By Penny Evans, blog journalist
At our meeting of the West Gauteng branch of the GSSA on 15 May 2010 Marie van der Walt (left) spoke about the book she had written entitled “Irene konsentrasiekamp 1901-1902. Die verhaal van Maria Johanna Prinsloo (gebore Malan). Gebore 13.10.1866 Oorlede 16.7.1944”
Marie and her husband Jan van der Walt have lived in Irene for 45 years and for them the Irene Concentration Camp has been a link with the past. It was here that her husband’s grandmother, Maria Johanna (Miemie) Prinsloo and her six children had been sent during the Anglo Boer War.
Miemie had been widowed when her husband Hendrik Frederick Cornelis Prinsloo was killed in action at Spioenkop on 26 January 1900. Tragically, in the space of two weeks, Miemie had to endure the loss of three of her children who had taken ill. Her children were buried in the concentration camp graveyard.
Miemie, born Malan was thirty five years old when she wrote the first of 10 letters to family members outside the concentration camp. From these letters it is apparent that she was perceptive and an excellent communicator. She gave factual reports about a wide variety of activities and of conditions prevailing in the camp. She wrote about poverty, illness, deaths, burials, poor medical care, overpopulation and inadequate housing, about the cold, windy weather and the leaking tent.
She also wrote of her longing for her family, her home and farm. She was anxious about everyone’s well being.
Despite her own suffering she was able to care about others and be of support to them.
Her letters are witness to a woman of very strong faith and courage, who was able to thank The Lord for the blessings she had.
Through her letters, and in her own way, Miemie has helped to record a small part of our nation’s history. These letters have been handed over to the Heritage Foundation for safe keeping.
Marie van der Walt wrote this book as a tribute to the memory of this Prinsloo family.