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Voices

Malan’s nationalists acolytes of Hitler and herrenvolk

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Peter Onesta, Johannesburg

When Malan came to power, he introduced a different nationalism to Hertzog’s, which was all embracing. Malan’s version was called purified nationalism, excluding British, Jews, and Afrikaners who followed Smuts, on the principle of “een land, een taal, een volk” (one land, one language, one people).

With the rise of Hitler, Malan and his followers became acolytes of the herrenvolk doctrine: the Germans were destined to be the masters of other nations. What impressed the Nationalists was that “anti-Semitism… was the spearhead of his [Hitler’s] advance to power”. This may be putting it too simplistically.

The Afrikaners, especially in rural areas, were on good terms with the Jews, who they saw as friendly store keepers and who helped them with their affairs. They regarded them with respect, as custodians of the book.

The purified nationalists taught that the Afrikaners, being of Nordic stock, must be above even the chosen people. The Dutch Reform Church synod, through its commissions report, found that the Jews were not G-d’s chosen people, and therefore anti-Semitism could not incur G-d’s displeasure!

Unfortunately, Smuts did not champion the cause of the Jews. This was left to the great JH Hofmeyr, who opposed any restrictions on the Jewish community.

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