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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.48 n.1 Pretoria  2008


Die politieke oortuigings van Hans van Rensburg (1898-1966): Kontinuïteit en verandering


The political convictions of Hans van Rensburg (1898-1966): Continuity and change



Albert Venter

Departement Politiek. Universiteit van Johannesburg




In hierdie artikel word die kontinuïteit en verandering in die politieke oortuigings van dr JFJ ("Hans") van Rensburg (1898-1966) ondersoek en gerekonstrueer. Die artikel bied 'n oorsig oor Van Rensburg se politieke oortuigings sedert die 1914-rebellie, sy loopbaan in die staatsdiens, sy leierskap van die Ossewabrandwag tot en met sy deelname aan die apartheidsbestel in die middel-sestigerjare van die vorige eeu. Die uiteensetting steun op sy geskrifte en openbare uitsprake, sowel as argivale navorsing wat na sy eie werk verwys. Aan die einde word 'n besluit oor Van Rensburg se politieke oortuigings gemaak, veral met verwysing na die vraag oor sy toewyding aan Nasionaal-sosialisme. Die ondersoek voer aan dat Van Rensburg se politieke oortuigings hoofsaaklik Afrikaner-nasionalisties was, ten spyte van 'n flankering met (Duitse) Nasionaal-sosialisme in die jare 1938-1948, waarvan hy later weer, ca. 1953-1966 van standpunt verander het. Die artikel bevraagteken die gemaklike stereotipering deur verskeie skrywers en van sy tydgenootlike politieke opponente dat Van Rensburg kortweg "'n Nazi en Hitler-bewonderaar was". Daar word ook aangetoon hoedat veranderende sosiale en institusioneel-strukturele omstandighede 'n stempel op Van Rensburg se politieke oortuigings afgedruk het.

Trefwoorde: Hans van Rensburg, Ossewabrandwag, Nasionaal Sosialisme, fascisme, politieke oortuigings, konserwatief, outoritêr, Nazi, Afrikaner nasionalisme, Hertzog tweestroombeleid, sosiale en institusionele omstandighede, anti-kommunisme, Tweede Wêreldoorlog, Smuts-regering


This article investigates and describes the political convictions of dr JFJ (Hans) van Rensburg (1898-1966). It offers an overview of Van Rensburg's political convictions since the 1914 rebellion in South Africa, his career in the civil service, his leadership of the Ossewabrandwag up to his participation in the apartheid administration towards the middle sixties of the last century. The research is based on his own written work and documented public speeches, as well as research based on archival material. The question of Van Rensburg's commitment to National Socialism is treated in some detail. In the analysis an argument is offered that Van Rensburg's political convictions can be depicted as being mainly Afrikaner nationalist, despite an allegiance to National Socialism in the years between 1938-1948. The article shows how Van Rensburg changed his view on Nazism after the horrors of the holocaust and other German atrocities became public knowledge after the War.
In the examination of his political convictions, the question of the generally held stereotype in academic as well as partisan literature of Van Rensburg as being a dedicated and unreconstructed Nazi and Hitler admirer, is put to the test. The following examples, drawn from the literature, are representative of the commonly held view of Van Rensburg's faithfulness to the Nazi cause. According to Visser, a police officer who investigated Van Rensburg's alleged treason in 1946, he was "a shrewd and intelligent man, who was campaigning to establish a National Socialist state in South Africa while loyal South Africans were fighting and dying in North Africa to destroy the Nazis" (Visser 1976:45). According to Furlong (1991:79) van Rensburg was "a Hertzogite with unusually Radical Rightist views" and a "committed supporter of the German National Socialist state" (1991:141). O'Meara writes that van Rensburg was a "self confessed Nazi" (1982:127). Moll typecasts van Rensburg as a committed national socialist (Moll 1985:156). His Afrikaans political opponents, like Strijdom, Verwoerd and Malan often accused Van Rensburg of being a Nazi, dictator and "German Sap" (cf. Fourie 1991:357-364). The investigation finds that the Nazi tar brush is a simplistic judgement of a skilled and articulate politician. Van Rensburg did indeed have an admiration for the pre-Second World War Hitler government and its efforts to revive the German economy and reinstate Germany as a world power. He was also an admirer of the principles of its National Socialist policies. Moreover, Van Rensburg was a highly disciplined man and a trained colonel in the Union Defence Force. Therefore the Kaiser-type values of the Second German Reich of respect for authority, discipline, hard work, authoritarian government and a high regard for law and order in public policy were core principles in Van Rensburg' s political convictions. However, after the war he recognised and admitted that the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis were inexcusable and he wrote and said as much. He never accepted the anti-Christian tenets of the Nazis. After the war he was sceptical of the Allied war crime tribunals - mostly because in his view it represented the justice of the victor. Moreover, he found it unacceptable that little was done by the Allies to prosecute or at least denounce war atrocities by their own forces. For instance, the bombing of German civilians in Dresden or the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. A view vindicated, inter alia in 2006, by the Oxford Historian Niall Ferguson. The article shows that van Rensburg had been a consistent Afrikaner nationalist since his student days at the University of Stellenbosch, a committed supporter of the Hertzog two-stream policy regarding the two white "races" in South Africa, an apologist of the policy of separate development (apartheid) and a stringent opponent of communism as a creed as well as the Soviet communist dictatorship. Lastly, van Rensburg consistently held the view that the state has a social obligation to care for the poor, the weak and the marginalised working classes of an industrialised economy. A view not far removed from typical conservative Christian Democratic parties in post-war Europe.

Key concepts: Hans van Rensburg, Ossewabrandwag, National Socialism, fascism, political convictions, conservative, authoritarian, Nazi, Afrikaner nationalism, Hertzog two-stream policy, social and institutional circumstances, anti-communism, Second World War, Smuts government


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Badenhorst, J.J. 1991. Vroeë organisasiestruktuur van die OB. In Van der Schyff, P.F. 1991. (red.). Die Ossewabrandwag: vuurtjie in droë gras. Departement Geskiedenis, PU vir CHO: Potchefstroom.         [ Links ]

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* Hierdie twee werke deur Van Rensburg is vorms van memoires. Die Duitse weergawe is 'n latere een en verskil heelwat van die Engelse weergawe. Aanhalings en steun is dus uit albei bronne ontleen.



1 Vir doeleindes van hierdie artikel word aanvaar, weens ruimte oorwegings, dat die leser bekend is met die historiese omstandighede in Suid-Afrika waarbinne Van Rensburg gelewe het, maw tussen 1900 en 1966.
2 Dit was 'n baie vlietende ontmoeting by 'n staatsdinee waar hy as een van tagtig gaste aan Hitler voorgestel is. Dit was nie soos Furlong 1991: 81 dit verkeerdelik stel "an interview with Hitler" nie.
3 Hierdie skepsis is nie uniek nie: vele Afrikaners en ook Europeërs, het dieselfde argwaan oor demokrasie openbaar, kyk, Mak 2004:463,464, Marx 1998:196, Ferguson 2006:231-233.
4 Hierdie aanhaling word dikwels deur kritici as bewys gebruik dat van Rensburg 'n "selferkende Nazi" was.
5 Vir 21e eeuse skeptikus: die wantroue in die demokrasie was wydverspreid in 1940/41. In Duits gedomineerde Europa was daar toe vrede. 'n Hele aantal Europese state was onder fascistiese-outoritêre regimes, insluitend Italië, Spanje, Portugal, Roemenië, Hongarye en Vichy-Frankryk. Voormalige Nederlandse minister-president Hendrik Colijn maak gewag van die "realpolitik van die aanvaarding van Duitse hegemonie". Desgelyke sentimente is in België uitgespreek. In Brittanje was daar sprake van 'n vredesakkoord met Hitler deur onder andere Lord Halifax en Neville Chamberlain. Kyk Mak, 2004:463,464.
6 Toespraak voor 'n saamtrek van OB-Offisiere, Bloemfontein Stadsaal, Oktober 1941, Hagemann 1989:274.
7 Van Rensburg se kritiek van 1956 word gevindikeer deur Niall Ferguson in 2006, kyk Ferguson 2006:563-567.
8 Van Rensburg word deur bv. Marx 1998 oor hierdie standpunt erg gekritiseer. Van Rensburg se skepsis oor Neurenberg word egter bevestig deur niemand minder nie as die jong en bekende Engelse Oxford historikus Niall Ferguson. Ferguson wys daarop dat Neurenberg geen grondslag in die destydse internasionale reg gehad het nie en ook dat Britse en Amerikaanse oorlogsmisdade in die Stille Oseaanteater, nooit aan dieselfde regspraak onderwerp is nie. Cf. Ferguson 2006: 578,579.
9 Van Rensburg se skepsis word deur die gebeure in Afrika sedert 1964 bevestig, vergelyk bv. Meredith, 2005.
10 Selfs in die OB-periode het Van Rensburg, hoewel beperk, uitgereik na "Engelse Afrikaners". Kyk Visser 1976 , Marx 1991.
11 Hierdie distillasie is gedoen uit gesaghebbende en standaardwerke oor die ideologie van Nazisme/fascisme, kyk bibliografie.
12 Hitler se eng ideologiese "vriendekring" was openlik vyandig teen die Christendom en die konserwatiewe Duitse Generale Staf, cf. Levine 2002:282.
13 Die Duitse historikus C Marx gee toe dat Van Rensburg geen OB-styl Hitler was of wou wees nie, Marx 1998: 366.
14 Die Afrikaanse establishment antisemitisme van die dertiger- en veertigerjare van die vorige eeu was meestal retories en myns insiens deel van 'n Zeitgeist in die Weste wat ook deur bv. Suidelike state in die VSA gedeel is, kyk Ferguson 2006:225.
15 Beheptheid met "samelewings-suiwerheid" was 'n grondtoon van moderniteit, kyk Mak 2004:502 en Van Rensburg het deelgeneem aan hierdie tydsgees.
16 Voorbeelde is TD Moodie, P Furlong, D O'Meara, G Visser.



Albert Venter is Professor in Politiek aan die Universiteit van Johannesburg. Hy doktoreer in 1984 in die Staatsleer aan Unisa met 'n proefskrif oor die politieke teorie van Karl Popper. Hy is sedert 1979 dosent in Staatsleer/Politiek aan onderskeidelik die universiteite van Pretoria, Suid-Afrika en die RAU/ UJ. Hy was vir nege jaar voorsitter van die Departement Politiek aan die RAU. Hy dien op die besture van verskeie akademiese verenigings en was opeenvolgend Sekretaris, Adjunk-President en President van die SA Vereniging vir Politieke Studies (1987-2001). Hy is tans (2007) 'n Raadslid van die Universiteit van Johannesburg en van die SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. Sy navorsingbelangstelling strek oor 'n wye gebied in die staatsleer/politiek. Hy het vyf boeke oor die Suid Afrikaanse politiek gepubliseer en meer as 'n honderd bydraes in akademiese joernale en hoofstukke in boeke gelewer. Sy spesifieke navorsingsbelangstellings sluit in die vergelykende politiek, Suid-Afrikaanse en Afrikanerpolitiek, die politiek van diepverdeelde samelewings, demokratisering van outoritêre samelewings en politieke risiko-ontleding. Hy is 'n Nasionale Navorsingstigting (NNS) gegradeerde navorser en het verskeie buitelandse studiereise onderneem.
Albert Venter is a professor of Politics at the University of Johannesburg. He obtained his doctorate in Politics in 1984 with a thesis on the political theory of Karl Popper. He has taught Politics since 1979 at respectively the Universities of Pretoria, South Africa, Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit (RAU),Johannesburg. He was chair of the department of Politics at RAU for nine years. He has served on the executive committees of various academic associations and in succession was Secretary, Vice President and President of the South African Political Studies Association (1987-2001). At present (2007) he is a member of the Councils of the University of Johannesburg and the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. He has wide research interests in the discipline of politics. He has published and edited five books on South African politics and has written more than a hundred contributions to academic journals and chapters in books. His specific research interests include comparative politics, South African and Afrikaner politics, the politics of deeply divided societies, democratisation of authoritarian societies and political risk analysis. He is a rated National Research Foundation (NRF) researcher and has undertaken numerous international study tours.