‘Boerejode’: Jewish fighters honoured with monument

2012-08-07 00:00

A MONUMENT to Jewish fighters who fought on the Boer side was unveiled at Platrand near Ladysmith yesterday, 111 years after the end of the Anglo-Boer War.

Most of the 300 to 350 so-called “Boerejode” who fought were recent immigrants from eastern Europe to the Boer republics and were not obliged to join up, said military historian David Saks.

“They could, like other Jews, have chosen to remain neutral and gone to live in exile on the coast,” Saks said.

Mary Kluk, chairperson of the Jewish Board of Deputies, told guests at the unveiling of the monument to 12 fallen Jewish fighters that the war was a civil conflict between English and Afrikaners in which Jews and black people fought on both sides.

A monument to Jews who died on the English side was unveiled in 1902 at the Kimberley synagogue.

The role of the “Boerejode” was forgotten until Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz, the chief rabbi of the Transvaal, began to investigate in the 1940s.

One of the gaps in the history of the war was filled with yesterday’s unveiling, Saks said.

The memorial is near the Burger monument, a mass grave for Boer fighters killed in Natal.

Harry Spanier, the first “Boerejood” killed, died in a Boer ambush at Surprise Hill during the seige of Ladysmith.

“When one looks at a war it is easy to focus on the numbers.

“The Boerejode were only 300 individuals among 70 000 to 80 000 Boer fighters,” said Saks.

“But each of the fighters, Boer and Tommy, was someone’s father, brother, son or even grandfather.

“Every one of them was a world on his own,” said Saks.

The most notable of the fallen Jewish fighters was Veldkornet

H. Judelewitz, who after the Peace of Vereeniging, hung on as a so-called “Bittereinder” in the Prieska area of the Northern Cape, where he was known as the “Russian rebel”.

Kluk remarked that just as after the Anglo-Boer war the challenge for South Africa was to remember the past so people could learn from it and build a new future together.

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