A little more South African “hidden” military history the Pro Nazi paramilitary organisations who sought to destabilise South Africa and the Union during the Second World War, three main movements existed which supported Nazi Germany and embraced its ideology, the Ossewabrandwag, the SANP “Greyshirts “ and the “pure” Nazi movement – The “New Order” – led by the well known South African Politician/Public Prosecutor – Oswald Prow.
Oswald Pirow is seen in the feature image in Nazi Germany, November 1938 being sent off in Berlin with soldiers from the Luftwaffe, to his left Wilhelm Canaris, to his right Ernst Seifert.
Oswald Pirow was born in Aberdeen (Cape Province, South Africa) on 14th August 1890, and was the grandson of a German missionary and son of a doctor. Pirow studied law in Potchefstroom, Germany and London, and then practised as an advocate in Pretoria.
He made several unsuccessful attempts to enter parliament and finally in 1924 he was elected for Zoutpansberg. Smuts defeated him in 1929 in Standerton but he returned to parliament and in the same year and he was appointed Minister of Justice in General Hertzog’s cabinet. As Justice Minister he passed the first anti-communist legislation in South Africa. In 1933 he was appointed Minister of Railways and Harbours, and from 1933 to 1939 he was Minister of Defence.
In 1936 Pirow attended the Olympic Games in National Socialist (Nazi) Germany and in 1938 again visited Europe, including Spain, Portugal and Germany. These visits confirmed his admiration for this new style of government in Europe and, in particular, for National Socialism. A vehement anti-communist – Pirow vowed to legislate communism out of existence, he also became an admirer of Adolf Hitler – especially after meeting him in 1933.
Oswald Pirow ( left) at a reception of the Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop in conversation with Erhard Milch ( right) and Walter Hevel on November 19, 1938
During this tours he also met Benito Mussolini, António de Oliveira Salazar and Francisco Franco and became convinced that a European war was imminent, with Nazi victory assured.
When General Smuts committed South Africa to war against Nazi Germany, Pirow found his position in government untenable and he gave his support in 1939 to Hertzog’s neutrality policy and then resigned on the outbreak of war as a minister.
By September 1940 he had launched his own “New Order” group within the breakaway National Party – the Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP), backing a Nazi style dictatorship.
This group took its name from his 1940 New Order in South Africa pamphlet in which he embraced the ideology.
To understand what the concept of the “New Order” was – the New Order (German: Neuordnung) or the New Order of Europe (German: Neuordnung Europas) was the political order which Nazi Germany wanted to impose on the conquered areas under its dominion. The establishment of the New Order was publicly proclaimed by Adolf Hitler and entailed the creation of a pan-German racial state structured according to Nazi ideology to ensure the supremacy of an Aryan-Nordic master race, massive territorial expansion into Eastern Europe through its colonization with German settlers, the physical annihilation of the Jews and others considered to be “unworthy of life”, and the extermination, expulsion, or enslavement of most of the Slavic peoples and others regarded as “racially inferior”.
D.F. Malan from the “Purified” National Party initially tolerated the actions of the New Order but soon came to see it as a divisive influence on the HNP and at the Transvaal party congress of August 1941 he forced through a motion ending the group’s propaganda activities, particularly their insistence on a one-party state.
Pirow and 17 of his New Order supporters continued to be associated with the HNP and continued to attend their caucus meetings. The group finally broke from the HNP altogether in 1942 after both Malan and Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom openly rejected the Nazis.
His political career within the Afrikaner Nationalist parties was effectively over, he returned to legal practice, and during this time became a friend of Oswald Mosley (an infamous British Nazi) and with him developed an idea for the division of Africa into exclusively black and white areas.
The two met after Pirow read a copy of Mosley’s book The Alternative and by 1947 they were in discussion over founding an anti-communist group to be known as the “enemies of the Soviet Union” (although this plan never reached fruition).The two co-operated during the early 1950s, with Pirow writing articles for the Union Movement journals Union and The European, some of which were reprinted in German magazine Nation Europa.
Very famously Pirow, in his legal guise also acted as a public prosecutor during the Treason Trial of 1956. The Treason Trial was a trial in which 156 people, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested in a raid and accused of treason in South Africa in 1956.The main trial lasted until 1961, when all of the defendants were found not guilty. During the trials, Oliver Tambo left the country and was exiled. Some of the defendants, including Nelson Mandela were later convicted in the Rivonia Trial in 1964.
Following the trial Pirow largely lived in retirement, publishing several books, especially on JB Hertzog of who he was an admirer, he also wrote books on wildlife and adventure books for boys. He died of heart failure. He was cremated and his ashes are kept at his Valhalla Farm residence near Pilgrim’s Rest.
Oswald Pirow’s influence in South African politics and Apartheid is far reaching. The Tomlinson Commission – which investigated the validity of the idea Apartheid was not a new creation, and its findings were based in part on findings made by the Native Economic Commission in 1932 and on preparatory work done by Oswald Pirow.
Very little is known in South Africa today of the frustration and disillusionment returning South African combatants from World War 2 felt and the motivation behind their eventual mass protests against Apartheid policies in the 1950’s (known as the “Torch” Commando rallies – attracting tens of thousands of war veterans).
Effectively the returning South African statute force veterans had gone to war to rid the world of Nazism, only to come home and in a few short years find significant “home grown” Nazi’s in government or playing a key role in public prosecution (as was the case with Pirow) when the National Party narrowly beat Smuts’ United Party into power in 1948.
The likes of famous World War 2 heroes like Adolph “Sailor” Malan would have none of it and they took to the streets in the first mass protests against Apartheid and the Nationalist government who had only come into power a couple of years before hand and where already removing the cape coloured vote from the register.
The Torch Commando and veteran protests where ultimately suppressed by The National Party (including Sailor Malan) and the Nationalists where free to promote their heroes – Oswald Pirow had a major highway named after him in Cape Town as well as a strike craft – much to the disillusionment of many of South Africa’s war veterans, the disenfranchised voters and the South African Jewish community.
Feature photo copyright the German Federal Archives copyright. Reference Wikipedia.