Hendrik Verwoerd Biography

Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was a Dutch-born South African politician. Check out this biography to know about his birthday, childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about him.

Quick Facts

Birthday: September 8, 1901

Nationality: South African

Famous: Prime Ministers Political Leaders

Died At Age: 64

Sun Sign: Virgo

Also Known As: Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd

Born Country: Netherlands

Born in: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Famous as: Politician


Spouse/Ex-: Betsie Schoombie (m. 1927)

father: Wilhelmus Johannes Verwoerd

mother: Anje Strik

siblings: Leendert, Lucie

Died on: September 6, 1966

place of death: Cape Town, South Africa

Cause of Death: Assassination

Notable Alumni: Stellenbosch University

More Facts

education: Stellenbosch University

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Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was a Dutch-born South African politician, who served as the prime minister of the Union of South Africa for around three years. He was also a sociologist and a journalist. He announced the founding of the Republic of South Africa in 1961 and became the country’s prime minister. He held this position till he was assassinated after five years by Dimitri Tsafendas. Known to be an authoritarian and socially conservative leader, he was an Afrikaner nationalist. He attempted to transform apartheid into a tool for entrenchment of white domination. He even used to call apartheid a "policy of good neighbourliness", and most of his decisions made in the areas of law enforcement and public policies ended up making the non-white population of the country suffer from discrimination due to their skin color. Apartheid had existed way before Verwoerd came to office, but he helped it gain a legal and theoretical ground, which led him to be known as the ‘Architect of Apartheid’. He was assassinated in September 1966 by Dimitri Tsafendas.

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Childhood & Early Life
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Early Career
  • During the Great Depression, Hendrik Verwoerd got involved in social work to help the poor white population of South Africa. He devoted a lot of time in welfare work and was associated with a few welfare organizations. A few years later, he was made the editor of ‘Die Transvaler,’ a national newspaper that was based in Johannesburg.
  • After the general elections in 1948, the National Party came to power, and Verwoerd’s contribution that had led the party to its success was recognized and appreciated.
  • Soon, he was elected to the senate and made the leader of the ruling party. After two years, he entered the cabinet and was made minister of native affairs under Prime Minister Malan.
Prime Minister of South Africa
  • Hendrik Verwoerd was appointed as the new prime minister after his victory in the 1958 elections, assuming office on 2 September 1958. His first focus was the creation of a republic, as it was one of the long-term goals of the National Party since it had come to power. He announced in January 1960 that a referendum would be called in order to determine this issue.
  • Harold Macmillan, then British Prime Minister, visited South Africa shortly after Verwoerd’s announcement. In his address to both houses of parliament, he made a famous speech criticizing apartheid. Shortly after, there was an attempt to assassinate him, which he managed to survive.
  • The parliament accepted the 1960 South Africa referendum. On 31st May, the country left the Commonwealth, and the Republic of South Africa came into existence. After South Africa became a republic, Hendrik Verwoerd wouldn’t accept black ambassadors from the Commonwealth states and also tried to block non-whites from representing the country in sports.
  • Political organizations which were dominated by blacks were also banned under his rule, and Nelson Mandela, a young black political activist, was prosecuted for sabotage in the Rivonia Trial. Mandela was arrested in 1964, and he was kept imprisoned for 27 years.
  • Verwoerd became known as the architect of apartheid for playing a major role in implementing policies that gave a legal and theoretical ground to apartheid. The apartheid policies were condemned by the United Nations, though it didn’t make any impact. The United Kingdom and the United States discontinued their arms trade with South Africa in 1964, and further pressure was put on the government of the country.
  • The National Party won the general elections again in 1966, under Hendrik Verwoerd. However, Verwoerd was assassinated after a few months, as he was entering the House of Assembly on 6 September 1966. A parliamentary messenger Dimitri Tsafendas stabbed him in the neck and chest multiple times. Though Verwoerd was rushed to the Groote Schuur Hospital, he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
  • He was buried in the Heroes’ Acre. His state funeral was attended by over a quarter of a million people.
  • Dimitri Tsafendas managed to escape the death penalty on grounds of being mentally unbalanced, but he was ordered to be put in prison indefinitely. He spent the rest of his life in prison till his death in 1999.
Family & Personal Life
  • Hendrik Verwoerd married Betsie Schoombie in 1927. The couple had seven children. They remained together till his death in 1966.

See the events in life of Hendrik Verwoerd in Chronological Order

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Hendrik Verwoerd

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