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PT-Security_Fence_at_Andalusia
Security Fence at Andalusia

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 29 FEBRUARY

Nothing of historical interest has yet been found that happened in Kimberley on this very day. Research continues.

DID YOU KNOW
On 26 June 1940, the arrested Germans were brought from the Klein Danzig internment camp in Windhoek, South West Africa (now Namibia) to Andalusia camp in South Africa. At the end of 1940, 1 220 Germans were interned there. Further internment camps were established in Baviaanspoort and Koffiefontein. Most of the interned Germans were only released in 1946.

During World War II there were three Internment Camps in the region, one at Ganspan and two at Andalusia. Internees were mostly German speaking residents of South West Africa (now Namibia). At Andalusia at least 2 000 internees lived in the camp and at least 30 lie buried in the local cemetery. 180 South African internees lived at Ganspan, and an escape tunnel is still in existence.

Nine of the internees escaped through the tunnel that was dug by hand. It is said that digging only took place while music was played in the music room. Floor boards were lifted and the tunnel dug with a mace scoop. Air was sent to the diggers in the tunnel with balloons tied to a rope. With the same rope sand was transported back in buckets to the music room where it was emptied under the wooden floor. The tunnel was 57 steps long and was ready on 11 October 1941.

Johan Wilhelm Heinrich Giess aka Willi Giess (21 February 1910 Frankfurt-am-Main – 28 September 2000 Swakopmund) is noted for having started an official herbarium at Windhoek, his extensive collection of Namibian plants and generally furthering botanical knowledge of the territory.

Giess arrived in South West Africa with his parents on 4 February 1926 and was drawn into farming by being one of the first students to attend the Agricultural College of Neudamm near Windhoek. From 1931-33 he was employed by the Animal Breeding Institute at the University of Halle where he specialised in karakul breeding. On his return to South West Africa, he managed a karakul farm and later bought his own farm in 1937 at Dornfontein Süd.

With the outbreak of the Second World War he and other Germans were interned in South Africa at a camp called Andalusia, now known as Jan Kempdorp. During his internment he studied botany with Prof. Otto Heinrich Volk, who had arranged classes for scholars in the camp. The tuition they received in the various sciences was of sufficient quality to be recognised after the war as being of university standard.

As an ancillary activity Volk taught the students practical botany, assembling a herbarium from plants growing within the confines of the camp. The students also produced a booklet, a key to the genera of grasses, entitled “Bestimmungschlüssel für Südwest-Afrikanische Grasgattungen”, illustrated with engravings on pieces of wood and typeset with lead from toothpaste tubes. Some of the type and engravings are on display at the Swakopmund Museum.

Immediately after his release, Giess was employed as plant collector at the University of Stellenbosch. His botanical training during the war had not been forgotten, and in 1953 he was offered the post of curator at the national herbarium in Windhoek.

German botanist Otto Heinrich Volk was born near Heidelberg, in the village of Richen, where his father was a pastor. After studying natural science at Munich, Vienna, and Heidelberg, he graduated with a doctorate and was appointed in 1930 to the University of Würzburg.

PT-Professor_Vlok-1903

Professor Vlok

During his early career, succulents and other plants from arid areas were his main interest and in 1937 he went to Namibia to carry out research. At the start of hostilities in Europe, he was rounded up with other German nationals in the region and spent the duration of the war in an internment camp at Andalusia. There he and other interned scholars established a camp university by offering courses in languages and science to fellow internees. The education they provided was of such high quality that, after the war, examination certificates from Andalusia were recognised in Germany as being of university standard.

Pictured is Professor Volk as well as a security fence at Andalusia.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

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