posts 1 - 15 of 26
Boston, US
Posts: 205


Clara Ng, “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” Post-Conflict Research Center, 6 April 2019.

Clara Ng, “Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice,” Post-Conflict Research Center, 8 May 2019.

Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber, “Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective,” Pambazuka News, 20 March 2012.

“Herero and Nama genocide,” from Adam Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction pp. 122-124.

Most people know nothing of the Herero/Nama genocide, let alone be able to locate Namibia (the former German SW Africa) on a map.

It’s clear that a genocide happened there and that it happened “under the radar”—that is, that most people didn’t know about it. Even more than 100 years later, there are few books and articles on the subject and only a handful of photographs document what happened there. You saw the few that exist in class on Tuesday.

There is much that we see within the Herero and Nama genocide that suggests

(a) how colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide

(b) how events there prefigure what happened during the Holocaust.

As you read through the excellent recent articles by Clara Ng and by Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber, identify details that demonstrate how the events that took place in today’s Namibia (the former German Southwest Africa colony) from 1904-1907 prove these two points.

Be specific! I will hold you to these specifics from the readings and from class!

And then comment: what are your big takeaways from learning about this genocide?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

The Genocide in Namibia: Crimes (still) Unaddressed in the 21st Century

While watching BBC’s documentary Namibia - Genocide and The Second Reich in class, I think for many students, including myself, there were several horrific and shocking moments when it truly struck that there was another, entire massive human atrocity, buried in history for all this time, which we (and, more disturbingly, the general public) had never even heard about. Though we would think genocide could never be brushed aside or overlooked, it seems that it happens more often than we’d like, due to the nationalist and white supremacist mentality present in colonization, which was so deeply integrated into society that this genocide was not viewed as a crime at all, by many people, for a long time. What is more, I think these assigned readings showed that these practices of denial, dehumanization, and complicity which we are so baffled and appalled by are still very much present in our modern-day society.

We learn about the Berlin Conference and the Scramble for Africa in history class, and maybe the following events in the Congo, or South Africa, or Egypt as well, but I think sometimes it’s difficult to see how all people in the African continent were facing invasions of white supremacy and colonization, regardless of whether they wound up colonized or not. There is just something so dangerous and perverse in the idea that white men were able to devalue and dismiss so easily the cultures and livelihoods of all African races, to make this executive decision not only behind closed doors, but actively, for years, even while living and interacting with these human beings. Colonization can so easily morph into genocide because it intrinsictly says that one people is superior to another, that whatever natives may be inhabiting a space prior were not humans valid enough to own that property. Moreover, as Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber describe in “Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective,” whenever there was any challenge or protest to colonial rule, it was seen as to be “disparaging national honour and grandeur.” This translates into a sort of mentality that we are not all equal humans, that there is an “us” vs. “them” and it is a right for white people to colonize, to wander and settle wherever they please, simply because they are white.

The colonization of Namibia shows how colonial rule can turn easily into genocide. In that situation, all native peoples were referred to as “Hottentots” and, as Clara Ng writes in “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” the “legal testimony of seven Africans was equivalent to that of one colonist.” The German settlers were dehumanizing the African peoples of Namibia as they forced a name onto all these people, regardless of what tribe they identify with, and placed a value on their words. In addition, Ng continues that “construction began on the Otavi railway line that cut through the Herero heartland and paved the way for further European settlement” — all to improve access to copper mines so that they may profit economically, and to upturn the homes and communities of the Herero and drive them away from their lands. This becomes more familiar when we hear how the Germans considered confining them to native reserves. All these actions facilitate the genocide of a people as it dehumanized and destabilized them; in addition, all these actions have been taken too by Americans, of which some forms still manifest in this very country today. For some time, we referred to all Indigenous peoples as “Indians,” a name that white colonizers used, instead by their native tribes, many of which we have erased. In addition, we drove them onto reservations, built pipelines on their lands, and profited from their resources. Regarding African Americans in our country, we established the Three-Fifths compromise to devalue their vote, have built highways through many of their neighborhoods and communities, and used police to track down enslaved peoples back to their plantations (as German police did to Africans in Namibia through their mandated Passmarkes) to prevent their mobility. I think these deliberate erasures (of people’s voices, agency, cultures) have led to the deliberate tortures and eradications we see in genocide.

These patterns of sujugation and genocide, however, did not just end in Namibia for the Germans — they continued in events of the Holocaust. What is incredibly disturbing to me is the point, which was emphasized in class, that they learned from their genocide in Namibia, that they found ways to make proceedings efficient for themselves, exemplified in how the Nazis never explicitly called for an official eradication of Jews, in contrast to the approach in Namibia. I had initially wondered whether, during Nazi Germany, memory still existed of the Herero and Nama genocide, or if the public had largely forgotten about it; with so many parallels, though, I think it was clear to orchestrators of the Holocaust how they could learn from the genocide in Namibia. For instance, the concept of Lebensraum, fueling the imperialist drives of the Second Reich, was utilized by the Third Reich as well and was paramount in heightening the sense of nationalism that would justify Nazi ideology. Eugenics, too, were such a prevalent tool to justify genocides in Namibia and Nazi Germany. Ng, in the same aforementioned article, wrote: “It was Eugen Fischer’s studies, for instance – based on his experiments on Herero and Nama prisoners – that grounded racist ideology in objective notions of science.” The 300 human skulls he studied, shipped from Namibia, were used to give authorities and officials “scientific” reasons to exterminate and segregation groups of people, contributing to this sexual anxiety of “purifying” the Aryan race, of protecting themselves against “less fit” races. His work, The Bastards of Rehoboth and the Problem of Miscegenation in Man, essentially could serve as propaganda for promoting the Nuremberg Laws that allowed legal discrimination against Jews.

Another significant cruelty the Nama, Herero, and Jewish populations all had to undergo was forced containment in concentration camps, designed in order to systematically exterminate their populations. A picture which really struck me in class was that of the crates of human skulls, their flesh and hair scraped off by Herero women with glass shards in these concentration camps. Although they might not have been physically harmed in that situation, I think it’s so demonstrative of the cruelty exhibited by German military officials. There is just such a lack of respect for the dead, for the survivors; it’s so barbaric to make them clean the bones of their own people, to make them hold human skulls in their hands and treat them without the dignity of such. In the concentration camps, for both cases, prisoners and their labor also were exploited for economic profit. In the same article I mentioned before, Ng writes that “Herero were forced into daily manual labor for private companies working on land leveling, harbor building, and railway construction projects.” What this also reminded me of was how we treat prisoners in America. German General Lothar von Trotha, in Namibia, proclaimed: “‘I annihilate the African tribes by floods of money and floods of blood,’” and while there are many ways to interpret this statement, I think of how private companies are entirely involved with enslaving populations, how, so long as money can flow from forced labor, the removal and extermination of human rights will continue. I think perhaps, in this way, one of my biggest takeaways from the Herero and Nama genocide is how similar some of our practices in the United States are to theirs, even a hundred years later.

Another big takeaway from learning about this genocide is the significance in media and international attention. It seemed that the Herero truly did not receive help or sympathy in the atrocities they suffered — postcards of them, used as propaganda, portrayed them as violent thieves, needing to be tamed by white colonists. When learning about how the Herero sought the British territory Bechuanland, I wondered why the British didn’t intervene when they knew of Herero refugees essentially coming into their colonies. With the Congo Rubber Atrocities, however, we saw that the British, and other actors of the international community, only intervened after seeing horrific photographs of Belgian practices under King Leopold II. I wonder why there wasn’t as much media coverage of this genocide, considering the amount of photos taken, sent as postcards to families, documenting the subjugation of the Herero peoples. It seems these photos and media mostly seemed to glorify the German soldiers, as Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber wrote that an “official military account of the ‘Great General Staff’ in its concluding paragraphs summarised it as a major achievement of the war that the Herero nation was annihilated and had ceased to exist. It celebrated the prowess of the German troops.” There seems to be no record at all of how Africans suffered under colonization. In fact, when the international community did intervene with German colonization, stripping them of their African colonies after World War I, it seemed that there was little consideration for the native populations themselves; rather, they only intervened when German colonization was inconvenient and threatening for them. This still holds up today — we don’t intervene in genocides and other violations of human rights in a meaningful way, not when it doesn’t threaten us.

Finally, I think a significant point all of us were struck by when learning about this genocide was the lack of commemoration and apology towards the Herero and Nama peoples. In Kössler and Melber’s article, they wrote how the Holocaust seemed to be the “object of regular remembrance on the part of officialdom as well as civil society, bordering on a cult of mea culpa,” while the Namibian delegation, going to Germany for the repatriation of the skulls, were apparently “mistreated” by the German government. I wonder why there is such a staunch refusal to be apologetic for these atrocities in the case of the Herero and Nama genocide. The lack of compensation, or even care, both internationally and locally in Namibia, is completely unacceptable, and is likely why there is no memorial for the genocide, no markings at the concentration camps. Instead, as we read in another of Clara Ng’s articles, “Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice,” there is even commemoration for the German soldiers and colonizers with the Marine Denkmal in Swakopmund. It is devastating that the monument is still standing, actively causing pain for and denying the voices of the Herero and Nama populations every day. In the words of the Back to Germany Activists organization, “‘As long as it still stands, Namibians will never get the true feeling of independence.’” I think there is such a great responsibility, now, to compensate and acknowledge the sufferings of the Namibians instead of uplifting the dehumanizations in their colonization, and to address such human rights violations present in our society today.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Self Interest-Driven Colonization + Racial Superiority Narrative = Atrocities

The Namibian genocide is definitely a strong demonstration of what the values of colonialism look like when carried out to their logical, final destination. To begin with: colonialism is built on a) self-interest and b) racism/belief in the supremacy of the colonizer’s (generally white) race, the former being hidden beneath the veneer of beneficence to the colonized. Self-interest drives colonialism, while belief in racial supremacy allows the colonizers to conscionably commit the atrocities inseparable from colonialism AND it creates the foundation for the beneficence narrative, which necessarily depicts the colonized as primitive, inferior, and needing, and the colonizer as civilized, superior, and providing. In some instances, however, the belief in the inferiority and inhumanity of the colonized (most especially if they were black), and the appetite for wealth, power, and territory, was so powerful that the beneficence narrative was done away with entirely, as in the case of the German presence in Namibia. This key difference, in my opinion, created a much more open framework for the Germans to then commit genocide in Namibia—they had invaded without even the facade of concern for the native peoples.

Part of the reason for this is the strength of German nationalism at the time, which was, of course, linked to white (or more specifically, Germanic, or later Aryan) supremacy. As the Pambazuka News describes, the Germans believed German Southwest Africa, the only colony they deemed inhabitable by them, to be a “New Germany,” with the existence of indigenous ethnic groups being merely incidental—a nuisance at worst and a potential workforce at best. This explains the extremeness of their response (as the article explains, the uprising was seen as an attack on Germany itself), and the ease with which they committed genocide, and later enslaved the survivors in concentration camps. Even their motivation for settlement—more “Lebenstraum” after industrialization led to a population boom among the urban poor—demonstrated their view that Namibia was more of an extension of Germany that had simply been lying around, waiting for something to happen to it prior to their arrival. This link between one ethnic group composing a nation, with others being merely incidental (though with the perceived power to be insidious and destructive) is a clear link between the Namibian genocide the Holocaust. In both instances, Germans were the “true” citizens of the state, and they tried to assert their superiority over the others residing within it. When Namibians tried to resist with violence, thus attempting to reclaim their equality and their legitimacy, they were perceived as threatening not just the (“ethnically”) German people, but the nation itself. And how does a nation respond to a threat to its sovereignty and stability from an outside force? War. But “war” on a specific people—a “race war,” as Ng’s The First Genocide of the 20th Century cites it being termed—as opposed to an organized group or state, is just genocide, because the people themselves are the threat. The same occurred in Nazi Germany, except the trigger/threat was not Jews trying to reclaim their legitimacy, but, indeed, already having legitimacy to begin with, which, again, was seen as a threat to the German ethno-state. In fact, the film we watched in class detailed how the African groups already living in Namibia were quite powerful when the Germans arrived, and the Germans had to rent land and cattle from them. This, again, challenged their theory of inferiority and seemed to threaten them, and thus quickly led to the abuse of Herero with impunity, including rape, murder, and beatings.

The Germans’ disregard for native Namibians’ humanity and legitimacy is clearly seen before the genocide in their theft of their land and livestock, in how they thought little of building public works on their land (such as the railroad), and that they forced the Herero and Nama to work in copper and diamond mines, obviously for German profit (The 20th Century’s First Genocide, Clara Ng). As the Pambazuka articles explains, one of the only reasons the government opposed the full execution of the genocide was that it was eliminating a source of labor and cattle herds.

Ng’s second article, Regarding Reconciliation, was highly illuminating to me. We hear a lot about what happens before and after genocides, but what about the after? There is so much work to be done, and this work can be painstaking, if not impossible, when recognition of and attention to the atrocity are so scant. I was struck by the quote: “‘[Denial] is the most diplomatic stage of genocide,’ he said. ‘It is the calmest, it is the most academic, it is the most imaginative and the most eloquent and yet in the same breath it is by far the deadliest.’” It is deeply saddening and distressing to me that over a century onward from the genocide, there has been so little healing and almost no reparations, meaning the Herero and Nama still suffer serious impacts of German genocides, forced labor, land theft, and other abuses. I wonder if, like here in America, policies which covertly perpetuate the oppression of the Nama and Herero people are responsible for the still-unequal status quo, OR if it is due to the simply unaddressed wounds of the past. Either way, I think it is only in seeing the endless and prodigious struggle it is to recover from genocide that we can truly understand the full scope of the tragedy. For not only were people scarred and mass murdered permanently in the moment, but so too were an entire race and country. Generations of Herero and Nama continue to feel the acute pain of past trauma while their society itself remains structured against them. Over 100 years of misery and oppression after the fact…..

I also think @yvesIKB makes a great point about how other countries saw no reason to step in on behalf of the Herero after Germany gave up Namibia after WWI. Still today, there is little pressure from other countries to take action and compensate the Herero and Nama. Perhaps this can be our role as Americans, seemingly far away from any role in this conflict, yet still with the power to do something.

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 21

Colonialism is the idea of racial superiority

The idea of colonialism is an idea built off racial superiority over another group of people. The main reason that countries began colonialism was for the economic incentive of the resources within the region and the additional benefit of having more land upon which citizens can live, as explained by Ng’s first article with the idea of lebensraum. A country can only go through with that if they believe their citizens are more important than, or superiority over, the native population within that region. But on top of that, labor is required to extract the valuable resources within the region, and the native population was typically used for this purpose. This has been seen all throughout history, Columbus with the Native Americans, Belgium with the Congo, and many others. Colonialism allows a country to commit crimes against humanity without any repercussions as, especially in the early 1900s as there was no international body or tribunal to speak out against the injustices being committed against the Nama and Herero such as the UN and many other European countries were engaged in colonialism themselves. While colonialism doesn’t cause a country to engage in genocide, it far too easily paves the path towards genocide if the country chooses to continue with it. And that is exactly what happened in Namibia.

The colonialism within Namibia led to the German general von Trotha engaging in total war and a race war first against the Herero and then the Nama. The article by Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber talks about how the colonialism turned into a race war in the attempt to eradicate what von Trotha saw as ‘vermin’. Through othering and dehumanizing the Nama, von Trotha and the other German soldiers attempted to create a moral justification/excuse for the atrocities that they committed. It led to the idea on which the entire holocausts was based off of, the idea of purifying the Aryan race. Furthermore, they created propaganda and spread the idea that the Herero and Nama were thieves and detrimental to society, a similar method that was used during the Holocausts to turn public opinion against those with Jewish heritage. And then there were the concentration camps where Harara and Nama were sent to after public opinion turned against the war. The concentration camps used in South Africa seem almost exactly similar to those used in the Holocausts as the prisoners were worked to death instead of being prisoners used for manual labor. Prisoners were shot for little to no reason at all. There was even secrecy and almost no public knowledge about the atrocities being committed within the camps, as the second article by Ng said how few knew about the horrible conditions within the camps until one of the camp workers were interviewed. This reminded me of a Holocausts concentration camp that had a miniature zoo by the entrance to leave a good impression on foreign diplomats visiting the camp, as the Nazi government wanted to keep secret the cruel conditions within. They even had the prisoners removed from the camp and had guards dress up as prisoners so that the foreign diplomats would see what they perceived to be healthy, well treated prisoners instead of starved prisoners.

Additionally, the German soldiers in South Africa did not see their victims as human beings. This is especially evident in the postcards and photographs that they took of the concentration camps and of the hanged prisoners, which is eerily similar to the postcards taken of lynchings.

Colonialism and the Herero and Nama genocide was built off of the idea of racial superiority, but it also led to so called developments with pseudo race science as Eugen Fischer tried finding evidence of the Aryan race being superior through studying the Nama and Herero prisoners within the concentration camps. These race experiments, as told by Ng’s in the first article, led to the Nuremberg Laws that led to the holocausts. These experiments also seem similar to those conducted on Jewish prisoners within the concentration camps during WWII to find scientific justification or evidence that might prove the Aryan race to be superior.

What I found most surprising about the genocide was the attitude from Germany about their actions, as after the news of the cruel conditions within the concentration camps became published, they did not try to hide their crimes; instead, they started making postcards out of it. The unforgiving nature of it all just shocked me, especially as “only after Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990 did the German government begin to acknowledge their role in the atrocities” as told in Ng’s first article. Only recently has Germany actually begun to recognize their actions, take responsibility, and somewhat begin the process of reconciliation with reparations. But even so, there are many marks from the Nama and Herero genocide that still remain, such as the Marine Monument which “commemorates the German efforts against the 1904 uprisings” and clearly attempts to sugar coat and ignore the true history of what occurred in South Africa. Such monuments and other examples that attempt to hide and rewrite history continue to harm and halt the process of reconciliation for all those affected by the genocide, not just directly but indirectly, as current generations of Herero still have to face the effects of the genocide that occurred over a century ago.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Genocide of the Herero and its Consequences

Colonialism is based on expanding your own land by taking the land of others. This is exactly what happened to the Herero and Nama people. According to

“The genocide in Namibia (1904-08) and its consequences” when Germany was trying to take over their land General Lothar von Trotha was very clear that he wanted to exterminate native peoples, and he didn’t care what he had to do as long as Germany would be able to have a settlement there. This clearly shows just how much the want for land and power can completely blind people. Although Colonialism starts with just wanting a piece of land, it usually ends with the people who are already there paying the price. The Herero people were slaughtered when they decided they couldn’t take the oppression anymore, and they fought back. It didn’t matter if you were a woman or innocent child, thousands, almost the entire population, was killed by German soldiers. It was a genocide.

This genocide was a precursor to what the Holocaust would be. Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha, according to “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” declared a race war against the Herero, and he wanted their extinction. He sounds very much like Hitler, and what they did to both the Herero and Jews was very similar. They both believed in the”Aryan” race, and they believed any other race was inferior and therefore it was okay if they died. German soldiers created propaganda that made the Herero people seem like thieves and murderers in order to push their own agenda. The Nazis did the same exact thing with jews during WWII. Not only was there propaganda, but there were also concentration camps. People were forced into labor and excruciating circumstances that slowly killed them. They were forced to work without food or water which led to so many deaths. The sole purpose of the concentration camps were just to kill people in a way that wouldn’t draw too much attention to what was happening. Again this is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany. Finally, after people were killed their skulls were “studied”, and scientists came to false conclusions that Black people were less smart and capable then white people therefore they deserved to die. This information that came about because of this genocide led to the creation of the Nuremberg Laws that were used against Jews.

Although we learn about the Holocaust as the worst genocide in history, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t learn about what happened in Africa and other places that didn’t receive the same media coverage. I had never heard about this genocide before, but it is important that I did. The main point that I learned is that colonization can’t be a good thing because it always leads to the oppression of the people with less power, and it strips them from something that is rightfully theirs. It is important that we learn about these topics so we can somehow help people who have been affected by this heal in any way that they can.

brighton, ma, US
Posts: 21

The Genocide Structure and How They Build Off of One Another

The Namibian genocide, in my opinion, was very similar to other genocides. I think what sets it apart is the amount of time it has taken for people to realize the extent of the German colonialism power over the Herero people. Shrouded under the Holocaust, the sheer importance of the Namibian genocide became belittled. Colonialism derives from the hopes of gaining resources for the country, in this case it came at the expense of the natives living there. @earnest. Makes a very interesting point, in that in this genocide they regarded the lives of the people there and instead the genocide came as an effect of obtaining these rich lands. I agree with the idea fully, the sense of overwhelming superiority instated in German Colonizers lead to enforce the ideals of personal gain without the considerations of others. German has long had this superiority complex which is seen in their choice in land seen in Ng’s The First Genocide of the 20th Century. They deemed South West Africa “the only place fit for German colonization” therefore instating their claim over the land.

Colonialism always has the potential to morph into a genoicde. With high superiority of colonizers it instates the notion that they are able to obtain whatever means necessary. Furthermore leading to the exploitation of resources of land and the people seen on countless occasions around the world. Natives, due to the practicality of the situation, become suppressed and reintroduced into their land a slaves, seen in Ng’s The First Genocide of the 20th Century through the fact that 7 Hereros were seen as equal to one German. With the amount of resistance against their colonization, it led them to rely on other means of stating their superiority as some of their resistance did have a withstanding reputation, especially when Samuel Maharero and his group were able to kill over 100 German landowners and sneak away. The introduction of social darwinism further stripped the Herero of their rights and reputation. However this pattern of resistance has occured before, I wondered what was so different about the German’s rule that led to such jurassic measures as taking out a whole population of people. They were very tactful in their approaches to keep them alive for the purpose of tending to the land and labor. However by building european buildings and instating their own roads and culture, it separated the people from the lands they once knew.

As for Ng’s second article, Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice, I found it to be very stimulating. In class we were able to focus on the importance of the Nimibian Genocide itself, while this article brought light to the aftermath that Nimbia faces. I was shocked by the acts of small donations given by countries such as the United Kingdom, however Germany has not formally apologized for their wrongdoings. Although I understand using the entirety of Germany will have an immense effect on the country's economy, reputation and much more, the apology that the German Minister for Economic Cooperation had given, does not fully incorporate the sufferings of the Namibian people. One striking difference between the Holocaust and Namibian Genocide was the lasting memory it was able to keep up afterwards. Of course there are many memorials and remembrals for the Holocaust, yet there is little too none recognition of the Namibian Genocide. One part of the documentary we were able to watch that was incredibly sickening was watching the bikes go over these mass graves, which only furthers my point of the sheer neglectance of the genocide. However in Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice I was incredibly moved by the symbolic reconciliation through fashion and photography. It was especially powerful to see them dressed up in army German clothing sitting on these lawn chairs. In my opinion it represented the simplicity of Namibia being overtaken by an overpowering rule, the lawn chair was brightly colored with patterns while these men wearing expensive and authoritative clothing sat upon the land to represent the German rule.

The Namibian Genocide was used as a guiding plan for the Holocaust in many ways while also incorportating familiar genocide standards. For instance genocides have long used propaganda in order to instate fear and nationalism to fuel the citizens. In an excerpt from oward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective, he experience of the colonial genocide in Namibia, therefore not surprisingly, eventually fed into Nazi ideology and propaganda. The most popular novel on the ‘civilising mission’ of exterminating the Herero, originally published in 1906, was ‘Peter Moors Fahrt nach Südwest’ by Gustav Frenssen. It attained a print run of over 400,000 copies and was reprinted for the last time in Germany by the German army headquarters for distribution in the trenches on the ‘Eastern Front’ in 1944, when it was referred to as Schützengrabenliteratur (Trench literature). Propaganda had a major influence on people in South West Africa as well as in Germany which ultimately led everyone to come to the understanding that Namibians were inferior. Also many genocides have focused on social darwinism in order to instate superiority over the natives of the land. By reinstating these ideas of superiority in oneselves and in the oppressed, it leads to a communicative understanding between the two groups. With these ideals of superiority, it also allows the separation of the two groups which is familiar to history, Shark Island was used for the Namibian people as Auschwitz was for Jews. Not to mention the effect the Namibian Genocide had on others, Eugen Fischer’s studies mentioned in, Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective, had feuled his work for TheBastards of Rehoboth and the Problem of Miscegenation in Man, which had later formed the basis of the Nuremberg Laws that legislated discrimination against Jews.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

German Colonization: The Atrocities in Namibia

It is so clear that colonialism and settler ideology carve the path for genocide. At the foundation of colonialism, the notion of white supremacy influences colonizers to afflict economic inequalities, racism, and destruction upon other groups of people. They colonize when they see opportunities and benefits for themselves, whether its land, commodities, or another resource. Moreover, in order to take full control, they must claim the ingenious people to be a threat to them and their race, justifying the marginalization, persecution, and slaughter of those people.

We see this unfold in the Herero and Nama genocide in the German Southwest Africa colony. After the boom in the German population following industrialization, Germans saw the need to find more space for their people, using the term Lebensraum, or “living space.” They saw Namibia as the most suitable place for them to settle. Without a doubt, the Germans met resistance from many Namibian tribes, but they used this opportunity to create propaganda and depict the Herero as thieving and violent savages. Furthermore, in Clara Ng’s The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero, she explains that German officials, notably Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha, was able to call on a “race war” against the Herero, who would threaten and infect the white (or Aryan) race, like a disease. Following this, an annihilation order was issued by Von Trotha and he sent the German army to Namibia. He and his army used a military strategy called the “pincer technique,” where the German troops would surround the Herero on three sides so that they had no choice but to move in a certain direction. While fleeing the Germans, many Herero would die of thirst, hunger, or poison from well water.

After six months of chasing down the Herero, German officials were able to trick them into returning home and put them into concentration camps in Karibib, Windhoek, Swakopmund, Lüderitz, and Okahandja. In these camps, the Herero and Nama people were used as forced labor, working on infrastructure projects that would build the “new Germany'' in Southwest Africa. They were given very little food, whipped frequently, and required to wear tags to identify themselves. To echo @Noodles, Germans did not see the Herero and Nama as humans, but as individuals that were sub-human. The Pambazuka News article provides evidence of this attitude as German officials captured the sufferings of the Herero and Nama on postcards, which German people sent to their family and friends. This is parallel to the postcards of lynching, which we had previously examined. Whether its lynching or genocide, the images reflect the notion that Black individuals are sub-human and reinforce racial supremacy.

From this, I can already see so many connections and similarities to the Holocaust from the German propaganda to the concentration camps to Eugen Fischer’s studies on the Herero and Nama skulls, which would contribute to the creation of the Nuremberg Laws. In class, the BBC documentary Namibia: Genocide and the Second Reich showed us that the Herero and Nama genocide was documented meticulously. For example, Von Trotha’s annihilation order was on paper, making it concrete evidence of the perpetrators of the genocide. In addition, German officials extensively photographed the events on the concentration camps and recorded each Herero prisoner, including their sex, age, and who they worked for. Despite the genocide being heavily documented, it is still not widely known and is overshadowed by the Holocaust. Because of this, the Herero and Nama people do not fully receive the reconciliation and reparations that they deserve. Like @ernest, I found Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice to be an enlightening article as Ng explains the present-day effects of the colonization and persecution of the Namibian population, including a large economic gap between white Namibians and Black Namibians. In the Herero and Nama community, one of the main concerns is land restitutions as many farmlands are white-owned. Another demand is the removal of symbols and statues that represent German power and identity because its presence only reminds them of the sufferings and oppression of their ancestors, making it difficult to find a true sense of independence. However, the Herero have been able to show their resistance against colonialism through their clothing choices and their observance of Red Flag Day. In order to serve justice to the Herero and Nama community, I believe that the German government should more openly acknowledge the atrocities against the Herero and Nama people by marking the sites of concentration camps and mass graves, and they should take decisive action to remedy the current economic and psychological effects.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Lasting Impact of the Herero and Nama Genocide

After learning about what happened to the Herero and Nama people I was shocked that I hadn’t heard about it before because it seems like something everyone should know about. I had heard of the Berlin Conference and how many European states colonized Africa, but I had not heard about what happened specifically in the parts of Africa Germany took control of. In the late 1800s, emigration from Germany increased, and the Germans wanted to expand because they needed more “Lebensraum” and wanted to spread the German race across the world. At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Germany secured German Southwest Africa and German East Africa. Although I doubt the Germans knew at this point that there would be a genocide against the native peoples there, by colonizing these areas in the way they already showed that they thought they were far superior to the native peoples. The Germans began exploiting the labor of native peoples for diamonds and copper. These events make it clear that colonialism can turn into genocide because it did in this situation. Colonialism is based on ideas of white supremacy and superiority which colonizers use to justify their actions.

The Herero fought back against the Germans and engaged them in several rebellions, but because the German had already established their hold on the area, they had no legal system to protect them. These rebellions escalated into a program of extermination by the Germans. The Herero wanted to keep their land and freedom, but the Germans were intent on taking over the land and making it their own. The indigenous peoples were then moved on the railway line to isolated concentration camps and forced to work.

Many skulls from concentration camps were sent to the Berlin pathological institute. Eugen Fischer, one of the founding fathers of German and later Nazi eugenics, studied these skulls and published a report on them. The study that Eugen Fischer did on the Herero skulls formed the basis of the Nuremberg Laws that discriminated against Jewish people in the Holocaust. His study also led to laws preventing interracial marriage and children. The Germans used many of the same techniques in the genocide agaist the Herero as later in the Holocaust. As Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber state in their article, “Namibian genocide contributed towards establishing a specific routine among the German military.” Not only did the Germans use similar techniques in the Holocaust, they saw both the Herero and Jewish people as “the enemy not as another human being but as a member of an alien, inferior race, that is best annihilated.” And a big thing that stood out to me was that Lothar Von Trotha wrote down the orders to kill the Herero people and that there was documentation of it.

I think one of the main takeaways from these horrible events is the impact it left on Namibia and the people that currently live there. As Clara Ng states, the hardships the Herero endured caused political and economic struggle which has continued into current day. The people of Namibia are still seeking reparations for what happened. Ng also states that many people in Namibia are poor, and the people are very young, over half of the population is younger than 25, and that now languages like Herero are only used by 10 percent of the population. Even if many people all over the world refuse to recognize or give reparations for this genocide, it's impact on the people it left are ongoing.

Another thing that stood out to me was the lack of markings of genocide in Namibia. Cities such as Swakopmund have become tourist destinations and that people who visit don't know the history. I also found it disturbing that people ride dirt bikes through mass graves of the Herero and Nama people. That people camp on the site of a former concentration camp on Shark Island. It shocked me because as big of an impact as this had on the native people in Namibia, there is almost nothing showing that this happened. If someone doesn't go out of their way to learn about this, or don't learn it specifically in school they may never know that these events took place. It also shocked me that in the State House there is a monument of a German marine that commemorates the German’s who fought against the Herero uprisings.

I think the main takeaway I have from learning about this is that atrocities like these need to be taught more. Like a lot of the stuff we have been learning about this year, not many people know about this and it is a significant part of history. It is important to learn about this so we are able to recognize what happened to the Herero and prevent it from happening in the future. I agree with @cherryblossom that the German government should recognize these atrocities more by implementing memorials and marking the sites of the concentration camps and mass graves, as well as paying reparations to the people of Namibia.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Genocides in Namibia

In Class the documentary we watched, Namibia - Genocide and The Second Reich was shocking, while its incredibly sad and disgusting that humans are capable of this, the most shocking part in my opinion is that Ive never even heard of the Herero people or the horrible events that unfolded in Namibia and I think its safe to say that most of my classmates had a similar reaction. I payed attention in my world history class so I already knew about the scramble for Africa and even a little bit about the Belgian Congo but this was completely new to me. And clearly its not only me who was oblivious to it because like we saw in the film mass grave sites were used as skate parks and the history of what really happened there is completely buried. The fact that I had no idea about this makes me wonder just how many other genocides or atrocities have been buried and that Im oblivious to and its terrifying how easily something like this can be covered up even with the countless evidence of it.

Colonialism is in a-lot of ways a gateway to genocide as we've seen time and time again. This because it almost always includes taking others land and resources and subjugating them and when they resist which they usually will they are met with ruthless violence. This can be seen with the Herero uprising and the Belgian Congo like we talked about in class but it can even be seen In our own dark history of massacring and spreading deadly plague to the Native Americans who lived here and have been oppressed and subjugated ever since.

There was obvious and plentiful evidence of the Germans intent to wipe out the Herero population even german leaders like Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha who said “I think it is better that the Herero nation perish rather than infect our troops,” and threatened to kill every Herero man woman or child who didn't leave their native land despite this it wasn't till 1985 that the UN classified the Massacres of the Herero and the Nama as a genocide.

After the Violence against the Herero people the Nama people in turn rose up and were met with another wave of violence from the Germany colonies. Despite promises by the Germans those Nama who stopped resisting were taken prisoner and put in some of the first concentration camps where they were forced to work under brutal conditions. Skulls of male Herero and Nama prisoners were scraped clean by female prisoners using glass shards before being sent to Germany where they were used in various science experiments.

While these events are largely foreshadowed by and maybe even forgotten about because of the Holocaust they serve as a clear prerequisite and warning of what was to come. Germany practiced the extermination tactics they would later use on Jews in the Holocaust and essentially used the people of Namibia as a test run for concentration camps. They also saw how they were able to get away with and cover up these atrocities. Not only that but the science of German eugenics was in part founded around experiments on the Namibian skulls. One scientist Eugen Fischer built his career off these experiments and later was incredibly influential to the Nazi the party, not only was one of his books read by Hitler but his ideas also helped create a basis and popular support for the Nuremberg laws which then led to the tragedies of the Holocaust.

George Santayana, a Boston Latin alum, said the famous quote "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". This quote is often said as a reason to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust but it can equally be applied to those that happened in Namibia. The Story of the Herero and the Nama was covered up and forgotten and like the quote says, barely thirty years later the same country commit very similar atrocities except this time against the Jewish people and on a larger scale because they had practice.

Roslindale, MA, US
Posts: 16

The Herero Genocide

While in class learning about the Herero, and reading the articles of their extermination as well as the Nama was to say the least apalling, and disturbing. I was most disturbed by Van Trotha and how he wanted so badly to get rid of all of the Herero people. It shocked me that when the Herero backed away, not wanting to continue engaging in war, the Germans were NOT interested in making peace. They were intereste in going after the Herero people and truly make them suffer which is exactly what they did. They would put them into camps, experiment with them, in the most inhumane ways possible, and they were relentless. It almost physically hurt to read about and hear about this genocide because this was the first time I have heard about it. Genocides are horrible, possibly the worst thing that humans somehow fall into the pattern of, but they deserve to be known so that we can mourn and respect those who have passed away. It is also necessary to confront the atrociousness of the people who have comitted the crime of genocide such as Van Trotha not only so that it does not happen again but so that the whole world can know that genocides are in no way an ok thing to do. No matter how much you may hate a certain group, which we should all try our best NOT to do, but just because you dislike people does not mean that you can kill of them because they do not fit your version of the world.

When confronting the past it is necessary to address the impacts of genocide on a country such as Namibia which is still trying to repair from the damage of the past. For the Herero the path to reconciliation has been very difficult, understandably. Whatever is done though must be done in the attempt or reaaching a true justice which some do through material compensation such as money, and others choose symbolic reconsiliation such as shared histories. There remain to be socioeconomic barriers in this battle for justice but I think that as long as both sides recognize the bloody past, actively work towards justice, and actively work so that this or something similar does not happen again possibly through the use of educatin like books, that hopefully that will help to repair the relationship. This will not happen overnight, and is a constant battle, but as long as everyone is willling to put in the work to achieve justice I believe that both sides can come to a fair agreement and acknowledgment of one another. These racist ideologies that people like Van Trotha had is absolutely unacceptable and people must look past the past propaganda that had been in pace to continue these harmful ideologies and perceptions of black people. Everyone needs to know of this Herero genocide because they deserve justice for what was once done because they are people, and the world needs more compassion, especially when these ideologies appear in all aspects of the world. Just because this happened in another part of the world does not mean other countries cannot learn from their mistakes, which we need to do because once again genocide is absolutely atrocious and we need to disable the institutions that can lead to this intense divide that in some cases leads to genocides.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

The Herero and Nama Genocide

The fact that such an impactful event was pushed aside and discarded is horrible and immensely unjust. As Clara Ng described, these people endured violence, harassent, slavery, forced labor, and attempts to destroy their culture and have recieved no compensation. Germany has continued to evade apologies despite their responsibility to address their prior actions. Reconciliation has been pushed aside because of reliances on German support depriving the Herero and Namibian people of what they deserve.

Through the Herero and Nama genocide it is very apparent how rapidly colonialism can transform into genocide. Germany's industrialization was growing fast causing poverty and overcrowding prompting the desire to expand. Germany took control of South West Africa and began to exploit the labor of indiginous people to gain diamond and copper as well as take control of local resources. As described in The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero, the Herero were stripped of land and cattle and their ancestrical areas destroyed. When they revolted it was at first successful but as Herero people went through the Omaheke desert to find asylum most didn't arrive due to starvation, water poisoning, and dehydration. 65,000 people were killed and the 15,000 survivors were placed in concentration camps, “fenced in by thorn bushes and barbed wire, many Herero and Nama died from illness, abuse, and exhaustion.”

Germany declared it a “race war” and said they must kill all those different, describing them as “inferiors”. Lothar Von Trotha was a major component in the us vs them mindset, viewing the native people as aliens that must be destroyed so as to save and benefit the German population. Their goal adapted into eliminating an entire racial group in order to successfully expand their rule into South West Africa. Germans considered it their “Greatest achievement” that the Herero were annihilated and celebrated their horrible ill treatment of the group. There was a 80 percent population reduction during this time as they faced German attacks as well as what is described in Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective, rinderpest, locust invasion, and a malaria epidemic.

It was impactful to learn about Konzentrationslager located on shark island. This camp caused its residents to face low rations, uncooked rice and carcuses as food, untreated disease, manual labor, and the threat of being shot and beaten. Women were mistreated and even individuals who surrendered were forced to become prisoners in detention camps and the majority died from neglect. Those who were released were barred from owning land and settling in large groups, practically stripped of any freedom. This genocide was very publically illustrated by those involbed and post cards were published depicting concentration camps and forced labour scenes.

There are various connections to the Holocaust events through the harsh concentration camps as well as the similarity in Eugen Fischer’s studies on the Herero and Nama skulls. These observations transformed into the basis of the Nuremberg Laws which actively discriminated against Jewish people. Both genocides considered their victims as subhuman and not worthy of freedom or equal treatment. The Germans used procedures immensly identical to those later enacted during the Holocaust.

One of the main takeaways I had from learning about these events is that this information should be spread and others educated on what occurred during this time. Before researching I was unaware of the extent to which this genocide impacted the Herero people and the lack of compensation they have recieved. It is appalling to see how easily these individuals have discarded their history of destroying and diminishing these groups of people, and their immense efforts to conceal it. It is vital that people are informed of what has transpired and recognized those lost through markers and memorials as @squirrelluver123 mentioned.

BOSTON, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Untwisting Twistory

To think that a person or group of people could possibly carry out the extermination of another ethnic, racial, religious, or other group is unethical at first likely seems unfathomable. While it is still shocking that this has happened numerous times throughout history, in analyzing the genocide of the Herero, Nama, and indigenous peoples of Namibia, it becomes evident that there is a pattern of circumstances that can lead to genocide, especially relating to colonialism.

One aspect of colonialism that seems to create the possibility of genocide is the importance placed on resources paired with the disregard for the lives of people already living on colonized land. The motives for colonialism are never to help or care for the inhabitants of colonized land. Many times nations have tried to excuse imperialism with this idea, for example in claims social darwinism and the use of might to colonize were morally acceptable as it served to advance humanity and the human race as a whole. Instead, colonizing and imperialistic nations always have ulterior motives related to personal benefit. In the case of Germany and their involvement in southwest Africa, this agenda was lebensraum, as we learned in the BBC documentary from class. Stated explicitly by Clara Ng in her article “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero”, “This [overcrowding in Germany and emigration] fueled an aggressive expansionism: its people needed Lebensraum… The Second Reich adopted an imperialist foreign policy, enthusiastically joining the Scramble for Africa”. Additionally, the Germans as in most cases of imperialism, sought resources such as copper to fuel industrialism. From the article by Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber, “Further encroachment loomed with the proposed railway, which was to cut through the Herero heartland to reach the copper mines of Tsumeb at its far north-eastern fringe”.

The true motives for German colonialism in southwest Africa, Lebensraum and as mentioned by @thesnackthatsmilesback, resources such as copper and other precious metals, created a condition in which the people of current day Namibia were merely either tools, obstacles, or irrelevant objects standing in the way of Germany’s agenda. Therefore the Germans took advantage of and disposed of the Herero and Nama in whatever way they saw fit. According to Ng’s “The 20th Century’s First Genocide article, “Amidst their plight, the Herero were forced into daily manual labor for private companies working on land leveling, harbor building, and railway construction projects.” When the Germans deemed it beneficial to use the indigenous peoples of southwest Africa as a tool to create lebensraum and obtain resources, they employed this “tool” in the form of slavery at forced labor camps such as Shark Island. However, when the Germans viewed the indigenous peoples as obstacles, they simply murdered them. As we learned in the documentary, and as mentioned in the articles, this was made official with von Trotha’s declaration that any and all Herero within Germany’s territory would be executed without fail. This condition in which colonial powers care solely about resources for personal gain and could not care less for indigenous people affected by their actions creates the possibility for disturbing crimes such as slavery and genocide as seen in the case of the Herero and Nama of Southwest Africa.

It is also clear that the tragic genocide in southwest Africa foreshadowed the events of the Holocaust. One similarity, as mentioned by @Noodles, is certainly the pattern of othering by which Germany transformed both the indigenous peoples of Namibia and the victims of the Holocaust into the enemy. As seen in the trading cards included in Ng’s article, the Herero were portrayed as “cattle consuming” monsters and uncivilized, dangerous beasts. Additionally, von Troth claimed that the Herero were, “non-humans” There is a clear parallel in the infamous propaganda of Nazi Germany, which commonly portrayed Jews as parasitic people infecting Germany or disabled people as genetically inferior and a negative force on the German economy.

Not only did the Germans in both instances use propaganda to create an enemy, but as stated by @yvesIKB they also employed science to attempt to justify racial, ethnic, religious, and other discrimination. The Germans performed extensive studies on the skulls of victims of the genocide in Namibia, using their studies to justify their feelings of racial superiority. During the Holocaust, a main goal of the Nazis was to achieve the ideal aryan race, a society in which only humans with the best genetics and traits were included. This to the Nazis meant no homosexuals, people with disabilities, and involved numerous other criteria. This common thread is undeniable, and as was mentioned in the article by Kossler and Melber, “racial science became a mainstay of Nazi ideology”. Finally, as many of the previous posts have already pointed out, the commonalities between forced labor camps and extermination camps during the genocide of the indigenous people of Namibia and during the Holocaust are clear.

One of my biggest takeaways from learning about this genocide is that more often than we realize, truth is molded to fit a desired narrative or objective and this is incredibly dangerous. It was terrifying to see that the German colonizers took events such as the Herero uprising and twisted it to their liking, portraying the Herero as vicious savages rather than admitting the reality that they were desperately attempting to defend themselves. This allowed them to justify genocide, and even claim it was ethical. This “twistory” as we often call it still remains, as seen in the “Regarding Reconciliation” article, which discusses the memorial in Namibia dedicated to German military actions against the Herero uprising. The Germans successfully bent truth to further their colonial ambitions, and these distortions incredibly remain over 100 years later, contributing to the lack of knowledge of this genocide. Another related takeaway is the importance of recognizing where truths were manipulated in order to ensure similar events do not take place in the future. If we simply ignore the real truth and fail to recognize where it was changed such as in the lies about the Herero uprising we, in the future we could fail to realize where truths are being manipulated, leaving us susceptible to similar tragedies.

Posts: 17

I could not help but feel enraged while watching the BBC documentary, “Genocide and the Second Reich.” Of course, I, like most other people, know extensively about the horrors committed by Germany throughout the Holocaust. I also know how profusely Germany has apologized and actively tried to make ammends to the Jewish population following this genocide. This was a tragedy too large and too exposed to be covered up, and yet I was naive enough to believe the German government was doing this proactively. However, after learning that just 40 years earlier, they eradicated 80% of an entire population, the Herero people of modern day Namibia, it is clear just how deep rooted this hatred and supremacy is in German history.

In the 1855 Berlin Conference, many European countries gathered to literally carve up portions of African and debate who should receive each portion. One of the territories Germany took control of was what they called German Southwest Africa, or modern day Namibia. It is impossible not to see the white supremacy in this meeting alone, where these white men felt entitled to look at a map and say, “this is mine,” because there was no way the native Africans could possibly govern themselves. After all, according to them, these African people were hardly even human in comparison. These are the foundational ideals of imperialism, and this is why imperialism and colonialism is just one small step away from a genocide. It is based on the notion that one group is far superior than the other, so much so that it has the authority to take complete control. Once that is established, it is easy to not feel any remorse or tie to human morals if you truly believe that the other group is not human.

The case of the colonization in Namibia clearly exhibits how easily imperialism can transition into genocide. It started once the Germans began to dehumanize the Herero people, literally saying that, “seven Africans was equivalent to that of one colonist.” Now, once some Herero people began to protest against the colonization of their land, the Germans could not possibly fathom why they could even have a case for independence. This made it all the more easy to justify completely eradicating an entire race of people.

This basis of social darwanistic ideals directly lead into the Holocaust. Germans claimed that because they were the superior race, they had the right to eliminate any people who were not. This supremistic foundation was present in Namibia among the Herero people, and also in Europe among the Jewish people. The Germans essentially took what they did in Namibia, and blew it up on a grand scale. Even the concentration camps were extremely similar. They went so far as to collect skulls from executed Herero people to be “medically studied” in the field of eugenics, a pseudo science that was again, used to explain the motives behind the Holocaust.

It is absolutely horrifying that as a world, we have covered up this pivotal moment in our history. By not teaching the genocide committed upon the Herrero people, we are still not giving them voice. We not only need to study this portion of history because of the value and insight it provides into learning about the Holocause, but so we can stop the trend of dehumanizing entire races.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Herero and Nama Genocide

This genocide had appalling and revealing aspects of colonialism. Besides the fact that the Herero and Nama Genocide is generally swept under the rug, many don't believe it ever happened. As in the video we viewed in class last Tuesday, there are little who even acknowledge what has happened in modern day Namibia. In the makeshift graveyards, people ride bikes over the burial grounds, the majority of people seeing the genocide for what it is through family history.

German treatment of South West Africa was, while short lived, was incredibly brutal. Rubber was a resource that became increasingly used and needed, a resource that Germany would use South West Africa to exploit. We learned that the people who were under the German colonial rule had harsh quotas that must be met. If these quotas were not met, limbs would be chopped off. The people under this colonial rule would go to extreme lengths to meet these quotas. Rubber was a harsh material to gather. It was sticky and extremely adhesive. With no known or perfected ways to gather this liquid, people would risk their bodies in attempt to meet the quotas. People would tear skin and flesh trying to remove rubber off their bodies, many dying because of this. More than eighty percent of their tribe perished, making it the first documented genocide.

Germany was never always in modern day Namibia, colonial rule in German South West Africa lasted thirty-five years, when, Germany lost the First War. Germany’s industrialization in the 1850s was rapid. The resulting population boom led to severe poverty and urban overcrowding. As emigration increased, German national identity took a toll. This fueled an aggressive expansionism, they called this concept “living space” idea that would later fuel the emergence of the Nazi ideology. Beginning in 1884, Germany colonized four territories across the African continent: Togoland, the Cameroons, Tanganyika, and a coastal area in South West Africa, now known as Namibia.

Germans were drawn by the notion of diamonds, but struck gold with the use of rubber. Herero and Nama were the dominate groups who lived in this area. Colonial rule quickly dissolved into widespread exploitation and resource theft. Europeans viewed native Africans as a source of cheap labor, undeserving of the same human rights as the white populations. Although enslaved and exploited, they did not stay complacent. The Herero, led by chief Samuel Maharero, began to fight back against colonial expansion. He worked with Hendrik Witbooi, the Namaqua chief, to fight against their oppressors. Together they revolted against the Germans from 1903 to 1907, killing between 123 and 150 German landowners. The Herero revolt was initially successful, but the victory was short-lived. In groups, Herero survivors retreated into the Omaheke Desert, hoping to reach the British territory of Bechuanaland where they would be granted asylum. Most never reached their destination however. They were trapped in a no-man’s land, dying by the hundreds from starvation, dehydration, and water poisoning. With fewer than a thousand men, Maherero eventually crossed the Kalahari into Bechuanaland, where they sought refuge with the Batswana tribe.

When German colonization began, the Herero numbered around 85,000 men and women. After the conflict, only about 15,000 Herero remained as forced laborers. In 1911, an official German census recorded an 80 percent reduction of the tribal population. There are many important takeaways from the Herero and Nama Genocide. We must confront the issue of acknowledging the events that happened in attempts of preventing it in the future. Clearly ideals from the Herero and Nama Genocide later were applied to the Holocaust and acknowledging the history would had potentially altered history. I would love to say that we have progressed as a society to were genocide would be directly fought against, but this is untrue. Uighurs, Rohingya in Myanmar, Nuer in South Sudan, among others are known but actions from other developed countries do nothing to stop the murder and exploitation happening in the listed populations. The most important takeaway is to acknowledge the history and do whatever you can to prevent it.

Boston , Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

The Industrial Impact

During the 19th century, European nations gradually began to industrialize one by one, as technological advancements swept throughout the continent. Formerly agrarian societies quickly transformed into manufacturing hubs, filled with railroads, factories, and smog. In turn, this surge in industrial power led to the rise of new age European imperialism in regions such as Southeast Asia and Africa. Sadly, as we now see in retrospect, the combination of growing European power and prevailing racist ideology lead up to countless atrocities throughout this era, many of which have long been forgotten. I reference specifically the Herero Genocide, during which Germany exterminated 80% of the native Herero population. This Genocide deserves to be remembered, not only out of respect for the thousands of innocent lives lost, but also for its role as a representation of white supremacist sentiment, and a precursor to the Holocaust.

Like its peers of the time, 19th century Germany was heavily engaged in all aspects industrial. Interestingly enough, this coincided with a rise in nationalist sentiment throughout the country, manifesting itself in the notion of Lebensraum, or ‘living space’, detailing the idea that German people deserved to expand beyond their borders for the sake of benefiting the Aryan race. As we learned during class, the Second Reich quickly took advantage of such nationalism within the country, promoting aggressive foreign policy (pursuing territory in Africa, waging war against the Herero, systemic genocide) while the population provided tremendous support.

I find it quite interesting to consider how and why a national identity took hold during this time, given its significance in impacting the subsequent Herero Genocide. Upon research, I found that the Three Reich terminology was coined initially by German author Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. By his description, the First Reich consisted of the Holy Roman Empire, the Second of the German Empire, and the Third of Nazi Germany (although unrelated, I also found that white supremacists and Neo-Nazis often use the term ‘Fourth Reich’ to represent a homogenous white ethnostate). Intriguingly, the Second Reich (aka the German Empire) was the first instance in which most of modern-day Germany was united under singular control. In the time of the First Reich (Holy Roman Empire), Germans didn’t quite think of themselves as ‘Germans’, so to speak. They identified themselves with their local region, perhaps as a result of the mere vastness of the Holy Roman Empire and its eventual decline in power and influence.

I reference this point regarding the First Reich to demonstrate that the German identity was something which was novel in the 19th century. Especially in light of the Industrial Revolution, which brought about significant improvements in life quality and national power, Germans were beginning to unite under the singular cause of promoting their own gain. However, this united mindset led to the beginning of ‘othering’, a term which we’ve become all too familiar with throughout these last few months: the Aryan race became the “we”, as all other races became the “them”. Most significantly, while many examples of othering have appeared throughout history, this specific instance took place during the apex of German scientific and technological advancements, providing means to act upon (and justify!) racist ideology.

Throughout the era of colonialism, most of Europe was undergoing a similar process to that of Germany, reconciling fragmented states into singular, industrialized powers (Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, etc.). They too possessed individual nationalist sentiment, along with the means to overpower and colonize non-industrial regions. This is important to remember as we consider why colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide, because simply put, the areas which were being colonized just didn’t have the means to fight back. In terms of the Scramble for Africa, the weapons of natives were simply no match for the newly developed rifles, artillery, and machine guns of Europeans. When combined with the notion of improving national livelihood, this resulted in little to no opposition towards genocide by the civilian population. European powers were free to do as they pleased. In retrospect, budding European nationalism (Lebensraum) was a thinly veiled euphemism for white supremacy.

Focusing back on Germany specifically, we must also consider how the Herero Genocide played a role in impacting the Holocaust. As aforementioned, scientific advancements of the time played a role in developing the field of fake science known as eugenics. In the case of the Heroro Genocide, we see one of the first instances in which bigotry was justified through alleged evidence of subhuman races. Ties to science, such as the use of Social Darwinism or the analysis of African skulls, provided ways to gain support for the systematic killing, a tactic which was evidently repeated in Nazi Germany, where the Jewish population was labelled as a threat to the Aryan race. Beyond scientific methods, Germany also utilized active propaganda to ensure support for the war against the Herero. As seen in this German trade card image, the Herero are shown to terrorize the poor German victim. In Kössler and Melber’s piece, an instance at the beginning of the war is described, when Germany publicized the alleged savageness of Herero troops, when in reality Herero Chief Samuel Maharero ordered all German women, children, and missionaries to be spared and escorted to German forts. These avenues of propaganda are not new - however, they were practiced and refined during the Herero Genocide, and subsequently repeated leading up to the Holocaust.

Another apparent tie that we see between the Herero Genocide and the Holocaust is the use of concetration camps as tools for systematic extermination. As the war began to receive negative attention in the mainland, the German government established Konzentrationslage (concentration camps) in modern-day Namibia to further subjugate the Herero. Surrounded by barbed wire and fencing, captured Herero survivors were imprisoned. Many died from fatigue, illness, and abuse. The parallel here is apparent: Germany utilized this refined technique to claim the lives of millions during the Holocaust.

Truthfully speaking, I knew almost nothing of the Herero Genocide before spending time in class studying it. It’s unfortunate that subsequent events (World Wars, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust) detract from our knowledge of this event’s significance, especially given its impact on those exact events to come. The Herero Genocide provides fateful insight into how nationalist identities can be highly damaging, especially in terms of establishing a common racial enemy and furthering white supremacy. It highlights the furthest extent of atrocities committed during the Scramble for Africa, and the importance of why Germany must take steps to reconcile this darkest point in their history.

@ernest. captures this sentiment perfectly, stating “it is only in seeing the endless and prodigious struggle it is to recover from genocide that we can truly understand the full scope of the tragedy. [...] Generations of Herero and Nama continue to feel the acute pain of past trauma while their society itself remains structured against them.” The lasting effects of the Herero Genocide extend much further beyond simply the lives of those lost. Germany’s actions over a century ago impacted the entire history of modern-day Namibia, where Herero have now become a minority group, and German statues commemorating the Herero Wars still stand, representing a refusal on the part of Germany to accept the significance of the event. Moving forward, we must seek to address how and why this event has been suppressed for so long, not only for the sake of applying pressure on Germany to pay reparations and take responsibility, but also for sake of honoring those who lost their lives in this Genocide, just as we would for any other.

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