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South African Premier Assures “full and Equal” Rights for Jews

February 9, 1955
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“The rights of Jews as full and equal citizens of South Africa with all other sections of the white population remain the same under my government as under all previous governments of the Union.” Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom, who recently succeeded Dr. Daniel F. Malan as Prime Minister of South Africa, told Edgar Bernstein, South African correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in an exclusive interview in the Prime Minister’s office in Capetown.

Mr. Bernstein said that the JTA was concerned about reports in certain foreign newspapers which expressed misgivings about the Union Government’s attitude to the Jews in South Africa. The JTA would welcome an authoritative statement from the Union’s new Premier: What was the attitude of his government to Jewish citizens#

The Premier said: “The reply has been given over and over again. I made this point clear in my radio addresses after assuming office. Our policy is to mete out fair treatment to all sections of the population. No differential treatment will be meted out by my government to Afrikaner, English, Jewish or any other section of the white population. All are full and equal citizens without differentiation.”

Asked how this position would be affected if South Africa decided to become a republic in accordance with the ultimate aims of the National Party which Mr. Strijdom heads, the Premier replied: “Establishment of a republic would make no difference whatsoever to the position. The republic would be a democratic republic with full equality for all citizens.

“I have in any case made it clear,” Mr. Strijdom added, “that a republic will not be proclaimed during the life of the present Parliament. The decision to become a republic would only be taken by an adequate majority vote at a referendum or general election. Our program of principles lays down that a republic will only be brought about on the broad basis of the people’s will.”

The JTA correspondent drew the attention of the Premier to the fact that another matter which gave rise to concern overseas as a result of some foreign press reports was how the “Christian national” concept of the Premier’s party would affect the rights of citizens who were not of the Christian faith. What did the concept of Christian nationalism imply and involve#

The Premier said this should be easy for the Jews to understand. “South Africa is a Christian country in the same way as Israel is a Jewish country. Our laws are based on the principles of the Christian faith in the same way as the laws of Israel are based on the Jewish faith. That does not imply suppression of any other religion, nor does it affect the political or other rights of non-Christian citizens. For us as Calvinists, it is a fundamental principle that there will be freedom of religion and equality of all citizens in the state.”


Asked the government’s attitude to immigration and in the context of this interview the immigration of Jews, the Premier replied: “Our principle is that we must have controlled immigration in accordance with the country’s requirements and subject to that condition that we must not have a greater immigration of persons of any particular race than can be absorbed into the existing population without any racial problem arising. This policy has existed for a quarter of a century or more and we have not changed it.”

Asked the government’s attitude to Israel, Mr. Strijdom replied: “We have relations of mutual friendship with Israel. We were the first country in the Common-wealth to accord full recognition to the State of Israel and we wish Israel well.”

To the question whether he thought the establishment of Israel had had a beneficial effect on the general position of the Jews of the world, the Premier replied in the affirmative. “I think that the establishment of an independent Jewish State must have had a tremendous effect for good,” he said.

“The unfortunate position in the past was that the Jew was a wanderer on the face of the earth. For others there was a Holland, an England, a France, etc. For the Jew there was no country that was his national home. I think that the establishment of the Jewish State has changed this and raised the status of the Jew both in his own estimation and vis-a-vis other races,” Premier Strijdom concluded.

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