Have Germans Finally Acknowledged Their Extermination Wars Against The Herero, Nama, San And Damara As Genocide?
For a long time, successive German governments have sought to avoid taking responsibility for the genocide of the Herero and Nama of South-West Africa, now Namibia, in 1904-1908. We have in previous articles examined the various untenable arguments that were advanced by German governments to reject this historic cruelty and responsibility. (1)
The attempt to deny historical evidence of German genocide was bound to fail in so far as all the elements of German responsibility have been fully documented in German official papers and writings of German scholars. (2)The extermination order of the German General in South West Africa, General von Lothar should have been sufficient evidence of the declared intention to exterminate Herero and Nama:
‘I, the great general of the German troops, send this letter to the Herero people. The Herero are no longer German subjects. They have murdered and stolen, they have cut off the ears and other parts of the bodies of wounded soldiers, and now out of cowardice they no longer wish to fight. I say to the people: anyone who hands over one of the chiefs to one of our stations as prisoner shall receive 1,000 marks and whoever delivers Samuel Maharero will receive 5,000 marks. The Herero people must however leave the land. If the people refuse to do so, I shall force them with the Great Rohr [cannon]. Any Herero found within the German borders, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I no longer receive women or children. I will drive them back to their people or order them to be shot. These are my words to the Herero people.
The great General of the mighty German Kaiser.” (3)
Vernichtungsbefehl (Extermination Order) by the German commander, General Lothar von Trotha.
Lothar von Trotha
The information that has come from Germany in the last few weeks seems to suggest that the present German government may be preparing to move in the direction of accepting that the extermination wars of 1904-1908 constitute indeed genocide in the meaning and intendment of the Convention on Genocide. (4)
German soldiers loading skulls and bones of massacred Herero into a casket for shipping to Germany.
After the discussions in April 2015 on the question of Armenian genocide, the question of genocide in South West Africa got more publicity. In April, the President of Germany, Joachim Gauck and Norbert Lammert, President of the German Parliament, described the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915 as genocide. However the Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier would not use genocide to describe Armenian massacres since this risks belittling the Holocaust. He argued it would minimize the horror of the Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. When Steinmeier’s party, SPD, was in opposition, he supported motions calling on the government to recognize the genocide in Namibia but now that his party is in a coalition government, he argues that the word genocide should not be used in connection with the Armenian massacres. A very interesting argument that is trying to introduce a quantitative requirement which is not in the Genocide Convention.
This quantitative or qualitative argument, depending on one’s point of view, may very well be a convenient smokescreen for a value judgemental viewpoint which a Foreign Minister of Germany can ill-afford to advance since it would open a series of historical recriminations and arguments that are best left unmentioned.
A quantitative argument would imply telling descendants of victims of genocide such as the Herero and Nama,”Look, we would have characterised the killing of your predecessors as genocide but not enough of them were killed; only about 65,000 of them were killed.” Steinmeier is of course too intelligent and sophisticated to put it this way but in effect this is what his argument would mean in practice. It becomes evident in view of the German atrocities in Namibia that such an argument should not even be mentioned. (5)
In an article in Die Zeit,09 July 2015,Norbert Lammert, President of the German Parliament noted that: “At the same time, there is a startling contrast between the lack of commemorating one’s own colonial past in this country, and the passionate debate in April on the occasion of the centenary of genocide against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.” (6)
Lammert pointed out that even though Germany’s colonial history was short it “is linked to shameful crimes-especially the merciless suppression of the Herero and Nama uprising between 1904 and1908”. Lammert adds that the Germans waged against the Herero a “race war.”
After what has been written above, Lammert concludes that:
” According to present day international law, the suppression of the Herero uprising was genocide International law stipulates that if acts are committed with intent “to destroy ,in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such ”the criminal act of genocide has occurred Such is the interpretation of many ,also German historians”
Lammert also adds a statement which must be carefully noticed:
“Irrespective of the question whether the UN-Convention on Genocide is applicable in this case, the Bundestag and the German government emphasized the historical and moral responsibility on several occasions”
Lammert informs us that “for one year now, the Federal government is involved in a dialogue with the Namibian government, in order to find a common position and common language in dealing with the cruel colonial war of 1904-1908.”
Lammert ends his interesting article by referring to “Germany’s special responsibility for its former colony in South-West Africa is also reflected in the amount of German development assistance for the independent State of Namibia; they are the highest per capita in Africa”.
After the President of the German Parliament, German Government officials have also declared readiness to recognize officially the genocide in South West Africa.
At a Government Press conference on10 July, 2015, the question was raised as to whether, in view of the various pressures on the German government to define the massacres of the Herero and Nama as genocide, there was a chance the government might modify its position. (7) Dr Schafer Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry defined the Governments position as follows:
“Firstly, the basis of all actions and for our political motivation is the guiding principle that the Federal Government-against the background of the brutal colonial war of Imperial Germany in South West Africa acknowledges Germany’s special historical responsibility towards Namibia and its citizens and especially towards the Herero, Nama, San and Damara. This necessitates all further actions, also today’s political actions of the Federal Government and the Foreign Minister…
The objective of this German-Namibian dialogue is to find a dignified manner to commemorate and remember the atrocities of the past. I specifically repeat: to jointly find/look for a new way, and, on the basis of a joint understanding about the past, lead the bilateral relations between Germany and Namibia into the future”
Dr. Schäfer then referred to the statement by Ms. Heidemarie Wieczoreck-Zeul, the then Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development who in a visit to Windhoek in 2004 had said on behalf the German Government:
“We Germans accept our historical-political and moral-ethical responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time. The atrocities committed at that time would today be termed genocide”. (8)
Schäfer concluded by saying that discussions and negotiations between Germany and Namibia are ongoing and that after the conclusion of the negotiations” we intend to publish a joint declaration, which will naturally include this part of the past and the language for such a joint assessment of the past”.
An additional question brought the following response from Dr. Schäfer:
“The German Bundestag recognizes the heavy burden of guilt incurred by German colonial troops against the Herero, Nama, Damara and San. The German Bundestag emphasizes, as proven by historians for many years, that the war of extermination in Namibia from 1904-1908 was a war crime and genocide. In that context, the German Bundestag emphasizes the continued German responsibility for Nambia’s future”.
Further questioning of Dr. Schäfer yielded the following answer: “The Federal Government says: That was genocide. That would be an announcement to make”.
The statements from Dr. Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag (Parliament) and the answers given by officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Cabinet at the Press Conference on 10 July 2015 add to the impression that the German Government is preparing to abandon the long standing practice of denying responsibility for the genocides of 1904-1908 and is now prepared to characterize those wars of extermination as genocide. But has the German Government adopted fully a new position?
None of those who have spoken or written can be said to represent the German Government in such matters however high their positions may be. The President of Parliament does not necessarily speak for the Government. Besides, his statements were made in an article to Die Zeit, a leading German newspaper which is not a government organ.
The government officials who spoke at the press conference were, in the end, very cautious about their statements. They emphasized that the German Government was in negotiations with the Namibian Government and that when those negotiations are over, an announcement would be made on these issues. So far, the negotiations have not been concluded.
Dr Schäfer also subjected the characterization of the murderous events of 1904-1908 as genocide to an important limitation: “According to present day International Law, the suppression of the Herero uprising was genocide”. Implicit in this statement is an attempt to distinguish present day International Law from the International Law in force in 1904-1908. (9) Moreover, he emphasized Germany’s historical responsibility irrespective of the question of the applicability or not of the Geneva Convention on Genocide.
Frankly, I was surprised and worried by the various statements indicating that the Germans and the Namibians have been having negotiations and discussions aimed at finding “a common position and common language in dealing with the cruel colonial war of 1904-1908”. This is a remarkable statement. Does anybody really believe Germans and Namibians can find a common position and a common language regarding the cruel and inhuman atrocities of the Germans in South –West Africa? Is this really serious or is this intended to persuade the Namibians to get involved in a dangerous rewriting of history that would present the Germany in a less inhuman light?
There are probably fewer aspects of recent African history that are as well documented as the German presence and atrocities in Namibia. What is there more for non-historians and politicians to discover and present as a common position and common language of the colonized and the colonizer, of the oppressor and the oppressed?
This can only be an attempt to modify the role of the perpetrator of atrocities and to make the victims partially responsible for the heinous crimes committed against them. The victim becomes involved in the criminal acts against him. Colonized victims cannot evaluate the events of which they were victims in the same way as the oppressive colonizers. There is no need for Germans and Namibians to view in the same way the unspeakable crimes of the German Schutztruppe in South-West Africa in1904-1908. Namibians should reject suggestions and propositions of this nature without further discussions.
It is remarkable that Germans and Namibians have been in discussion for more than a year and there is no information as to what precisely they are discussing and what difficulties they may have encountered. Could it be that the Germans, supported by the French, British, and Belgians and other former colonial powers are frightened about the effect of German recognition of genocide in Namibia? They would all like to avoid having to pay adequate compensation to their African victims and so urge the Germans to avoid setting a precedent; they are probably trying to find a formula, short of admitting genocide in Namibia that allows them to pay some compensation, less than what they would have to pay under the application of normal rules.
As for the desire to find “a dignified manner to commemorate and remember the atrocities of the past”, it is the Germans who have a lot to learn in this respect. The Herero, Nama, San and Damara have always known how to remember their lost ones and their losses in a dignified way. They have, as Africans, no need to learn from anyone how to commemorate tragic losses inflicted on us by European colonial regimes. Let the Germans who have shown and continue to show little respect for the Namibians exterminated during their colonial rule, now learn how to commemorate with respect and dignity the Herero and Nama victims of genocide. They know how to build respectable memorials for the victims of the Nazi regime but when it comes to African victims, they seem to have problems. Is it because of our skin-colour?
The German government could start the process of bringing dignity into this matter by erecting a respectable memorial to those who died as a result of their extermination wars to replace the existing inadequate memorial stone in Berlin.
What would one expect of a German Government that has decided finally to recognize the enormous atrocities of the past and is prepared to change its untenable position regarding the cruelties of the past?
First of all, we would expect a full, unambiguous and unconditional official apology for the events of 1904-1908 and a plea to the Herero, Nama, San and Damara peoples for forgiveness and for an initiation of a process of reconciliation with all those whose lives were unjustly extinguished and with their present descendants; such an apology should be issued by the President of Germany, the Chancellor or the Minister for Foreign Affairs and should go beyond the statement made by the Federal Minister Heidemarie W|ieczorek-Zeul on 14 August 2004 even though deriving inspiration from the tone and spirit of that statement.
Secondly, those acts of extermination based on cruel official policies, such as the extermination order of the German commander, Lothar von Trotha, should be characterized without limitation or ambiguity as acts of genocide by the German Government;
Thirdly, the German Government, the representatives of the Herero, Nama, San and Damara and the Government of Namibia should to work out a scheme of appropriate compensation for all those who, as a result of the cruel acts of the German administration or military, lost their land, cattle and other property. Compensations should also be paid for forced labour. Special attention should be paid to the women who experienced forced labour, other cruelties and indignities. Compensations under these specific counts should not be conflated with compensation for genocide. These are separate items that are not necessarily linked to genocide however connected they may be generally.
Fourthly, the issues of compensation mentioned- above should be distinguished and separated from issues of bilateral cooperation between Germany and Namibia. Attempts to drown issues of genocide in a sea of discussions and arrangements of development cooperation aid cannot help us in dealing with issues of genocide. No amount of financial assistance to the Namibian State can by itself heal the wounds and feelings of the descendants of the victims of German genocide.
Fifthly, a respectable and fitting memorial such as has been built for victims of Nazi persecution in Berlin, should be built in memory of the Herero, Nama, San and Damara victims of the German genocide in South West Africa, in consultation with the representatives of their descendants. (10)
That there is a change or willingness to change as regards the attitude of Germany towards Namibia and its people seems evident. Even the Stiftung Preussicher Kulturbesitz has decided to return all the Namibian bones and skulls in its possession (11)but there are other acts or events that seem to cast doubt on this willingness to change.
I refer to the refusal of the German President to receive a high level Namibian Delegation that had arrived specifically in Germany for the presentation of a petition to the President. (Annex III)
A petition by the NGO Alliance, “Budnis Völkermord verjährt nicht”(Genocide is not subject to statute of limitations) entitled “ Völkermord ist Völkermord,”(Genocide is Genocide) was to be presented to the Federal President Gauck, calling on the German government to recognize and accept on the 100th anniversary of the end of German rule in German South West Africa, on 9 July 2015, that the murderous extermination wars against the Herero and Nama in 1904-1908 were genocides; the Government should also issue an official apology for the many human remains that were stolen for racist “scientific” research from Africa and to enter into direct consultations with the Herero and Nama about appropriate ways and means for reconciliation. The petition had been signed by many prominent persons from the Church, culture, politics, science and from the Black Community in Germany. The opposition parties, Die Linke (Left) and the Alliance 90/Die Grunen (Green) had supported the demands in the petition.
The presentation of the petition was to be made in the presence of a high level Namibian delegation, under the leadership of the Herero Paramount Chief, Adv. Vekuii Rukoro and the Member of Parliament and representative of the Nama, Ida Hoffmann who had travelled to Germany specifically for this purpose. The delegation was not received by the President even though he had been informed ahead of their arrival. Thus the descendants of the victims of German genocide found no respect or recognition from the German President. Ida Hoffmann, Member of Parliament and representative of the Nama expressed her disappointment at the way the Namibian delegation was treated; they were not even allowed to enter the Presidential premises and were received by personnel at the main entrance to the Presidential Palace, Schloss Bellevue.
Herero chained during 1904 rebellion. Wikipedia
This lack of respect reminds us of the handing over ceremony of 20 skulls to a Namibian delegation on 28 September 2011, at the Medical Museum of the Charité Hospital, Berlin, when the German State-secretary in the Ministry of Foreign affairs, Cornelia Pieper, who was present, left the hall immediately after her speech but before the Namibians spoke.
The refusal by the German President to receive the Namibian Delegation, not even allowing them to enter the premises of the President, is surely not a good omen for future relations between Germany and Namibia on the issues arising from Germany’s war of extermination in 1904-1908.
We expect the Namibian Government to handle the issues of German genocide and its ramifications in the interest of the Namibian peoples, irrespective of party allegiance and in the interest of the African peoples. They should remember that many other African peoples have claims similar to those of the Herero, Nama, San and Damara (12) and the case of these peoples is being watched very closely by the rest of the Continent that has in the past expressed confidence in the Namibian Government
Given what the Herero, Nama, San, Damara and all the Namibian peoples have gone through in their encounter with German colonial rule, it is amazing that these issues still remain unsolved. There is no way the Government of Germany can continue to evade assuming openly and fully the consequences of the 1904-1908 exterminations wars.
Kwame Opoku, 1 August, 2015.
1 Kwame Opoku, Namibian Bones in European Museums: Genocide with Impunity
www.afrikanet.info › Home › African Art
Bones do not die: Germans to return Namibian skulls.
Return of Stolen Skulls by Germany to Namibia: Closure of a Horrible Chapter? http://www.modernghana.com/news/362016/1/return-of-stolen-skulls-by-germany-to-namibia-clos.html
Will Namibian bones haunt Germans for a long time?
See also http://genocide-namibia.net/
For a rap rendition of colonial aggression, see Sir Black reminds us of Europe's division of Africa on Vimeo and Monday Midnite http://www.youtube.com
2. Many good books and excellent articles have been written on German colonial rule in Africa by German scholars and others:
Horst Drechsler, Südwestafrika unter deutscher Kolonialherrschaft:
Der Kampf der Herero und Nama gegen den deutschen Imperialismus (1884-1915). Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1985;
Horst Gründer, Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien, Paderborn: Schöningh, 2000;
Helmut Bley, Kolonialherrschaft und Sozialstruktur in Deutsch-Südwestafrika (1894-1914),Hamburg, Leibniz Verlag, 1968;
Helmut Strizek, Kolonien Geschenkte:Ruanda und Burundi unter deutscher Herrschaft, Berlin, Ch.Links Verlag, 2006
Ulrich van der Heyden and Joachim Zeller (Eds.), Macht und Anteil an der Weltherrshaft, Unrast Verlag, Münster, 2005.
The bibliography on the German rule in South-West Africa is formidable.
The accounts of German atrocities often require strong stomach to read all the atrocious and heinous crimes against humanity that were perpetrated in South- West Africa (Namibia). See for a list on this topic by Prevent Genocide International, “German Southwest Africa 1904-1908: Genocide of Hereros”, http://www.preventgenocide.org/edu/pastgenocides/swafrika/resources/
Detailed information on the atrocities committed by Germany in South-West Africa can be found in the infamous Blue Book, republished by J. Silvester and J-B. Gewald, Words Cannot be Found. German Colonial Rule in Namibia: An Annotated Reprint of the 1018 Blue Book, 2003.Brill, Leiden, Netherlands,) There are images of hangings of Herero and the whips used by the Germans on Africans that may disturb some readers but the book is worth reading. Equally instructive is the history of the actions of the British and South African authorities to suppress this book. The Report on the Natives of South-West Africa and their Treatment by Germany (1918) had been prepared by the Administrator's Office in Windhoek in 1918 and published as a British Blue Book by Her Majesty's Stationary Office, London. It served as a powerful instrument to establish that Germany was not worthy to administer the territory because of its human treatment of the Africans under its control. Once the territory was transferred to the British, to be administered on its behalf by South Africa, it became clear to Britain and South Africa that some of the criticisms against Germany could be turned against them and in the interest of cooperation with Germany, measures were taken in 1826 to suppress the report. Her Majesty's Stationary ceased to sell the report and copies were removed from all libraries and available copies bought and destroyed.
In response to the British Blue Book, the Germans issued in 1919 their White Book, “The Treatment of Native and other Populations in the Colonial Possessions of Germany and England”, that depicted atrocities committed by Britain in its colonies. See, Silvester and Gewald, in the introduction to their book. p. xix.
See also, “Blue Book they didn't want us to read” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5391/is_200201/ai_n21324291/
The Blue Book They Didn't Want Us to Read: How Britain, Germany and South Africa Destroyed a Damning Book on German Atrocities in Namibia New African January 2002. p 38 http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5002449379
See also New York Times September 1918 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00E12F63F5D147A93C1A81782D85F4C8185F9
3. German text of Extermination Order: ‘Aufruf an das Volk der Herero Abschrift zu O.K. 17290 Osombo -Windembe, den 2. Oktober 1904
Kommando der Schutztruppe.
"Ich, der große General der deutschen Soldaten, sende diesen Brief an das Volk der Herero. Die Hereros sind nicht mehr deutsche Untertanen. Sie haben gemordet und gestohlen, haben verwundeten Soldaten Ohren und Nasen und andere Körperteile abgeschnitten, und wollen jetzt aus Feigheit nicht mehr kämpfen. Ich sage dem Volk: Jeder der einen der Kapitäne an eine meiner Stationen als Gefangenen abliefert, erhält 1000 Mark, wer Samuel Maharero bringt, erhält 5000 Mark. Das Volk der Herero muß jedoch das Land verlassen.
Wenn das Volk dies nicht tut, so werde ich es mit dem Groot Rohr dazu zwingen. Innerhalb der Deutschen Grenze wird jeder Herero mit und ohne Gewehr, mit oder ohne Vieh erschossen, ich nehme keine Weiber und Kinder mehr auf, treibe sie zu ihrem Volke zurück oder lasse auf sie schießen. Dies sind meine Worte an das Volk der Hereros.
Der große General des mächtigen deutschen Kaisers’
Lothar von Trotha, news.bbc.co.uk; ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herero_and_Namaqua_Genocide
Völkermord an den Nama und Herero in Deutsch-Südwestafrika ab 1904
Dokumentation gegen das Vergessen. http://www.mahali.de/1904/genozid/vernichtungsbefehl.php
See Jan-Bart Gewald, ‘Herero Heroes’, James Currey, Oxford, and Ohio University Press, 1999; also, The Great General of the Kaiser .
Horst Drechsler, ‘Let us die fighting’, Zed Press, London, 1966, p156
4. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly in its Resolution 260 on 9 December 1948. The convention was passed to mainly to ban actions similar to the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire during World War I and the Holocaust by Nazi Germany during World War II
Article 2 of the Convention defined genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article 3 defined the crimes that can be punished under the Convention as
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
5. Steinmeier: Armenia wasn't genocide - The Local
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier refuses to label 1915 ...
Steinmeier avoids term ′genocide - Deutsche Welle
8. See Annex I
9. As we have often stated attempts to argue that the heinous acts of the German Schutztruppe in South-West Africa in 1904-1908 were somehow not punishable before the entry into force of the Genocide Convention are not plausible. Indeed the preamble to the Genocide Convention states clearly
“HAVING CONSIDERED the declaration made by the General Assembly of the
United Nations in its resolution 96 (I) dated 11 December 1946 that genocide
is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United
Nations and condemned by the civilized world “;
Rachel Anderson has quite rightly stated: An analysis of international law during the early twentieth century shows that the war of annihilation waged by the German colonial administration against the Herero nation violated several treaties to which Germany was a signatory, as well as customary law of the period. Most scholars do not dispute that Germany waged a war of annihilation against the Hereros. There is ample evidence that the Hereros endured slavery, forced labor, concentration camps, medical experimentation, destruction of tribal culture and social organizations, and systematic abuse of women and children.’ Rachel J. Anderson, ‘Redressing Colonial Genocide under International Law: The Hereros' Cause of Action Against Germany’, 93 California Law Review 1155 (2005). http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm .
10. See Annex II. That one could even envisage laying a memorial stone in the memory of a group of victims of violent aggression without even inviting members of that group appears shocking but that is apparently what occurred with the laying of the Namibian Memorial stone. Where then is the sense of decency?
11. Stiftung will unrechtmäßig erworbene Gebeine zurückgeben - (epd-Gespräch) epd-Gespräch: Lukas Philippi
12. Jeremy Sarkin has pointed out that the Herero case is not the only one in colonial history: “Clearly, the Herero case could have consequences for many societies around the world affected by similar histories. The case has great significance for the Herero but also for Namibian and African history. Other cases are already under consideration and some are currently being filed. One such case relates to the massacres in German East Africa (now Tanzania) between 1905 and 1907 in what was known as the Maji-Maji rebellion. It is believed that about 250,000 Ngoni, Matumbi, Waluguru, Makua, Yao, and Makonde people were killed.” Jeremy Sarkin, Colonial Genocide and Reparations in the 21st Century, Praeger Security International, Westport, Connecticut. 2009, p. 156
SPEECH BY THE FEDERAL MINISTER HEIDEMARIE WIECZOREK-ZEUL AT THE COMMERMORATIONS OF THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SUPPRESSION OF THE HERERO UPRISING, OKAKARARA,ON 14 AUGUST 2004.
Federal Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development
It is an honour to have been invited to take part in your commemorations here today.
I would like to thank you for giving me, as the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and as a representative of the German government and the German parliament, this opportunity to speak to you. Yet I am also here to listen to you.
Acknowledging the atrocities of 1904
Today, I want to acknowledge the violence inflicted by the German colonial powers on your ancestors, particularly the Herero and the Nama.
I am painfully aware of the atrocities committed: in the late 19th century, the German colonial powers drove the people from their land. When the Herero, when your ancestors, resisted, General von Trotha's troops embarked on a war of extermination against them and the Nama. In his infamous order General Trotha commanded that every Herero be shot – with no mercy shown even to women and children.
After the battle of Waterberg in 1904, the survivors were forced into the Omaheke desert, where they were denied any access to water sources and were left to die of thirst and starvation.
Following the uprisings, the surviving Herero, Nama and Damara were interned in camps and put to forced labour of such brutality that many did not survive.
Respect for the fight for freedom
We pay tribute to those brave women and men, particularly from the Herero and the Nama, who fought and suffered so that their children and their children's children could live in freedom.
I remember with great respect your ancestors who died fighting against their German oppressors.
Even at that time, back in 1904, there were also Germans who opposed and spoke out against this war of oppression. One of them was August Bebel, the chairman of the same political party of which I am a member. In the German parliament, Bebel condemned the oppression of the Herero in the strongest terms and honoured their uprising as a just struggle for liberation. I am proud of that today.
Plea to forgive
A century ago, the oppressors – blinded by colonialist fervour – became agents of violence, discrimination, racism and annihilation in Germany's name.
The atrocities committed at that time would today be termed genocide – and nowadays a General von Trotha would be prosecuted and convicted.
We Germans accept our historical and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time.
And so, in the words of the Lord's Prayer that we share, I ask you to forgive us our trespasses.
Without a conscious process of remembering, without sorrow, there can be no reconciliation – remembrance is the key to reconciliation.
2004 is a year of commemorations but it should also be a year of reconciliation.
Today, we honour the dead. Those who fail to remember the past become blind to the present.
By remembering the past, we should gain strength for the present and the future.
A shared vision of freedom and justice
Namibia's independence grew out of the determination and courage of the people of Namibia and the vision you share with your ancestors. The people of Namibia have every reason to be proud of these fourteen years of independence.
The vision that you and we share of a more just, peaceful and more humane world is based on rejecting the overcoming chauvinist power politics and all forms of apartheid. We share the vision of those who fought for freedom and dignity or against discrimination of any kind: a vision of freedom, justice, mutual respect and human rights. By gaining independence, the people of Namibia have won the chance to realise that vision. I am pleased and proud that a great deal of support was also forthcoming from my own country for this struggle for independence and beyond.
Committed to support and assist
Germany has learned the bitter lessons of history: We are a country that is open to the world and has in many ways become multicultural. We have achieved German reunification in a peaceful manner and enjoy being part of the enlarged European Union. We are a committed member of the United Nations, working for world-wide peace, human rights, development and poverty reduction. We provide sustained assistance to the people of Africa and strongly support the NEPAD initiative.
Accepting our special historical responsibility towards Namibia, we wish to continue our close partnership at all levels. Germany is looking to the future and wishes to help Namibia tackle the challenges of development. This applies in particular to assistance for the necessary process of land reform.
I hope very much for all of us that this cultural centre in Okakarara will be a place for Germans and Namibians to talk and exchange views on our past and on our future. From the unhappy past that this place has witnessed, let us draw the strength to create a bright future in peace and friendship.
As Bishop Kameeta said in an interview, at a time of faceless globalisation we must tell people loud and clear that there is hope for the world and make people aware that this world and our planet cannot survive by concentrating all the work in a few hands and a few countries but by sharing resources across the whole world and ensuring that the world population has equal access to these resources.
And so, in that spirit of hope, we share a commitment to a fairer world, to better living conditions here and in all parts of our world.
MEMORIAL IN REMEMBRANCE OF 7 GERMAN SOLDIERS WHO DIED IN FIGHTING THE HEREROS AND NAMA AND A MEMORIAL FOR VICTIMS OF GERMAN COLONIA RULE IN SOUTH-WEST AFRICA 1884-1915, ESPECIALLY THE COLONIAL WARS OF 1904-1907
Memorial stone for the victims of German colonial rule in Namibia
Zum Gedenken an die Opfer der deutschen Kolonialherrschaft in Namibia 1884 - 1915 insbesondere des Kolonialkrieges von 1904 - 1907“.
We have here two memorials which one has attempted to combine with the result that this may be the most unsatisfactory memorial in the world. The first one is the large solid rock, standing upright which had been erected in the memory of some 7 German soldiers of the Schutztruppe who lost their lives in fighting against the Herero and Nama in 1904-1908,following the notorious extermination order of Lothar von Trotha. This memorial, later called “Afrika-Stein, was previously known as “Herero-Stein”.
As a result of protest by various NGO’s and others about the absence of a memorial for the victims of the genocidal wars of 1904-1908, on 2 October 2009, a memorial plaque, with the outline of the map of Namibia, was placed immediately below the old memorial, The inscription on the plaque was:
“In memory of the victims of the German colonial rule in Namibia 1884-1915, especially of the colonial wars of 1904-1907. The District Council and the District Office Neukölln, Berlin. Only the one, who knows the past, has a future (Wilhelm von Humboldt)”.
The citation from Humboldt could be subject of very interesting interpretation. Was the District Council warning the Namibians or the Germans about the future?
The old memorial for the 7 German soldiers who had been involved in genocide stands erect, big and strong, above the memorial for the 80,000 thousands Herero and Nama that lies down as a flat plaque, on its back, evidently subordinate to the mighty stone.
On the big stone is written,”From the 41 members of Regiment, who in the period from January 1904 to March 1907 voluntarily participated in the campaign in South West Africa, met a heroic death (names of 7 soldiers written). The Officers Corps honours with this stone the memory of the heroes”. There had previously been a second inscription, with German cross, stating that the stone was to honour the fallen German soldiers.
The smaller Namibian plaque does not mention the names of any of the victims of German aggression nor does the word “genocide” appear anywhere. Would Germans present such a memorial if it were for victims of Nazi aggression?
The overall impression of these two memorials is disturbing. Did one have to place a memorial for the victims of German genocide next to a memorial glorifying “heroes” of German genocide? Could the two memorials, produced at different periods of German history not be put at different locations?
There appears to be an attempt to achieve many and different objectives with the same objects. One appears here to be killing many birds with two stones.
Has any German politician ever visited the Namibienstein? Not even at the opening of the memorial did important politicians find it worthy to visit the memorial. Would they do the same if it were a memorial for the victims of Nazi atrocities?
How many Berliners and tourists ever visit the memorial, assuming they are aware of the existence of this memorial? Tourist guides do not mention the Afrikastein or Namibienstein as an attraction in Berlin. The Holocaust Memorial is mentioned in most Berlin tourist guides, e.g. Time Out Berlin, 2009, p.84 ; Marco Polo Berlin, 2014, p.42; The Rough Guide to Berlin, 2014, p38.
Very soon 500 looted Benin artefacts, victims also of European aggression (British aggression, Germany being accessory after the looting, will be brought to the heart of Berlin, Berlin-Mitte. Why not also bring the Namibian memorial to Berlin Mitte where we also have the Holocaust Memorial? Are there any essential differences apart from the skin colour of the victims?
With all due respect to those whose efforts resulted in this minimum symbolism, this memorial stone for the victims of German genocide in South West Africa, Namibia, is simply not enough. We should look at the monuments set up in the memory of the victims of Nazi atrocities to realize how little respect is accorded to African victims of German genocide.
Holocaust Memorial, Berlin.
The statements below give the opinions of some of those who have examined the subject:
Friedhof Columbiadamm Berlin’s most offensive monument
At the back of the Columbiadamm cemetery, in the shade of ivy-covered trees, there is a strange calm – only interrupted by loudspeaker announcements from the lifeguard at the Neukölln public pool, located just on the other side of the red brick wall. Here, you will find Berlin’s most offensive monument.
It seems that the colonial troops massacring the Herero and Nama suffered some hardships themselves. In 1907, a giant block of red granite was engraved with the names of seven soldiers who “died a hero’s death”. The Afrikastein (Africa Stone) stood in Kreuzberg until 1973, when Berlin’s dubious “Africa-Camaraderie Society” restored the stone and moved it to its current location. At the same time, they inscribed it with the logo of Hitler’s failed Afrikakorps initiative, replacing the swastika with an iron cross.
For years, Berlin Postkolonial and other groups have protested this inappropriate tribute. “Our demand was to remove the Africa Stone, or at least put a decent text on the plaque,” says Endrias. The government’s response? In October 2009 a much smaller plaque was installed on the ground next to the stone, commemorating Namibia’s 60,000 “victims of colonial war”. According to Neukölln councilman Thomas Blesing, the German Foreign Office “strongly discouraged” any references to genocide.
Colonial Berlin in 10 stops by Wladek Flakin September 25, 2012 - See more at: http://www.exberliner.com/features/lifestyle/colonial-berlin-in-10-stops/#sthash.rMNhgSHb.dpuf
[PDF] Tracing marks of German colonialism in the cities of Berlin
Garnisonsfriedhof Neukölln –
Memorial Stone in Honour of the Victims of
German Colonial Rule in Namibia
The Memorial stone is commemorating the victims of German colonial
rule in Namibia from 1884 – 1915, in particular the
colonial war of 1904 – 1908 – a war in which the German so-called Schutztruppe committed unspeakable crimes and genocide against the Herero, the Nama and the Damara.
Unfortunately, the inscription does not use the term »genocide« but speaks only about »colonial war« (see also www.berlin-postkolonial.de/aktuelle_themen/ Namibia-Gedenkstein.html). In 2009, the memorial stone was put up next to the »Africa stone« of 1907, which commemorates German soldiers of the »Schutztruppe«, not mentioning any of the African victims?
Deutsche Welle reported that Christian Kopp of the NGO Berlin Postkolonial criticised the existence of monuments glorifying Germany’s colonial past and cited a monument erected at Berlin’s Columbiadamm street to the memory of seven German soldiers fallen in fighting the Herero: "For years we had complained about this monument," Kopp said. "And finally the city put up a plaque to honor the Namibian victims. But actually, it doesn't really honor them at all: it's a tiny stone for 80,000 murdered Namibians that literally sits below a much larger rock for 7 soldiers who are essentially being honored for committing genocide against the Namibians."
Pressure grows on Germany to acknowledge genocide in former South -West Africa
Pressure grows on Germany to acknowledge genocide in
CRITICISM FROM NGOS
Various NGO’S including Berliner Postkolonial criticized strongly the laying down of the memorial stone. They were shocked that the inscription does not speak of genocide but refers only to colonial wars in Namibia. Moreover no members from the Herero or Nama peoples were invited to participate in the laying of the stone. In addition, the NGO’s were not allowed to speak on the occasion. Postkolonialismus « Global Posts - Entwickler
Here is a very useful documentary film that deals with the general subject of German genocide in Namibia and which gives very useful information also on the Namibian stone, documentary "Deutsch-Südwas?" https://vimeo.com/69403718
CONTINUITY IN HONOURING THOSE INVOLVED IN GENOCIDE
We were shocked to learn that there are 5 military barracks in Hamburg-Wandsbek honouring members of the German Shutztruppe in East Africa-Wissmann, Zelewski, Von Schele, Von Schleinitz and the Great General of the mighty Kaiser who issued the extermination order in South-West Africa, Lothar von Trotha. The evil commander was with the Schutztruppe in East Africa before going to his notorious accomplishment in Namibia. The German army has been using those barracks for some 50years - long tradition and continuity. It seems decolonization will also involve denazification.
Von Trotha Haus, Hamburg. The exterminator of Herero,Nama,San,Damara and other African peoples,is apparently regarded as a hero by some in Germany.
Detail of the relief in front of the Von Trotha Haus.
PETITION –GENOCIDE IS GENOCIDE
Genocide is Genocide!
Germany must now finally officially recognise the genocide of the OvaHerero and Nama.
Until October 2nd 2015, the 111th anniversary of the order to exterminate the Herero in present day Namibia, we demand from the German president, the German parliament and the German government
- to officially recognize the genocide against the OvaHerero and Nama – an action which is long overdue
- to formally ask the descendants of the victims of genocide for forgiveness
- to commit to identifying and returning all of the human remains deported from Namibia and other German colonies to Germany
- to declare Germany’s unconditional willingness to participate in an open dialogue with the descendants of the victims, as well as with the Namibian government concerning measures which can be taken to achieve reconciliation
July 9th 2015 has marked the 100th anniversary of the end of German colonial rule in present-day Namibia. This foreign dominance was based on deception, violence, exploitation and a colonial-racist view of the world. The OvaHerero and the Nama were particularly resolute in their rebellion against this. Their resistance was met by the Kaiser’s “Schutztruppe” (protection force) with the first genocide of the 20th century. Both of the infamous execution orders, which were issued by General von Trotha in 1904 and 1905 in the name of the German Kaiser, are clear in their genocidal intent.
Following the massacre at Waterberg, a great majority of the OvaHerero were driven into the Omaheke desert, where most of them died of thirst and exhaustion. The survivors were held in concentration camps with captured Nama and were subjected to forced labour, starvation, harsh weather conditions and disease. The human remains of those who were murdered were sent to Germany and used in racist research. According to expert opinion, up to 80 percent of the OvaHerero and 50 percent of the Nama were murdered as a direct result of the actions of German colonialists.
Those who survived the genocide lost all of their property to the German colonialists, were locked up in reservations and forced to work for the colonial system. Until today, the OvaHerero and Nama lack their former means of subsistence due to the plundering of land and livestock that took place during colonial times. Other victims also include the Damara and the San.
Speakers of all fractions of the German government recognized the genocide of the Armenians at the hands of the Young Turks on April 24th 2015 and appealed to Turkey’s sense of historical responsibility. The German President Gauck stressed that the descendants of the victims had a right to expect “the recognition of historical facts and with this a historical debt” and that “without truth, no reconciliation” can take place.
In a similar way, Germany must also finally face the truth and recognise its own historical responsibility for the genocide of the OvaHerero and Nama: there should be no unequal treatment for African victims of genocide or their descendants!
Berlin | 09.06.2015 | Bündnis „Völkermord verjährt nicht!“
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Kwame Opoku, Dr. and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana.