For nearly 400 years, Robben Island was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here at Robben Island that rulers sent those regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society. The duty of those who ran the Island and the prison was to isolate opponents of apartheid and to crush their morale.
Those imprisoned on the Island succeeded on a psychological and political level in turning a prison “hell-hole” into a symbol of freedom and personal liberation. The Island came to symbolise, not only for South Africa and the African continent, but also for the entire world, the triumph of the human spirit over enormous hardship and adversity.
People used to live on the island many years ago and the island has also been used as a training and defence station in World War II (1939-1945) and a hospital for leprosy patients, and the mentally and chronically ill (1846-1931). In the 1840s, the Island was chosen for a hospital because it was both secure (isolating dangerous cases) and healthy (providing a good environment for cure).
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