The Undesirables

February 26, 2014

Tags: Lizzie van Zyl

When I started researching the second Anglo-Boer War for a project that would turn into the novel THE UNDESIRABLES, I almost immediately came across a picture that convinced me it was a topic worth examining. It was a haunting image of an emaciated young girl, Lizzie van Zyl, near death in a British concentration camp.

I thought I had a fair knowledge of world history, but it came as a surprise that the British were the first to engage in the widespread use of concentration camps during the Boer War -- not the Nazis during the Holocaust some four decades later.

During the latter stages of this war, which set South Africa aflame, the British burned some 30,000 Boer farm homes and interned untold thousands of civilians --Boer and native -- mostly women and children. The reported death toll in these poorly administered camps was nearly 30,000, victims of disease and malnutrition. That total was far greater than the combined casualties of the actual combatants on both sides during the entirety of the war.

Lizzie van Zyl.

Comments

  1. February 17, 2016 5:47 AM EST
    In the middle of this story now,as a South African I feel the author has got such a good perception of what it must have been like during that war.
    Its very sad and if anyone can go to the revamped monument in Bloemfontein, the atmosphere around there makes a person so aware of what these people lived through.
    - Nan Hodgson
  2. February 17, 2016 9:53 AM EST
    Thanks for the comment, Nan. The research was very difficult at times, emotionally, which reinforced in my mind the need for the story to be told.
    - Dave Boling

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