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The Undesirables

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.
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