posts 1 - 15 of 27
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?

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Confronting the Herero and Nama Genocide of the Early 20th Century

The 20th century was the Age of Genocide, as Clara Ng notes, and it began with the genocide of the Herero, Nama, and the indigenous people of today’s Namibia. It seems to be that this is a topic not too often talked about outside of Namibia itself. The side of my family from Germany had never heard of the genocide that took place there. It’s important that we face this event in our past because there is a lot to learn from it and there are still ways for Germany to make reparations to or somehow reconcile with the people of Namibia who still suffer today from what happened in the early 20th century.

We can see within the Herrero and Nama genocide how colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide rather abruptly. German industrialization increased dramatically in the 1850s, and with the boom came severe poverty and urban overcrowding, a stark contrast and a quick leap from the group of rural states Germany used to be composed of. This is what then fueled the Lebensraum theory, the notion that if Germany wanted to expand its power it would need to expand its space. Germany colonized Togoland, the Cameroons, Tanganyika, and a strip of Southwest African (now Namibia) during the “Scramble for Africa,” seizing control of the land and its resources. The main thing to remember here is that Germany colonized Southwest Africa for the purpose of getting more resources and getting more land for their people to live and farm and be comfortable on. Because there were many Africans already living here and not willing to move for the Germans, that would mean that Germany would have to assert their power over these people and essentially disregard their lives to achieve the purpose of this colonization.

Very early on, Germany began exploiting these people for diamonds and copper and other resources. After the Herero began to fight back from 1903-1907, Lieutenant General Lothar Von Trotha declared the conflict a “race war,” said that the Africans were sub-human, and issued a written “annihilation order” soon after. This was the first documented policy of genocide and it was a direct result of colonization. The Germans came to Southwest Africa for “comfort space” and for resources, and they eventually understood that this wouldn’t be possible with people already living there, especially when those people resisted their power. Thus, they sought to eliminate this entire racial group. Racist theories then became the basis of justifications for the atrocities committed. For example, Lothar Von Trotha was a proponent of Social Darwinism and repeated the idea that the Herero and Nama people were something other than human.

The German settler ideology had envisioned the creation of a “New Germany,” and ethnically cleansing was the way the country sought to create comfort for its people. As a colonial power believing it had just picked up pieces of land all for itself, Germany believed it was their right to assert full control over the people in Southwest Africa.

The events that took place here prefigure what took place during the Holocaust. The aim of the powerful leaders was the same in both scenarios-to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. This became the aim and character of German colonial warfare with von Trotha and it later became the aim and character of Hitler and the Nazis. Eugen Fischer wrote a racist book after doing his little studies on the skulls Herero and Nama people who had died in the Shark Island concentration camp. Then later on during Nazi Germany these skulls became the material upon which academic careers were built. This racial science became an important part of Nazi ideology and discriminatory practices.

There were countless other ways colonial genocide in Namibia fed into Nazi ideology and propoganda. 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. This novel was extremely popular through the Nazi period. In it, Frenssen depicts the Herero as the enemy group which needed to be destroyed.

In Namibia, “all Africans over seven years of age were subjected to a labour obligation, registered and required to carry a token, the so-called pass mark (Passmarke) around their necks.” This was very similar to the practice in Germany requiring Jewish people to identify as such everywhere they went. One other clear parallel between the two genocides was the concentration camps. When Friederich von Lindequist declared the “war” over, the remaining Herero and Nama were put in concentration camps. The most known camp was at Shark Island, where conditions were extremely harsh and many people died.

It’s important to recognize the role that the Namibian genocide has played in the develoment of political society and culture in Germany. It’s a reminder that the dehumanizing of whole groups or categories of groups is not uncommon in history but in cases like these are not always well known. I think for me it’s a very strong reminder that history will repeat itself and build on itself unless mistakes are addressed and dealt with. There weren’t any direct consequences for the Namibian genocide, and only a few decades later a much larger genocide took place. The Namibian genocide also provides yet another example of the extremely detrimental effects colonization has on native people. Even today, Namibia has one of the world’s largest wealth divides, and many privately owned commercial farms in Namibia still belong to German-speaking farmers.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Parallels in Genocides

Colonialism is one step down the road to genocide. Colonialism was extremely common in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in Africa. it was based on the continuous dehumanization of the native people and the exploitation of their natural resources. German Southwest Africa had lots of diamond and copper mines which would bring a lot of wealth to Germany. Germany industrialized very quickly and sought to make a name for itself by taking large colonies in Africa. The two main groups exploited were the Nama and the Herero. They were used as cheap labor and were seen as subhuman by the German colonizers. In court, the word of one white colonist was worth that of seven natives.

The Herero grew tired of their horrible conditions and began to fight back against their oppressors. However, their results were disappointing and they were quickly overwhelmed by the German forces. They tried to flee to Bechuanaland but many died on the way. After these revolts, Lieutenant General Lotha von Trotha decided that it would be best to eradicate the natives. He believed that the Aryan race was best suited to rule the world and that all others should be killed. These ideas continued into the Holocaust. In 1907, the Germans declared that the war was over but by that point, most of the Herero had been killed. The remainder were kept in concentration camps where diseases were common and rations were insufficient.

These events are eerily similar to the Holocaust and make me wonder what could have happened if somebody did something to stop the colonists. Victims of concentration camps in Namibia had their skulls sent back to Germany for racial studying. They made measurements and used them to push forward their racist ideas. These “scientists” laid the foundation for what would happen to millions of people during the Holocaust. Fake science was used to justify the killing of millions of “undesirables” by the Nazis. They thought that the Aryan race should be the only one left and all others should be killed and that’s the same thing that happened in Namibia.

Before this class, I had never heard of the Namibian genocide. All I knew was that Europe had divided up Africa and treated the native people in an extremely cruel manner. I believe that it is extremely important to learn about history all across the world. Many of my history classes have mainly focused on Europe, Asia, and North America. Africa has largely been left out and many people don’t know much about its history.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Acknowledging Our Past

Until this week, I never knew much about the Herero and Nama genocide. Unfortunately, it has been kept quietly under wraps by Namibia as there are very few books and resources available on the topic despite Germany openly acknowledging the Holocaust. That being said, colonialism indeed has the potential to morph into genocide. An overwhelming amount of native people have been killed merely for trying to protect their lands from incoming colonists. For instance, there is the Berlin Conference. These meetings were composed of all European men, in which they divided up Africa for their taking. The land was already theirs in their eyes and the resources in these places were just waiting to be conquered.

It began with the industrialization of Germany in the 1850s with railways, iron, etc, which then resulted in a massive population boom. Many people faced poverty and overcrowding, ending in a fervent expansionism. Germany then colonized four territories in Africa in 1884, including Namibia. The German government seized control of local resources and exploited the labor of the Herero and the Nama. They experienced even more losses after the construction of the Otavi railway line. In response to this, Herero chief, Samuel Maharero began to revolt and this became the pivot point between colonization and genocide.

As Clara Ng states in “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” Maharero led many others in an initially successful revolt that lasted from 1903 to 1907. However, “genocidal intent soon became apparent” (Clara Ng) when Lieutenant-GeneralVon Trotha declared the whole fight a “race war”. Tribespeople of Africa were “subhuman” and “diseased” in his eyes-- a portrayal that was soon extended to the German media. Depicting the Herero and Nama people as inferior and as “pests to be eradicated” gave justification to their mass killings and shows how closely tied genocide and colonization can really be. The Germans wanted resource and land control and when they were met with resistance, it transformed into genocide. Thus, these events prefigure what happened during the Holocaust because it “fed into Nazi ideology and propaganda (Pambazuka News)”. There were elements of “survival of the fittest” mindsets, especially seen in Von Trotha, which calls for purification of the “Aryan” race by exterminating all those who are inferior in addition to concentration camps. This sense of racial superiority as well stemmed from “science” that was established by the skulls of those who died in the concentration camps. The racial science that was founded from that played a major role in the highly apparent discriminatory practices in the Holocaust.

Overall, my main takeaway is that we have to start acknowledging the Herero and Nama genocides as a society and not let it be buried underneath history and that colonialism can definitely morph into genocide. Colonialism provided justifications for mass killings because it dehumanized its victims on account of the color of their skin and where they came from. Not only that, there needs to be more publicized information surrounding the Herero and Nama genocides that are available to the public. It’s quite disappointing that I was not aware of this until now and we should start educating ourselves before history is doomed to repeat itself again.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

The Herero and Nama Genocide and It's Legacy

The events that took place in 1904-1907 in what is now known as Namibia, were the start to an “Age of Genocide” of the 20th century, as stated by Clara Ng in “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero”. The deliberate killing and torture of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia began with colonialism. Germany was facing overpopulation and was in need of Lebensraum, or “living space” according to Clara Ng. Germany used “their land”, German South West Africa, in order to fill this need. Here colonialism is seen, Germany took over land that was already occupied by natives like the Herero and Nama. Their occupation of this land quickly led to exploitation of their resources and land, and cheap labor. After numerous attempts at confinement and human rights violations, the Herero began to fight back but ultimately most were killed by German forces that basically trapped them with no resources to live. I think this is where you can specifically see genocide taking form. The Germans colonialism was obviously a horrible thing itself, but when that began to fail for the Germans, they tried to regain that power by essentially killing the Herero people. Soon it became more about eradicating the Herero and Nama people, than about exploiting them for labor.

German Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha made his genocidal intent very clear by declaring a “race war” and saying things like “I think it is better that the Herero nation perish rather than infect our troops,” which I find incredibly shocking. Even more striking than that is that he ordered an “annihilation order”, quite literally stating that he wants all Herero and Nama people killed. The potential colonialism has to morph into genocide is seen so clearly in these events that took place in Namibia.

The genocide that took place in Namibia is an obvious prefigure of the events of the Holocaust, as can be seen through the parallels between the two. As I previously mentioned, the occupation of Namibia by the Germans began with the need for a living space because of overpopulation but according to Clara Ng, this was a notion that led to Nazi ideologies. More strikingly, the genocide in Namibia and the Holocaust bare a resembalance through their concentration camps. Labor camps such as the one on Shark Island were so brutal that they were basically death camps. The poor conditions, lack of food, extreme exhaustion led to the death of almost all to the point where they mass-printed death certificates. Death and labor camps were seen in both Namibian genocide and in the Holocaust, yet no one seems to be discussing what happened in Namibia.

That is something that really stood out to me; why didn’t I hear about this genocide before? I think almost everyone knows about the Holocaust but very little seem to know about the genocide in Namibia. I think it is extremely sad and unjust that the Herero, Nama, and other native Namibian people get little remembrance in comparison to the Holocaust victims. I think that there is a lack of reconciliation and that there is a need for material reconciliation.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Growth Starts After Acknowledgement

Genocide almost always stems from the roots of subjugation and dehumanization dispensed by colonialism. In what Clara Ng describes as the Age of Genocide, over 170 million people were victims of governments within the 20th century, the first including the Herero and Nama. With the onset of colonialism, exploitation of natives are often exercised for the purpose of profit and power. This relationship dynamic eventually evolves into one that barbarizes and subjugates the native populations.

In the case of Germany, industrialization was progressing rapidly in the late 19th century. The population boom seen as a by-product of this era led to severe poverty and overcrowding within cities. There was a need for more living space—the same argument that later heightened the Nazi ideology—leading to the Second Reich’s implementation of an imperialist foreign policy. Participating in the division of Africa, Germany determined South West Africa as one of the few German oversea locations suitable for their white settlement. A protectorate was established over the territory and local resources were controlled by the German government. While profiting off of Africans as a means of cheap labor, simultaneously, Hereros were perceived as inferior to the white population. As the colonizers established this power, conflicts between the two races arose to incite what Lieutenant-General Lothar Von Trotha declared as the “race war”. He claimed that this supposed war would be impossible to “conduct humanely against non-humans”, further reinforcing the idea that Africans—more specifically the Hereros—were not human, therefore insinuating their mistreatment as permissible. The introduction of intruding colonial powers definitely bear the potential to morph into genocide as shown through many historical instances. For the ideologies of racial supremacy will eventually lead to justification of eradicating individuals deemed as “inferior”.

This proponent of Social Darwinism, wherein the theory of survival of the fittest is applied to humans, helped establish the belief of purifying the “Aryan” race via extermination of “inferiors”. As Von Trotha’s annihilation order was proclaimed, the majority of the Hereros were decimated and the 15,000 survivors were sent to concentration camps. Not only did people die from illnesses and abuse within these prisons, but certain labor camps functioned as extermination camps. Similarly, parallels can be seen in the Third Reich’s systematic killings of “inferior” individuals. Skulls from the deceased were utilized in Eugen Fischer’s studies that grounded racist ideology in the scientific world. These methods and justifications exhibited by the Germans in South West Africa, set a precedent for the events that followed during the Holocaust. In the same way that the Hereros were painted as “diseased” and “subhuman”, these widely accepted beliefs of racial superiority led to eerily similar occurrences during the Third Reich.

I think the biggest takeaway is that historical events ultimately impact the way in which societies operate today, and acknowledging the past is an important step towards national growth. Considering the fact that Namibia is one of the more recently established countries, we should recognize and understand that what occurred in the early 1900s affected descendants of the Herero and should be condemned. I personally possessed no knowledge of this genocide prior to Facing, and I am sure many others are also unaware. In terms of today, there has been a failure on Germany’s part to prompt a direct change in policy towards conflicts regarding compensation. Monuments honoring soldiers and military figures involved in this genocide continue to stand in parts of Namibia and serve as a reminder of the cruel history. Reconciliation is a complex process and in the words of Clara Ng, “It may be appropriated as an ideological tool rather than an institutional process.” Therefore, more efforts are needed to support Namibia and their proper reconciliation process.

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

The Negatives of Colonialism

When countries begin to colonialize, much of the time the colonies will be exploited. These exploitations at times can end in very serious ways as it can even lead to genocide. This was the case in the 19th and 20th centuries in Africa due to the continuous dehumanization of the native people and the exploitation of their natural resources. Southwest Africa at this time was packed with many valuable resources such as diamond and copper. The ruling country in this territory at this moment was Germany, and lots of these resources were brought back to Germany making Germans very wealthy. This caused Germany to industrialize quickly which lead to the increased colonization in Africa. The two main groups exploited were the Nama and the Herero. The Germans used these tribes as cheap labor and were seen as animals by the German colonizers.

The Herero later decided that this living conditions were unacceptable and came together to fight against the Germans. Unfortunately, the Herero stood no chance and were slaughtered by the Germans in combat. The remaining Herero tried to flee to Bechuanaland but very few made it. After these revolts, Lieutenant General Lotha von Trotha came to a consensus and thought that it was best to slaughter the remaining natives as he had a belief that the Aryan race was the most fit to rule the world and any others should die. These ideas seemingly would carry on into the Holocaust.

The genocide of the Herero and the Nama are unusually similar to the events of the Holocaust, and makes me think what could've happened if there was a possible event that could've proven the goals of the colonists wrong preventing any of these events. Victims of the concentration camps in Namibia had their skulls sent back to Germany to be studied. The fake information on the Namibia found from the studying would eventually be used to "justify" the mass wipe of the Nama and the Herero. This information would also be the foundation to justify the killings of Jews during the Holocaust, and the big concept that was common in both of these genocides was that the Germans believed that the Aryan race should be the only one left on earth as Aryans were the only race fit to rule.

Before class, I had never heard of the Namibian Genocide and really the only knowledge I had of colonial Africa was that much of Europe treated the African natives cruelly. To add on, many of my previous history classes mainly focused on events that happened in Europe and Asian and rarely Africa. Overall, I believe that there is lots of history that is left out of our history curriculum that needs to be covered more such like the Namibian Genocide which was actually the first genocide in the 20th century instead of the Holocaust.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Importance of Acknowledging the Herero and Nama Genocide

There are a lot of information on the Holocaust and the Germans role in it, but not much is known about the Herero and Nama genocide in the former German colony, German South West Africa. Industrialization in Germany and a population boom led to overpopulation and a need for expansion. South West Africa was the only place the Germans saw as suitable for white settlement. Once there, Germans took over the land and resources and exploited the labors of the indigenous people. The Herero leader, Samuel Mahareo, led his tribe to rebel against the Germans. The Nama people were led by Hendrik Witbooi. Both tribes were unsuccessful and were trapped in the Omaheke Desert with no food, no drinking water as the Germans poisoned the water wells in the desert. Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha declared the conflict as a “race war” making it clear that it was more about race and much less about colonization. He acknowledged that “‘African Tribes… will only succumb to violent force’” (Kössle and Melber). He presented the Herero and Nama people as subhuman and pests that need to be eradicated.

It is clear that the Germans’ actions against the Herero and Nama people are those of a genocide. What started as a colony for Germans to settle on as a solution to overpopulation turned into the first genocide in the 21th century and the near earsure of a whole group of people. To this day, there have not been much acknowledgement of the genocide. It is required for German students to learn about the Holocaust, but it is not for the Herero and Nama genocide.

The Herero and Nama genocide prefigures what happened during the Holocaust. In 1907, after the war was declared over, the survivors were placed in concentration camps and died from illness, abuse, and exhaustion. This is reflected in the concentration camps that were created by the Third Reich. In those camps, “Jews and other “undesirables” were systematically killed” (Ng). The Herero and Nama genocide happened partly due to the ideology that they were subhuman and inferior to the Germans. The same idea was used by the Third Reich when it comes to the Holocaust. They saw the Jews and other “undesirables” as inferiors and will infect the Aryan race.

My takeaway from learning about this genocide is that there has not been much acknowlegdement about this genocide and accountability for it. It is upsetting that important events like this specific genocide are not taught in schools. Learning about this genocide made think about how many other important events in history are not taught in schools.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

The Herero and Nama

At BLS, we’ve studied a lot about colonialism and imperialism—all of its Eurocentric, racially-charged and tone-deaf manifestations—and we’ve seen its aftereffects in places like India and the Americas. So it took me aback when I realized that I, along with the majority of the world, had never heard of the hundreds of thousands of lives that were taken by the conquest of Herero and Nama by Germany. Knowing that we study the Holocaust and Germany fully takes accountability for it, there is no reason why the whole world shouldn’t know about the Namibian genocide, a precursor of the Holocaust.

It was often that countries viewed their expansion as a form of altruism and God’s plan. In Germany’s situation, however, their motives were much more racially charged. There is no denying that Germany in the 1950’s, facing a “population boom [that] led to severe poverty and urban overcrowding,” (P-CRC 1) would need to find more living space and resources in order to maintain itself. Consequently, the same type of imperialism that we’ve become accustomed to learning about in school, later ensued. Germany thus partook in the Scramble for Africa, cutting up the continent like a piece of cake, as we had described in class. When we made this comparison, I immediately thought of the Imperialism in China cartoon, which depicted a similar metaphor. Because these two imperialist scenarios within China and Africa seemed similar, I initially felt unsurprised when introduced to this new topic. However, it wasn’t until we delved deeper into Germany’s blatantly racist, dare I say sadistic, motives that I became overwhelmed by the raw emotions that come with truth and accountability.

There was clearly something different about colonialism in SW Africa than other places I’ve learned about. Of course, there was the common thirst for cheap labor, “lucrative diamonds, and copper mines,” but Germany took it one step further in Namibia. The driving force behind the 100,000+ death toll between the Herero and Nama was Germany’s failure to acknowledge that these Africans were, in fact, human beings. Rather than recognizing this, von Trotha of Germany demanded within his extermination proclamation that, “Within the German borders...every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot,” (Pambazuka) Therefore, colonialism quickly morphed into genocide because von Trotha refused to even recognize the Nama and Herero as potential helpers within Germany’s expansion. Rather, they were viewed as pests: “cockroaches'' and “rats.” It was much easier for Germans to conduct mass extermination because “dehumanizing whole groups or categories of humans in this way is widely considered an important precondition for actors to perpetrate mass killings,” (Pambazuka News). Germany’s plan was that, if they didn’t acknowledge the Herero and Nama as real people at all, then their mass genocide wasn’t actually inhumane. Thus, all Herero and Nama people were subject to death and ethnic cleansing—women, men, and children alike—by concentration camps, waterhole poisoning, starvation, and so forth. This goes to show that colonialism has the potential to to into genocide when racist ideologies mix with patriotic motives.

Although this history of Namibia has been nearly forgotten, it is important to know that these events prefigured the Holocaust. During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany wanted the ethnically cleanse the world of Jewish people so that the Aryan race could survive; they viewed the Jews as inhuman and unworthy, just as they had deemed the Herero and Nama. Furthermore, both groups were placed in concentration camps, where they would work and were “given uncooked rice and, sometimes, the carcasses of cattle,” (P-CRC) and generally inedible foods. Additionally, outside, the Jews and Herero/Nama were forced to wear identifiers. The Jewish were forced to wear the Yellow Star in order to set them out from the “normal” people, while the Nama/Herero had to wear “a token, the so-called pass mark around their necks” (Pambazuka) so that white people could identify them. Finally, my last example is the inhumane studying of victims in order to further race sciences. During the Namibian genocide, the Germans collected the skulls of the Herero/Nama for studying; they even forced some Herero/Nama women to clean the skulls of hair/meat/etc. These studies would supposedly further any of Germany’s ideas that the Herero/Nama were genetically inferior, and therefore undeserving of life. Eugen Fischer’s studies regarding “The Bastards of Rehoboth and the Problem of Miscegenation in Man” would later spark the Nuremberg Laws, discriminating against the Jews (P-CRC). Within Jewish concentration camps, subjects were also forced into scientific studies regarding medicine, military tactics, and the Nazi’s racial ideologies. All of these similarities show that the Namibian Genocide was merely practice for Germany, which would later employ many of its initial tactics on a broader scale.

My big takeaways: Even though the Namibian Genocide occurred a while ago, it is clear that there are many lasting aftereffects that Namibians are still struggling with today. Although there is nothing anyone can do to reverse the damage of the past, it is important that Germany, along with the rest of the world, fully acknowledge and understand the implications and consequences of the Namibian Genocide. For one, “White Namibians often earn three times as much as their black counterparts — a legacy, in large part, of the South African apartheid regime,” (P-CRC) This only proves that the Germans had instilled this prolonging zeitgeist that Africans are inherently inferior to white people, and that notion has never left SW Africa. Therefore, there is still a lot that needs to be repaired within the Namibian social hierarchy, as attributed to the Germans. The Namibians deserve reparations and reconciliation, even if Germany refuses to acknowledge the magnitude of their own actions. Sure, the process may be difficult because “Reconciliation is not an empirically-defined, quantifiable end-state,” but there is no reason why the Germans should pick and choose which of their deadly mistakes to take accountability for.

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

I had never heard of this genocide before this school week in class, and it’s disappointing to think about how many people will probably never hear about it in their entire lives. I think that learning how colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide gives a huge amount of insight to history and what really lead up to certain events. This genocide started officially when Germany wanted to become a global power themselves by inviting many other countries to the Congress of Berlin. This conference basically lead to the division of Africa, as European countries decided there that they would try to colonize African countries. It is crazy to think that political figures at that time in Europe were so openly anti-black and that views like these were encouraged and supported to the point that they attempted to colonize entire countries because of it. According to Clara Ng’s article “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero”, General Lothar von Trotha of Germany treated africans like like vermin that needed to be exterminated in their own homeland. Only 20 years after coming to Namibia, Germans diminished the native Herero of the resources from their own land, and the genocide began.

It is very interesting to me that Germany is so open about their role in the Holocaust and constantly acknowledges their history pertaining to it, but to my knowledge has never publicly brought attention to the Genocide of the Herero. This is especially strange to me considering that as Clara Ng said in her article “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero”, “The events that took place from 1941 – 1945 bore a striking resemblance to atrocities carried out years before in German South West Africa. People who were killed in the concentration camps in Namibia had their skulls sent to Germany to be studied, and these studies set the foundation for racist ideologies that would be enacted around 40 years later in the Holocaust. The previously mentioned General Lothar von Trotha fueled Darwin’s survival of the fittest idea, but completely misinterpreted what Darwin meant when he said it. Darwin was discussing the idea that evolution would make unfit animal species extinct by natural causes, but Trotha wanted to make the multiple “races” he didn’t like “extinct” by taking matters into his own hands. As said by the article “Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective”, the genocide of the Herero and Name people “eventually fed into Nazi ideology and propaganda”.

My big takeaways from learning about this genocide is just how interconnected genocide and colonialism can be. People have often been killed and colonized because of their races or religions or even just the resources from their land. While prominent examples of this are historical, like the Herero Genocide and the Holocaust, this is in no way saying that crimes like these are completely in the past. Recently it has been publicized that Uyghur Muslims in China are being put into concentration camps for being Muslim, showing that history will always repeat itself because people either don’t learn about history or just do not care.

Posts: 18

Recognizing Germany’s Colonialism Which Turned to Genocide

The Herero and Nama genocide were without a doubt caused by Germany’s colonialism on what is modern-day Namibia. It was the first genocide in the 20th century and lays as an example of what colonialism can result in. With the largest powers in Europe in a scramble for African lands, Germany was allowed to colonize four territories, one of which was called German South West Africa. German South West Africa was deemed as the only land suitable for large German settlements. This drove Germany’s drive for colonizing that land at the expense of different indigenous groups.

The Herero and Nama, two of those indigenous groups, were unable to resist colonization. The Germans took their land and cattle. With the approachment of colonialism, both the Herero and Nama tried to resist the Germans. They led revolts that killed between 123 and 150 German landowners from 1903-1907. The Herero even succeeded in getting control of most of central Namibia. However, once Germany brought in military reinforcements, it all started going downhill. It quickly became more than just a war, as German Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha gave a lettered order to kill all Hereros found in the colony. The Germans used the pincer movement on the Hereros, forcing the Hereros to move mostly in the direction of the Omaheke desert. The Germans laced the water sources in the desert with poison and most Hereros ultimately died. There was no option for the Hereros to surrender. What was a war became a genocide.

This event shows how colonialism can morph into genocide. Feeling the need for complete control, the colonizer can seek for the annihilation of the opposing group. Germany’s action on the Herero was a clear example of this. Germany saw the Hereros as lower than themselves and sought to kill them. The result was the killing of around 80% of the Hereros.

After the end of the wars, Germany set up concentration camps. Both Nama and Hereros were put in these camps. There, they became prisoners who worked tirelessly. They were given little to no food. On Shark Island, the site of one of the worst camps, any person who was brought as a prisoner was expected to die. With terrible conditions, people died of many diseases, starvation, punishments, and labor. On top of all that, many skulls and heads of the dead Nama and Herero were brought to Berlin for Eugen Fischer. He wanted to study eugenics and prove how the Aryan people were superior. It is clear from these concentration camps and the thought of Aryan superiority that we can see how these events prefigure the events of the Holocaust. Certain groups of people were targeted and killed. Some were put into concentration camps to be killed, with the motives of these killings directly relating to the thought of Aryan superiority over other races. All these things are what occurred in the Holocaust. It set up and laid as an example for Nazi Germany to follow.

My biggest takeaway from learning about this genocide is the fact that there is so much about history people don’t know. I never heard anything about this genocide. I also don’t understand why many Germans aren’t taught about this. Germany has done a good job showing accountability and reconciliation for the Holocaust, but yet fail to do much for the Herero and Nama. At least they returned the skulls of the Herero and Nama they had, but I think they need to do more. At the same time though, I now realize most of the world needs reparations from colonial powers which won’t seem to happen anytime soon.

Boston, Massachuesetts, US
Posts: 19

The Transition of Colonialism to Genocide

The affects of colonialism are omnipresent in todays society it seems, looking at the development of many countries deemed "3rd World" you can see that all of those countries have been colonized in the past, which made it significantly difficult to develop into a stronger nation like the United States for example. In many cases, the horrors committed in places like many countries of Africa go untaught in many schools, and many people do not know what happened to them. This is the case for the recognized first genocide of the 20th century- the genocide of the Herero, Nama, and other indigenous groups in modern day Namibia, I just learned that this happened this year, had no idea this ever happened. What other genocides do we not learn about in school? And what is the connection between colonialism and genocide?

In the United States, it is usual to be taught about colonialism and imperialism, especially into Africa, labelled "The Scramble for Africa." In which, many European countries dissected and allocated lands that each country would colonize, so that the European countries would not fight each other while taking advantage of the African people. Almost all of the countries in Africa has it's boundaries because of these divisions, and entirely too many countries were affected by this colonization. The only two countries to avoid this colonization and decision to become land value to Europeans was Ethiopia and Liberia, who were able to fight off their European invaders. The Europeans came into Africa seeking natural resources and base materials, and most devastatingly of all free labor.

The effects of slave labor used in many countries such as Namibia were devastating, horrific treatment of natives and punishments used by Germans on Namibians was devastating. So how did this colonization quickly turn into a full blown genocide? It is quite simple really, the Europeans were bullies, wanting to take whatever they want without any resistance, and beat up anyone who stood in their way. In this case, the Germans wanted the resources of the mines, such as diamonds and other rare materials, and they wanted the Native people to do so. The Germans also decided that this area was fit for German settlers, and so quickly a racist caste system developed, in which Germans saw themselves as higher and more pure than the African natives, and decided that intermarrying and having children with the natives would ruin the Aryan bloodline of the individual. Basically they wanted to maintain an purely Aryan society, sound familiar? (We'll get to that in a bit) The native people however, the Herero, Nama, and other groups, did not want to be used as slave labor and attacked by the white German, and revolted and killed almost 200 German colonizers. The Germans then decided that the best course of action for them would be to destroy the native population as a whole, as mentioned in The 20th Century's First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero. In this article it mentions an important quote by Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha, where he writes in 1904, "I think it is better that the Herero nation perish rather than infect our troops," which really resonates how little the German government and military viewed these African natives, and promptly launched a full-blown genocide against them, calling it a race war, when in reality it was very one sided. Lotha Von Trotha saw these natives as bugs to be stepped on, an infection needing to be ended. The way that colonization dissolves into a genocide is when the population of people being colonized begin to (rightfully) rise up against the colonizers, who decide that the lives of these individuals no longer have worth. It is disgusting, and awful.

These events prefigure the Holocaust because of the use of the similar German tactics, the desire to keep a purely Aryan society, the use of concentration camps and treatment of people as subhuman. The genocide of the native Herero, Nama and other native groups follows a similar trajectory of the same genocide of the German Jewish population, except there was a lack of outside attention to this matter. This genocide was seemingly a blueprint, this one conducted by the Second Reich, to be used similarly by the Third Reich. The African people were perceived to be lesser than the Germans because they were distinctly non-Aryan, which was perceived to be the superior race by these awful colonizers. Racism played a large role in both genocides, distinctly causing and being the excuse for both attacks, calling each group subhuman and diseases to society, and also wanting to create "a purer human race" without these people who were non-Aryan. The Germans entered a "war" against the native people, for three years until 1907. In the time of these conflicts, 65,000 native people were killed, and the remaining 15,000 were put into concentration camps, or the official Konzentrationslage. Many natives died from abuse, illness, and exhaustion, and this exact model (except on a much larger scale), would be used against the Jewish and other "Undesirable" population of German people.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

The Need to Confront History

It is shown through the events that took place in today’s Namibia that colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide. In the late 1850s, following rapid industrialization and a population boom, Germany experienced widespread poverty and urban overcrowding. People needed “living space” and there was expansionism and an increase in emigration. Later, the German government “established a protectorate over (Namibia), seizing control of local resources” (Ng). The German settlers were drawn to the copper and diamond mines and they started to exploit the labor of the Herero and Nama people. It was there that “colonial rule quickly dissolved into widespread exploitation and resource theft. Newly-settled Europeans viewed native Africans as a source of cheap labor undeserving of the same human rights as the white populations” (Ng). In addition to exploiting the Herero and Nama people for their labor, they began stealing their land and “mistreating” them, “Complaints were rife about the Ovaherero, women in particular, being mistreated by the colonists. 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. On either side of the railway, a strip of European settlement was envisaged, thus to speed up further land alienation and European settlement” (Kössler and Melber). The Herero rebelled in response. German postcards and propaganda helped fuel a one-sided war. The German Lieutenant-General, Lotha Von Trotha, arrived and escalated the violence. He declared a “race war” and “presented the African tribespeople as subhuman and diseased, no more than pests to be eradicated” writing in a letter, “I think it is better that the Herero nation perish rather than infect our troops.” He called for the “extermination of ‘inferiors’ in order to purify the so-called ‘Aryan’ race” (Ng). Genocidal intent became clear.

By the time the Governor of German South West Africa declared the war officially over, there were only 15,000 remaining Herero. They were “interned in the official Konzentrationslage, or concentration camps, located in the present-day Namibian cities of Swakopmund, Karibib, Windhoek, Okahandja, and Lüderitz” (Ng). The other 65,000 Herero perished as a result of the violence.

The events that took place there prefigure what happened during the Holocaust. The internment camps are very similar to those of the Third Reich, “It was clear that Shark Island was not just a labor camp – rather, it seemed functionally synonymous to an extermination camp where prisoners awaited certain death”. They were often brutally beaten or murdered, with death certificates printed in bulk. Additionally, skulls were collected and sent back to Berlin for experiments. Eugen Fischer, a professor of medicine and anthropology, was one of the men who had skulls sent back. He is considered one of the “founding fathers of German (and later Nazi) eugenics”. His studies “grounded racist ideology in objective notions of science. His 1912 publication, The Bastards of Rehoboth and the Problem of Miscegenation in Man, later formed the basis of the Nuremberg Laws that legislated discrimination against Jews.” (Ng).

Similarly to @greenflowers58, I had not heard about this genocide before. It seems like it is intentionally not being brought to light because European countries are trying to avoid paying reparations. One European country acknowledging their actions could have a domino effect and the others would be pressured into acknowledging theirs. One of my takeaways was that the locations that suffered in the past as a result of colonial rule are still feeling the effects and many are struggling. The European countries still have much of their architecture and wealth as a result of their thievery and crimes. It is not that countries such as Germany cannot afford to pay reparations, they don’t want to. One other takeaway is that it is not unlikely that many other countries choose to ignore parts of their history the way Germany does. This makes me think about what parts of history are ignored in the United States and other countries.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Acknowledging the Herero and Nama Genocide and Its Consequences

Before this week I had never heard of the Herero and Nama genocide, the first genocide in the 20th century and unfortunately I am not alone in that. Claire Ng mentions how in the 1850’s German nationalism began to decrease as industrialization caused crowded conditions and emigration. This brought about a desire for imperialism, causing Germany to get involved in claiming territory in Africa. Their participation in colonialism would eventually morph into the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples, which killed around eighty percent of the Herero people. As the Germans began to expand their power in the region and attempt to gain full control, the Herero and Nama peoples began to fight back, and the German intentions of genocide quickly became clear. General von Trotha followed a “total war” strategy, and had the goal of “extermination”. What had started out as a want for colonial power soon led to a horrific genocide, that is still barely recognized or known about today, despite the perpetrators of this genocide publicly displaying the deaths and violence that they were a part of.

The Herero and Nama genocide prefigured the Holocaust in many ways, and its consequences would especially be seen in Nazi ideology. The Herero and Nama genocide targeted an entire ethnic group, and it was viewed as a “war of the races”. Germany’s intentions were to kill the entirety of the Herero, as stated in the infamous extermination proclamation of von Trotha, and much of this was based on the idea of certain races or ethnic groups being “inferior” . Horrific experiments in racial “science” were conducted on victims of the genocide and much of the ideas connected to those experiments would become a part of eugenics and Nazi ideology.

The Herero and Nama genocide and the Holocaust were also similar as the Herero and the Nama were detained in deadly concentration camps, which would later be seen in the Third Reich, with one of the most deadly being Shark Island. From Shark Island many victims were brought back to Germany where the ideas of eugenics that would be prevalent during the Holocaust, began to take root. What was especially horrifying about this genocide is how public and openly accepted the violence and murder was, with images of concentration camps appearing on postcards. As mentioned in "The Genocide in Namibia (1904-08) and its consequences", The genocide also influenced the way that certain acts of war were viewed, as the "enemy" began to be seen as inherently inferior, and enemies in war were dehumanized. This dehumanization would be seen in the future during the Holocaust.

I had multiple big takeaways from learning about this genocide. First, learning about this genocide made me wonder why I had learned nothing about it in the past. When we have learned about European colonialism in Africa in the past we have not touched on the Herero and Nama genocide, yet it marked the beginning of a century of genocides and had terrible consequences. There were many connections between the holocaust and the Herero and Nama genocide, yet the second is almost never mentioned. Going off of that another thing that stood out to me was how important it is that attention is brought to the Herero and Nama genocide, as the consequences are still being seen in the stability of Namibia, and denial of this genocide is very real. There is still no memorial and it was not even until 1990 that Germany began to recognize their role in the genocide, years after it occurred, and that recognition is nowhere near justice.

Boston, Massachusettes, US
Posts: 16

Colonialism Taken Another Step Forward

Although I knew something horrible had happened in Namibia prior to the last few classes, I feel like that was a given based on how rampant and exploitative colonialism was in Africa during this time in the 20th century. That goes without saying, I never expected anything like this. Learning about the genocide that took place against the Herero and Nama people was obviously horrifying and eye opening, yes, but what's worse, I knew nothing about this. Why, when so many genocides and wars in recent history are known and acknowledged, why is this one just a blank space. Not even Germany, the country that was the cause of this genocide, is completely aware of what happened. And what scares me worse, this horrible event may never come into the light.

Different from the Holocaust, which started with the plan to wipe out the Jewish people in an act of genocide, the Namibian genocide started of as colonialism, similar to many other countries in Africa throughout the early 20th century. Terrible, yes (terrible doesn't even begin to describe the exploitation and racism that is colonialism in Africa), but a far cry from the terror that strikes my heart from the word "genocide". Even with the terror that was colonialism in Namibia, it was still hard for me to imagine that it morphed into a genocide, resulting in 80% percent of the Herero people being killed. But it did all the same, and after thinking it over, it was surprising that this didn't happen more (maybe it did and I'm just unaware). Colonialism's direct cause and effect is that of superiority. The only way for Germany (and many other European countries for that matter, just with different indigenous people) to justify their control over the Herero and Nama people was to convince themselves they were somehow superior to the Herero and Nama and that they were less than human.

The way that colonialism in Namibia morphed into genocide was simply a desire of Germany for better control. As industrialization increased, imperialism became Germany's main desire and they began to seek to directly control and claim territory belonging to the Herero and Nama people. Obviously, as the land didn't belong to the Germans and the treatment of the indigenous people was more cruel, the Herero and Nama people began to resist, fighting back rather effectively against the invaders. Despite their efforts, Germany's military strength was far superior to that of the Herero and Nama. As soon as Germany sent in reinforcements, the war of resistance became an "extermination". Orders were given to kill any Herero and Nama found and even the indigenous people's water sources were poisoned. The desire to control the Herero and Nama people spiraled out of control, turning from imperialism, to a war, to genocide. This was all it took to turn something like colonialism into genocide. They are merely one step apart.

Not only was the idea of the superiority the same, but the genocide of the Herero and Nama perfectly prefigured what was to come later; the Holocaust. In the Herero and Nama genocide, it is easy to see the basis for the German ideals that were to come later in the Holocaust. There was the goal to eliminate the entire race that was the Herero and Nama, there was the superiority, there was the eugenics, and there were the methods. Concentration camps were used in Namibia, and that same topic was later copied and also used in the Holocaust.

My two main takeaways were the similarity that this genocide held to what was to come next and the lack of public knowledge about the Herero and Nama genocide. This genocide was the direct predecessor to the Holocaust. Almost every idea that was used to accomplish and falsely justify the genocide in Namibia was later reused in the Holocaust. The lack of public knowledge is surprising. I don't even think it is denial or that anyone is ignoring what happened. I believe that Germany just forgot. The holocaust that came later overshadowed this genocide in the sheer magnitude, and this genocide may have just blended in with every other terrible act that occurred due to colonialism in Africa. The first step is taking accountability, because at this point, there isn't much to do in ways of reconsiliation.

posts 1 - 15 of 27