The Ossewabrandwag (OB) (Ox-wagon Sentinel) was an anti-British and pro-German organisation in South Africa during World War II, which opposed South African participation in the war. It was formed in Bloemfontein on 4 February 1939 by pro-German Afrikaners.

Seal of the Ossewabrandwag
MottoMy God. My Volk. My land Suid-Afrika.
(Afrikaans for My God. My People. My country South Africa.)
Formation4 February 1939
PurposeAfrikaner nationalism
Opposition to World War II participation
HeadquartersBloemfontein, Union of South Africa
Johannes Van Rensburg


During the 19th century, most of the Boers of the northeastern Cape frontier migrated to the interior, and established the Orange Free State and South African Republic, which were independent of Britain. In the Second Boer War (1899–1902), Britain conquered the Boer Republics. The Netherlands (and Germany) supported the Boer cause.

After the war, there was a general reconciliation between Afrikaners and Britain, culminating in the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, under the leadership of former Boer fighters such as Louis Botha and Jan Smuts. South African troops, including thousands of Afrikaners, served in the British forces during World War I.

Nonetheless, many Boers remembered the tactics used by Britain in the Boer War and remained resentful of British rule, even loose association with Britain as a Dominion.


The chief vehicle of Afrikaner nationalism at this time was the "Purified National Party" of D. F. Malan, which broke away from the National Party when the latter merged with Smuts' South African Party in 1934. Another important element was the Afrikaner Broederbond, a quasi-secret society founded in 1918, and dedicated to the proposition that "the Afrikaner volk has been planted in this country by the Hand of God..."[1]

1938 was the centennial anniversary of the Great Trek (the migration of Boers to the interior). The Ossewabrandwag was established in commemoration of the Trek. Most of the migrants travelled in ox-drawn wagons, hence the group's name. The group's leader was Johannes Van Rensburg, a lawyer who had served as Secretary of Justice under Smuts (as Minister), and was an admirer of Nazi Germany.[2][3]

During World War II

The Boer militants of the Ossebrandwag (OB) were hostile to Britain and sympathetic to Germany. Thus the OB opposed South African participation in the war, even after the Union declared war in support of Britain in September 1939. While there were parallels, neither Van Rensburg nor the OB were genuine fascists, according to van den Berghe.[4]

Alexandre Kum'a Ndumbe III, however shows, that OB was "based on the Führer-principle, fighting against the Empire, the capitalists, the communists, the Jews, the party and the system of parliamentarism... on the base of national-socialism" according to a German secret source dated 18 January 1944[a]

Members of the OB refused to enlist in the South African forces and sometimes harassed servicemen in uniform. That erupted into open rioting in Johannesburg on 1 February 1941; 140 soldiers were seriously hurt.[5]

More dangerous was the formation of the Stormjaers (Assault troops), a paramilitary wing of the OB. The nature of the Stormjaers was evidenced by the oath sworn by new recruits: "If I retreat, shoot me. If I die, avenge me. If I advance, follow me" (Afrikaans: As ek omdraai, skiet my. As ek val, wreek my. As ek storm, volg my).[6]

The Stormjaers engaged in sabotage against the Union government. They dynamited electrical power lines and railroads and cut telegraph and telephone lines.[5] These types of acts were going too far for most Afrikaners, and Malan ordered the National Party to break with the OB in 1942.[2]

The Union government cracked down on the OB and the Stormjaers, placing thousands of them in internment camps for the duration of the war. Among the internees was future prime minister B. J. Vorster.

At the end of the war, the OB was absorbed into the National Party and ceased to exist as a separate body.

See also


  1. ^ Author of this message named "Felix", i. e. Lothar Sittig, a German agent, who was based inside the South African Union and had frequent contact with Dr J. F. Johannes Van Rensburg, the Ossewabrandwag leader. pp. 7f.. See Unesco, 1980 p. 17 "O. B. im Jahreswechsel", i.e. Ossewabrandwag in the turn of the year. Print in French: A. Kum'a N'Dumbe, Hitler voulait l'Afrique, l'Harmattan, Paris 1980 ISBN 978-2-85802-140-6 pp. 371f; in German: IKO Verlag, Frankfurt 1993. – From: Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office) Bonn, Archives StS Afrika (i.e.: Staatssekretär) 1939 – 1943, f. 24, 1102-S9
  1. ^ Schönteich, M; Boshoff, H (March 2003), 'Volk' Faith and Fatherland. The Security Threat Posed by the White Right (81), Institute of Security Studies Monographs
  2. ^ a b "Ossewabrandwag" at About.com, Alistair Boddy-Evans
  3. ^ Marx, Christoph (2009). Oxwagon Sentinel: Radical Afrikaner Nationalism and the History of the 'Ossewabrandwag'. Münster: LIT. ISBN 978-3-8258-9797-0.
  4. ^ Van den Berghe, Pierre L. (1967). South Africa, a Study in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01294-3.
  5. ^ a b Bunting, Brian Percy (1969). "Ch 6". The rise of the South African Reich. Penguin Books.
  6. ^ Williams, Basil (1946). "Ch 10 Smuts and the War in Africa". Botha Smuts And South Africa. London: Hodder and Stoughton. pp. 161–178.
Afrikaner nationalism

Afrikaner nationalism (Afrikaans: Afrikanernasionalisme) is a political ideology that was born in the late nineteenth century among Afrikaners in South Africa. It was strongly influenced by anti-British sentiments that grew strong among the Afrikaners, especially because of the Boer Wars.According to historian T. Dunbar Moodie, Afrikaner nationalism could be described as a kind of civil religion that combined the history of the Afrikaners, the formalised language (Afrikaans) and Afrikaner Calvinism as key symbols. A major proponent of the ideology was the secret Broederbond organisation and the National Party that ruled the country from 1948 to 1994. Other organisations aligned with Afrikaner nationalist ideology were the Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Organisations (Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge, FAK), the Institute for Christian National Education and the White Workers' Protection Association.

Cape Town Stevedoring Workers Union

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In 1929 James Schuba was the secretary of the union. He recruited Rachel Simons to assist him, though she was then only 15.In 1935 Johnny Gomas was the secretary.

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Johannes Van Rensburg

Johannes Frederik Janse Van Rensburg (known as Hans) (24 September 1898 – 25 September 1966) was a South African lawyer, and leader of the Ossewabrandwag.

He was born in Winburg and died in Cape Town and was a descendant of the Loyalist Johannes Frederik Janse Van Rensburg. He received his MA in German from University of Stellenbosch, and his bachelor's and doctor's degrees in law from University of Pretoria.

Van Rensburg qualified as a solicitor and was hired as the personal secretary of Tielman Roos, the Minister of Justice. In 1933, he became Secretary of Justice (under Smuts as Minister). As Secretary, he traveled overseas. In Germany, he met Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and other top Nazi officials. He was greatly impressed with Hitler's leadership and the discipline he observed in Germany.

In 1938, he helped organize the Ossewabrandwag as a vehicle for Afrikaner nationalism though often at odds with the National Party, the main driver of Afrikaner Nationalism. Van Rensburg was the commander general of the Ossewabrandwag from 1941 until 1952. Like most members of the Ossewabrandwag, he was regarded as a German sympathizer during the Second World War.

Van Rensburg died on 25 September 1966 in Cape Town, and was buried with military honors.

John Vorster

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Rensburg may refer to:

Andre van Rensburg (born 1976), South African avant-garde composer, producer and instrumentalist

Christo van Rensburg (born 1962), former professional tennis player from South Africa

Francois van Rensburg (born 1964), Namibian former rugby union footballer

Johannes Van Rensburg (1898–1966), South African leader of the Ossewabrandwag

Johnny van Rensburg (1932-2010), South African boxer of the 1950s and '60s

Jurinus Janse van Rensburg SD SM MMM (born 1952), South African military commander

Kobie van Rensburg (born 1969), South African tenor and opera director

Nico van Rensburg (born 1966), South African professional golfer

Patrick van Rensburg (1931–2017), African educationalist and former anti-apartheid activist

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (born 1989), South African cyclist

Rhyno Janse van Rensburg, (born 1991), South African cricketer

Shawn van Rensburg, former Wales international rugby union player

Siener van Rensburg (1862–1926), Boer prophet from the South African Republic

Willem Cornelis Janse van Rensburg (1818–1865), the Second President of the South African Republic, from 1863 to 1864

William G. L. Janse van Rensburg (1939–2008), mayor of the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, from 1990 to 1991

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The South African Agricultural Plantation and Allied Workers Union (SAAPAWU) is a defunct South African trade union. It was affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

South African Indian Congress

The South African Indian Congress (SAIC) was an organisation founded in 1921 in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal), South Africa. The congress is famous for its strong participation by Mahatma Gandhi and other prominent South African Indian figures during the time. Umar Hajee Ahmed Jhaveri was elected the first president of the South African Indian Congress. The SAIC was a member of the Congress Alliance.

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Swart gevaar (Afrikaans for "black danger") was a term used during apartheid in South Africa to refer to the perceived security threat of the majority black African population to the white South African government.

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