Last week, I stumbled upon the name Fritz Joubert Duquesne. His wikipedia page describes his life as a Boer in the Second Boer War through his work as a German spy in the US during World War II. He was captured along with 32 other German spies in the Duquesne spy ring in 1941 (one of the most important espionage cases in US history).
Much of Duquesne’s life reads like an adventure novel: he travels the world, fighting for one country or another, gets captured and charms his way out of prison, becomes a spy and holds lifelong vendettas. In the process of learning about this story, I read a lot about the Second Boer War, which was quite interesting. The difference in fighting styles between the British and Boers made for tactical asymmetries in both directions. I’d like to learn more about it in the future.
One thing that struck me was this:
While Duquesne was in the British army, they passed through his parent’s farm in Nylstroom which he found destroyed under Kitchener’s scorched earth policy. He also learned that his sister was murdered and his mother was dying in a British concentration camp. Duquesne was horrified and outraged, and made it his life’s work to take revenge on Kitchener and the British.
The fact that mistreatment of Boers at the turn of the century lead him to sabotage British ships in WWI and spy for the Germans in WWII shows how significant the effect was. It seems that there are some easy comparisons to make with western countries’ actions in the Middle East, too.
I didn’t know about the concentration camps used by the British in the Boer War. That was the first time the word “concentration camp” was used, though it’s not the first time something has fit the definition. From what I’ve read, they were nothing compared to the Nazi ones, though. Ha, what a weak compliment!