South Africa


On 4 September 1939, Prime Minister J.B.M. Hertzog, an anti-British proponent of neutrality, was deposed in favour of Jan Smuts, who declared war on Germany on 6 September. While the the Herenigde Nasionale Party opposed Smuts in parliament, the pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag actively carried out sabotage against Smuts' government, leading to the jailing of its leaders. During the War, the South African army contributed to Allied efforts in East and North Africa as well as Italy and the Balkans while the South African Air Force undertook supply missions in support of the Warsaw Uprising and reconnaissance missions in Poland, which included taking reconnaissance photographs of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

In 1880, the Jewish population of South Africa numbered approximately 4,000, but by 1914 it had grown to more than 40,000 due to immigration, mostly from Lithuania. Between 1920 and 1930, 20,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in South Africa. During the 1930s, Jewish immigration was increasingly restricted: while the Quota Act of 1930 was designed to curtail the immigration of Jews from Eastern Europe, the 1937 Aliens Act, motivated by a sharp increase from the previous year in the number of German Jewish refugees, brought migration to almost a complete halt. As the South African Jewish community faced mounting antisemitism, a total of approximately 6,500 Jews came to South Africa from Germany between the years 1933 and 1939. In 1939, Jews numbered approximately 90,000 out of a total population of 10,160,000.

Archival Situation

The National Archives and Records Service of South Africa (NARSSA) oversees a relatively centralized state archive system.

EHRI Research (Summary)

EHRI has yet to determine the exact number and importance of South African archival holdings for Holocaust research, but it is likely that there are relevant collections to be found in the National Archives, university archives and Jewish community institutions, such as the Jacob Gitlin Library. It is also worth noting that the Holocaust memorials in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are hubs for Holocaust education and commemoration in the country.