Milton High School

Selborne Avenue, Bulawayo

Notable past students - Hendrik Verwoerd.

 Biographies

Hendrik Verwoerd

Verwoerd was born in the Netherlands, thus making him the only person to become a South African prime minister who was not a South African by birth. He was the second child of Anje Strik and Wilhelmus Johannes Verwoerd: he had an elder brother named Leendert and a younger sister named Lucie. His father was a shopkeeper and a deeply religious man who decided to move his family to South Africa in 1903 because of his sympathy towards the Afrikaner nation after the Second Boer War.

Verwoerd went to a Lutheran primary school in Wynberg, a suburb of Cape Town. By the end of 1912 the Verwoerd family moved to Bulawayo, in what was then Rhodesia, where his father became an assistant evangelist in the Dutch Reformed Church. Hendrik Verwoerd attended Milton High School where he was awarded the Beit Scholarship, established through the generosity of the Jewish diamond magnate and financier, Alfred Beit. Verwoerd received the top marks for English literature in the whole of Rhodesia.

He was a brilliant student, but also a good allrounder who played rugby and tennis. He was also a member of a debating club as well as a hiking club and participated in theatre productions. In 1921 he graduated with honours (B.A.). He applied for admission to the Theology School. However, he was required to submit a reference from the minister of religion from his home town, Brandfort, on his suitability for such studies. Since the latter did not know him personally, but the university insisted that he should first recommend Verwoerd, the latter withdrew
his application for admission. He then continued to study psychology and philosophy. He was awarded a master's degree cum laude the next year. During this time he also served on the students' council together with Betsie Schoombie, later his wife, and was its president in 1923. He completed his doctorate in 1924, also cum laude.

Verwoerd was awarded two scholarships for further post-doctoral studies abroad - one by the Abe Bailey Trust to study at Oxford University, England, and another one to continue his studies in Germany. He opted for the latter, although it was not financially as generous, because he wanted to study under a number of famous German professors of the time. Verwoerd left for Germany in 1926 and proceeded to study psychology at the universities of Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig each for one semester. In Hamburg he studied under William Stern, in Berlin
under Wolfgang Köhler and Otto Lipmann, and in Leipzig under Felix Krueger. Most of these professors were not allowed to teach anymore once the Nazis came to power in 1933. Claims that Verwoerd studied eugenics during his German sojourn and later based his apartheid policy on Nazi ideology, are still in the process of being evaluated by scholars.Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 8 September 1901. He was the second child of Anje Strik and Wilhelmus Johannes Verwoerd. His father was a shopkeeper and a deeply religious man who decided to move to South Africa in 1903 because of his sympathy towards the Afrikaner nation after the South African War.

The Verwoerd family settled in Wynberg, Cape Town for ten years, after which they moved to Bulawayo, Rhodesia where the elder Verwoerd became an assistant evangelist in the Dutch Reformed Church. After four years they returned to South Africa and settled in Brandfort, in the Orange Free State.

Young Hendrik proved himself to be an able student at the Lutheran School in Wynberg and the Wynberg High School for Boys. In Rhodesia Verwoerd attended Milton High School where he did so well that he was awarded the Beit Scholarship. After refusing this because of his family’s move back to South Africa, he took the matric exam and came first in the Free State and fifth in South Africa.

After his schooling, he proceeded to study theology at the University of Stellenbosch, later changing to psychology and philosophy. He was awarded a masters and a doctorate in philosophy, both cum laude, and turned down an Abe Bailey scholarship to Oxford University, England, opting to continue his studies in psychology in Germany. Verwoerd left for Germany in 1925, and stayed there during 1926, studying at the Universities of Hamburg, Berlin and Leipzig. His later critics have at times suggested that this coincided with the rise of German National Socialism in the 1930s; however this stay predated it by a number of years. During this visit, he might have met with Fischer, but even at this stage, social-Darwinism was not the focus of Verwoerd's research. He published a number of works dating back to that time, which are all still available at the library of the University of Stellenbosch:


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