture. Widening the lens on civilians of both sexes in overseas territories supports notions of war totalisation. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]