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A Sad Fiasco: Colonial Concentration Camps in Southern Africa, 1900–1908

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Volume 29

War and Genocide

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A Sad Fiasco

Colonial Concentration Camps in Southern Africa, 1900–1908

Jonas Kreienbaum
Translated from the German by Elizabeth Janik

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289 pages, 9 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-326-4 25% OFF! $120.00/£85.00 $90.00/£63.75 Hb Published (September 2019)

eISBN 978-1-78920-327-1 eBook

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“This meticulous study is a must read for scholars and students interested in (African) prison/camp history and German and British colonialism… Those with an interest in forced labour will take away as much as those reading for information on the postcolonial ‘continuity thesis’.” • Journal of Namibian Studies

“A convincing and readable study … analytically compelling and based on rich primary-source research.” • Militärgeschichtliche Zeitschrift

“In agreeably sober language, Jonas Kreienbaum uses a broad selection of material to convincingly reconstruct the aims, practices, and functions of colonial concentration camps.” • Historische Zeitschrift

“Kreienbaum … not only engages at length with the opposing positions in a longstanding debate, but also approaches his research questions expertly, based on a wealth of primary sources consulted in state and missionary archives in Germany, Namibia, South Africa and Great Britain as well as contemporary scholarship.” • Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft


Only in recent years has the history of European colonial concentration camps in Africa—in which thousands of prisoners died in appalling conditions—become widely known beyond a handful of specialists. Although they preceded the Third Reich by many decades, the camps’ newfound notoriety has led many to ask to what extent they anticipated the horrors of the Holocaust. Were they designed for mass killing, a misbegotten attempt at modernization, or something else entirely? A Sad Fiasco confronts this difficult question head-on, reconstructing the actions of colonial officials in both British South Africa and German South-West Africa as well as the experiences of internees to explore both the similarities and the divergences between the African camps and their Nazi-era successors.

Jonas Kreienbaum is a lecturer at the Historical Institute of the University of Rostock. He holds a doctorate in modern history from Humboldt University Berlin and has worked extensively on colonial history, decolonization, and mass violence.

Subject: Genocide Studies Colonialism 20th Century History
Area: Africa Germany


List of Illustrations
List of Tables and Maps


Chapter 1. The Context: Colonial Wars in South Africa and South-West Africa
Chapter 2. The Purpose of the Camps
Chapter 3. How the Camps Functioned
Chapter 4. Deadly Learning? Observation and Knowledge Transfer
Chapter 5. Comparative Reflections on Colonial and National Socialist Camps

Final Observations: “A Sad Fiasco”


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