The Jewish Question in South Africa - Hendrik Verwoerd

The editor of Die Transvaler sets out a possible solution to the problem, October 1 1937

Translated by Jan Schaafsma and James Myburgh


Die Joodse Vraagstuk Besien vanuit Die Nasionale Standpunt.


Deur Dr. H. F. Verwoerd


Die Gevaarteken

Die betoging in die Kaapstadse hawe verlede jaar by die aankoms van die Stuttgart met honderde Joodse immigrante. [FOTO]


in Beroepe en die Sakewereld


There was a time when the accusation of racial hatred was made against the Afrikaner, solely when he came into conflict with the English, while pursuing his interests. Of course the Englishman's maintenance of his rights, and battle for his interests, was taken as natural and unobjectionable. However, the same Englishmen and their Afrikaans soul-mates tarred the same kind of actions by nationalist Afrikaners as arrogant, and motivated by hate.

Now suddenly, the same accusations of racial hatred are being made against the Nationalists, where a new conflict of material interests is occurring. However, in this case the hatred is supposedly directed at another population group, namely the Jews.

There is a striking similarity between the two cases. Once again, one must assume that some of the accusers mistakenly, but quite honestly believe that the Nationalist standpoint is derived solely from racial hatred. It is also certain that others make the accusation in a deliberate attempt to draw attention away from a debate on the merits of the case.

Naturally, the repeated use of this same method to attack National Party policy on each of the many race groups in the country will eventually destroy its credibility, even among the gullible. Nonetheless, it is important to unambigiously explain the attitude of the Nationalists towards the Jews.

Let it be stated straight out: the Nationalist does not hate the Jew-just as he does not hate the Englishmen or German or Russian or whoever. In the past, Jews did not attract the attention of the Party on the basis of their race and religion, nor were they considered when the latter developed its policy.

The National Party opinion and policy was shaped on this question, as in all others, by one great driving force only-the love of the members (lede) for their volk. This forces the Nationalist to take positive steps whenever the interests of the volk are threatened. And this love-rather than any negative feelings of hate-is what brings him into conflict with other groups.

This driving force is called patriotism-in the sense of a noble dedication to the nation-when it brings the national figures (volksmanne ) of other nations into conflict with those who threaten their national interest. Why should it be regarded as racial hatred when it lives in the heart of the Afrikaner?

Despite any feelings of injustice he might harbour, the Jew should be able to understand this urge amongst another people, since loyalty to his own (volkstrou) is so strongly inculcated in him. After all, the Jews are an immensely closely-knit racial and religious unit.

The fact that the same driving force is present amongst the Jewish community in the Union to a remarkable degree, has actually reinforced this botsing van belange (clash of interests) with the Afrikaners. During the recent immigration troubles this small minority within the country took up the cudgels on behalf of their compatriots against the great majority of the country.

They sacrficed selfish self-interest because they felt that their racial pride was under attack and because they wished to support their compatriots, however unknown they were to them. It was proof that the Jew stands by his own people, in the same way that the Nationalist would like to see every Afrikaner stand by his compatriots.

What then is the context of the National Party policy concening the Jew? A reflection on days gone by will shed some light on this background.

Prior to the discovery of diamonds and gold, Afrikaners dwelt mainly in the rural areas (plattelanders.) Following the initial discovery and mining of minerals only a few Afrikaners tried to benefit therefrom. Most preferred a life of freedom outside of the cities and were content to support themselves and their families through farming. Foreign immigrants (vreemdelinge), mostly from abroad, arrived in droves to manage the mining and commercial activities.

The Afrikanerboer did not feel that these immigrants competing with him, or his children, for the same occupations. He had as little desire or need to follow such occupations himself as he had to take the place of the wandering smous. This is why there no question of a botsing van belange at that stage, with the resultant actions, that could have been misinterpreted as originating in hate. Even the poorest smous enjoyed the hospitality of the Afrikaner.

Nowadays, some regret the migration of the Afrikaners to the cities. However, there is reason to regret that such a migration did not occur 80 years ago, when the urban development in our country was beginning to take off. If this had been the case, the Afrikaner would have gained their fair share (regmatige aandeel ) of the urban occupations, at the same time as the other population groups were entrenching themselves in them.

It should not be forgotten that many of the foreigners (vreemdelinge) who streamed in, had no capital and little learning, and often lacked any real knowledge of commerce and industry. Afrikaners would have had certain advantages in such a competition, for example in their knowledge of the country's languages and circumstances. But, they would have had to show one important trait the foreigners did display, namely the ability to adapt to the demands of urban life.

In these days of small beginnings (klein begin) people lacking in capital or knowledge could gain both by gradually growing their businesses. Be that as it may, there was no question of a botsing van belange, or hate, at that stage of the interraction between Afrikaners and the other groups. The former, and largest section of the country's population had chosen a way of life, and livelihood, on which the latter made very little impact.

In time a reason for conflict arose as the newcomers (inkomelinge), who had been welcomed so hospitably and who had increased their wealth so visibly, made a bid for political hegemony in their host's country.

They desired a joint say-not in order to co-operate for the general good of the country, but rather to promote their own interests. However, the Afrikaner regarded this political belangebotsing as a clash between themselves and English speakers. The Jews, who as fellow city-dwellers sided with the latter, were not regarded as a separate group. In other words, race and religion as such did not play a role.

There was a new development just prior to, and after, the Vryheidsoorlog. The entire system shifted from subsistence to commercial farming. Agricultural production for the open market-often on a large scale-resulted in an ever larger section of the rural population having to seek a living elsewhere.

Professional careers, which could be gained by education or learning, such as minister of religion, doctor, lawyer, teacher and civil servant, lay open. On the other hand, those who tried to find a livelihood as artisans encountered great difficulties as the English speakers who dominated these trades, protected their position through the organisation of trade unions.

This struggle by the Afrikaner to gain a foothold in the skilled and semi-skilled trades in his own country, was until very recently also regarded as a botsing van belange with the English-speaking section of the population. The development of a communist spirit among certain Jewish leaders is now altering this view.

During and after the World War the Afrikaans-speaking population, driven by the economic circumstances from the rural area, had to seek other sources of income, particularly in trade and industry.

In contrast with the previous era, it was no longer possible to start a business without capital or skills. New arrivals in the cities found that the established commercial and industrial concerns were in the hands of those who, 46 years before, had also begun with nothing, but who now possessed all the capital or skills. The Afrikaner was compelled to become a handlanger or subordinate (ondergeskikte ), often at a meager wage.

The situation would not have been so serious, if the owners and managers had been compatriots. The new entrants would have found work in businesses with an Afrikaans orientation. Their chances of promotion would have depended solely on their ability.

However, they found that these commercial enterprises and industries were in the hands of strangers (vreemdelinge) -English-speakers and latterly, mostly Jews. These people maintain a completely foreign atmosphere in their activities, despite the fact that they owe their existence to a population which is mainly Afrikaans speaking.


They took the lead

The group of Stellenbosch academics who addressed protest meetings in the wake of last year's arrival of the Stuttgart, and who greatly contributed to an awakening of national awareness on the one hand, and a prevention of arrogance on the other.


In the case of some Jewish shops, the business ethics and methods differed, at least to some degree, from those of Christians.

In this atmosphere, and under foreign masters, Afrikaner sons and daughters had to make a living in trade and industry. In many cases they discovered that Jewish owners filled the most important positions with racial compatriots, either because these positions were allocated according to family ties or race, or because their business acumen was trusted more. It is true that in some businesses Afrikaners have been promoted-some even to very senior positions.

In the case of English firms, this often only happened after such person's swore off his ties to his people in daily life. In the case of Jewish firms the owner, and the public too, felt that this was a good way of encouraging Afrikaans-speaking clients to patronise the business.

The Afrikaner volk began to realise with ever greater clarity that the Jewish community in particular, had a tight grip on the business concerns which offered the best chance for financial advancement, and that their sons and daughters could only attain subordinate positions in them.

This population group, which still keeps itself seperate and apart within the population, and which is indifferent or even hostile to the national aspirations of Afrikanerdom, is thus regarded as the group which also stands in the way of the Afrikaner's economic prosperity.

Recently there has been an even greater divergence between the material interests of Afrikaners and Jews. The younger generation of Jews is penetrating the professional occupations (e.g. doctors and lawyers) to an ever greater extent.

As long as Jews hold such great share of commerce and industry, becoming one of the most prosperous sections of the population (as a group), they are also able to largely annex some of the professions for their compatriots.

For example, the increase in the number of Jewish attorneys and advocates is largely the result of their compatriots' controlling the business concerns that pass on most of a lawyer's day to day work.

In other words, because this minority group has gained a dominant position in commerce and industry, it is not only able to make it enormously difficult for Afrikaners to gain access thereto, but it is also able to capture other professions in which Afrikaners had already established themselves.

Is it any wonder then that Afrikaners are beginning to feel that Jews have a chokehold on their continued existence?

This constitutes the botsing van belange that is responsible for the National Party's policy of ensuring that its own population group will share, proportionally, in all the opportunities and privileges the country has to offer. It does not begrudge any other population group its fair share, proportionate to its size.

Apart from the economic belangebotsing, there is another factor which comes into play. In many ways a country's future is determined by its government. This holds true for the national aspirations and economic prospects of a country.

The majority of the Jewish community does not live with the Afrikaner, nor do they share their ideals for the future of their country and people. Jews do show an interest in events in the political arena, but with an eye to personal advantage. Backed by capital accumulated from the exploitation of the country's resources, the Jewish community has become involved in the political struggle. The English press and political parties have been used to try and exert influence on governments of the day. No Afrikaner dare underestimate their political activities, which are aimed at hindering the cause of nationalism, and which must, by necessity, sharpen the botsing van belange.

Of course, nobody should lose sight of the fact that this belangebotsing, which has grown over the years, remained unnoticed at the outset. It only entered the nation's consciousness to its full extent, after it had been in existence for some time.

The developments in Germany, and the establishment of organisations in this country which have found their inspiration there, have helped to make Afrikaners aware of the situation which already exists in the Union. The attitude towards immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe in 1926-'30 is proof that the situation was not properly grapsed before. Despite intercession by prominent Jews, the general population's protest against the newcomers was not based on their Jewishness, but rather because they were an illiterate and undesirable class of persons who had also been turned away by other countries, such as the United States.

Last year the the awareness of the botsing van belange between Afrikaners and Jews had become so acute, that when the possibility of immigration from Germany of persons of higher standing, and in some cases much higher standing, came to the fore, there were protests against their arrival on the grounds that they were Jews.

The protest was not only led by the National Party as a political movement, but also by young professional Afrikaners who had attained a clear realisation of the circumstances as set out above, through the study of the social circumstances of their people. The protest was registered not on the basis of the immigrant's Jewish religion, nor because they were seen as unpleasant (onaangenaam) on account of their race, but because their presence threatened to make the effort by the Afrikaner to maintain his position in the professions, and to gain access to leadership positions in commerce and industry, even more of a struggle. After all, Jews would easily be able to find positions for these compatriots in professions over which they exercised control.

From the Jewish point of view, the defence of immigration from Germany and their almost over-emotional resistance to the expressed desire of the majority of the inhabitants of the country, was a tactical mistake of the first order. They ignored the call by the Stellenbosch professors to protect their own interests by joining the protests, and by so doing avoid the impression of racial persecution. Their actions contributed to the whole nation immediately recognizing the above-mentioned belangebotsing.

These are the sober facts which have given birth to the National Party's approach to the Jewish question.

What is the National Party going to do to remedy the situation? Its positive action to oppose the imminent (dreigende) immigration-a major factor in forcing the Government to take steps, for what that's worth-indicates how unequivocally, but without hate, the National Party will ensure that the Jewish question, and the resultant tension between the various population groups, is not exacerbated by immigration.

However, what is to be done about the botsing van belange that currently exists in the country, and how will the National Party act against the Jews already in the Union?

Following the above exposition, it should be clear that the question and the struggle will only disappear when the Afrikaners gain sufficient control (voldoende beheer) of commerce and industry. "Sufficient" (voldoende) must be understood as a share proportional to its percentage of the white population. National Party policy must therefore aim at bringing the Afrikaner to leadership in these areas of economic life.

Occasionally a brute removal of a large number of Jews from the country is proposed as a solution, as is the abrupt revocation of so many Jewish trading licences that they retain only the small percentage which corresponds to their proportion of the country's population.

Clearly such action cannot be taken in practice. Social and economic questions are not solved with a wave of a magic wand. The economic dislocation caused by such a drastic step would have more serious consequences than the problem it is supposed to eliminate.

As a responsible body which will take the reins of Government within the foreseeable future, the National Party does not make wild promises which it cannot fulfil. However, it does have something the present government lacks: A clear recognition of the existing botsing van belange, and the clear intention of removing the friction between the groups by removing its cause.

Contrary to frequent assertions, the cause of the problem lies not in the presence of the Jews in the country; but rather in the inequitable dominant position (oneweredige oorheesingsposisie) they have achieved in the economy, particularly in commerce and industry, which in turn results in an disproportionate (oneweredige) influence on the country's political and social life.

Below are the possible ways in which the state can help Afrikaners gain their necessary (noodsaaklike) share of commerce and industry.

The country's commerce and industry is still busy developing. In the first place this expansion must be placed at the disposal of the English- and Afrikaans-speaking parts of the population, presently being disadvantaged in these fields.

Legislation must gradually but purposefully ensure that each white section of the population should, as far as practicable, enjoy a share of each of the major occupations, according to its proportion of the white population.

This situation is called balanced distribution (ewewigtige verspreiding), but it has also been called a ‘quota system.' As Jews presently enjoy a disproportionate share of the wholesale and retail trade, such a balanced distribution can be achieved only by refusing them further trading licences, until such a time as the other main population groups, such as English- and Afrikaans-speakers, have gained a proportion which (as far as practicable) corresponds to their percentage of the white population. When trading licences held by Jews lapse due to special circumstances, they may not be allocated to compatriots, until all other population groups have achieved the above-mentioned equal priviliges (gelyke bevoorregting) in this regard. However, this does not include the normal transfer of a business from father to son.

In this way one could deliberately strive for a healthy situation without suddenly depriving those, previously permitted to develop their own businesses by the laws of the country, of their livelihood.

Of course, should a National Party government come to power and find that this group, which was, out of consideration allowed to maintain a certain level of economic privilege during the transitional period, had misused this position by undermining certain laws, they would bring down a much harsher approach on their shoulders.

In much the same way, an appropriate balance between the various population groups may also be sought among the other professions. Although, as shown in the review above, the cause of the conflict lies mainly in the area mentioned. In some areas where the absorption of Afrikaners into commerce and industry is being favoured, they may even have to face barriers. In other words, a redistribution of labour is what is envisaged.

Die Joodse Vraagstuk

Another possible way of aiding this process could be proposed.

The establishment of an industrial bank, similar to the institution's responsible for the German industrial flowering after 1870, and that of Japan from the beginning of this century, would promote the general development of industry in the Union. Such a bank, which would have to enjoy government support, would be responsible for the establishment and financing of new industries.

Such an industrial bank could be used as an instrument to give Afrikaners-who lack capital but have the requisite expertise-the chance to achieve leadership in various industries. This could happen, as it did at Iscor, where young Afrikaners-without capital, but with the right skills and personality traits-became part of the management of an extensive industry.

In the allocation of capital and top management posts, the banking institution would discriminate against the Jew, until a stage is reached where the Jew, and the English- and Afrikaans- speakers enjoyed a share of industry, proportional to their percentage of the population. Of course, the discrimination must disappear as soon as the correct balance (ewiwigtigetoestand ) has been achieved.

In regards to the question of the approach of the Nationalist against (teenoor) the Jew, the following must be emphasised. The Nationalists -mainly Afrikaans speakers-tackle the facts head on, try to analyse the botsing honestly, and openly make plans to eliminate it.

However, a large number of English-speakers feel similarly threatened by Jewish competition on the economic terrain. Many of them feel it even more strongly than the Afrikaner. Whereas the Afrikaner experiences this botsing van belange while striving for a share of the country's industries, English-speakers feel themselves being pushed out of a position they have occupied in these fields for about a quarter of a century. Their children are becoming clerks in the businesses their parents owned.

Nationalists constantly come into contact with English-speakers who may differ from them in all respects as far as politics are concerned, but who praise them because they express a definite policy in regard to the Jewish question.

At the same time, however, they hide their praise of, and encouragement for, the National Party in this regard. Few are prepared to express their opinion in public. One can hardly believe that Jews are completely misled by their attitude. They must come under the influence of the constant refrain in the English press (which is their press as well) that Nationalists are motivated by racial hatred against Jews.

If English-speakers really attach any importance to their botsing van belange with the Jew, they should openly display the courage of their convictions, and not leave it to others to pull their chestnuts from the fire.

One reason is probably that some feel that since Jews have already disadvantaged them economically, they may have the power to inflict even more damage. It would seem that they espouse no special national interest which carries more weight than self-interest, as is the case with Nationalists. Furthermore they do not seem to have any press that is free of Jewish influence and which can therefore reflect a pure (suiwerde) English view of such matters. It is certain that some English-speakers are experiencing a dilemma, they do not wish to co-operate with Afrikaners on the Jewish question, but rather choose to side with their Jewish brothers-in-arms to oppose the Republican ideal.

Some try to reconcile the two interests by silently supporting the National Party, in the case of its approach to Jewish immigration, but attacking other aspects of its policy publicly, and using Jews and their press in this regard. In this way they do not have to give up their Imperialist ideals, while their economic interests are at the same time protected by the other.

Who should the Jews respect more: their hidden enemies of those who openly discuss a prevailing botsing van belange and honestly seek a solution? Who best serves his country and people: he who suppresses a deep-seated grievance in favour of personal or sectional interests, or he who offers up self-interest in order that justice be done, and in the process restore peace among all sections of the population?