Verwoerd was born in Pretoria in 1901, his father was a dutch reformed church minister who had, with his wife, migrated to the SAR in 1899. Hendrik had a religious upbringing. In 1919 he enrolled at the University of Blignaut and studied theology and history. In 1923 he moved to the university of Pretoria and in 1925 he became a junior lecturer there. In 1927 he joined the National Party and in 1929 he became assistant to the mayor of Pretoria. In 1931 he became assistant to the foreign minister and remained at the foreign ministry until 1938. He was sent as special envoy to Germany during the 1938 Olympics and remarked on how well Germany was operating under the leadership of Hitler. After the Olympics he remained in Germany as a political attache.
During the 1939 political crisis Verwoerd was a hardline neutralitist and supported former President Hertzog. He ran for the senate in 1940 and won. In 1943 he was appointed minister of intelligence by President Malan. Verwoerd used his position to give as little help to the allies as possible, and even went as far to give information to the Germans. When the war ended in 1947 he helped some leading Nazi politicians escape and gave them Afrikaan citizenship. In 1951 he was the man who put forward the idea that the SAR should have the atom bomb and was personally responsible for its construction. He had hoped to run for president as Malan's successor in 1952 but decided not to and supported Strijdom's bid, he was rewarded for this support by being appointed Strijdom's successor and when he died in 1958, Verwoerd became president.
As soon as he became president, Verwoerd began creating a personality cult around himself, the leader of the Afrikaans. He took the racial segregation that was already in place to new levels. He arrested over 7000 members of the ANC and had them executed. Black africans had to pay nearly twice as much tax as Afrikaaners, and if they failed to pay, they were arrested. Many black African communitys were uprooted and moved to new government housing.
In January 1968 the police tracked down and captured ANC leader Nelson Mandela, Verwoerd personally ordered that he be executed and on March 2, 1968 Mandela was executed at Pretoria prison. His execution was broadcast live an all channels. His execution was the final straw for many black Africans and his life was threatened several times. On May 31st 1968 Verwoerd was assassinated whilst reviewing the independence day parade in central Pretoria.