Like @PineappleMan30, before this week, I had never heard of this genocide. I was surprised by this because as we discussed in class, Germany is one of the leading countries in the world for addressing the history of the Holocaust. Given that, I would have expected them to take responsibility for this genocide as well. But as Clara Ng discusses in her second article, despite Germany’s apology, no material redress has been taken. However, I believe that race played a role in their response to the genocide in Namibia. Because of the mentality of white Europeans at the time that black people were less than and didn’t deserve human rights, as shown by the fact that they divided up Africa as if it was uninhabited at the Berlin Conference without any representatives from Africa there, I think the Germans didn’t consider the genocide of the Herero something that needed to be addressed. Colonialism such as was present at the Berlin Conference can have serious consequences.
In Ng’s first article, she discusses how the genocide of the Herero was preceded by the Herero being stripped of their land and cattle. Over time, the Germans kept taking and taking and eventually even began construction right through the center of Herero land. It was this move that turned out to be the breaking point, because after that, the Herero felt they couldn’t stand by any longer. However, after an unsuccessful rebellion, they were forced to flee through the desert in search of asylum in Britain. They were trapped, and hundreds died of starvation, dehydration, and water poisoning. The survivors were then eventually put into concentration camps and killed by the horrible conditions.
The theft of native peoples’ territories is a key characteristic of colonialism, and eventually those peoples will hit a breaking point, just like the Herero. They can’t go on once all their resources have been depleted or stolen from them; it’s a matter of survival, and so they fight back. However, colonizers often don’t take kindly to the threat of losing their stolen wealth, so they decide the best course of action is to eliminate the threat, or commit genocide.
Ng also discusses how the concentration camps used in the genocide of the Herero were later used by the Third Reich in the Holocaust. This is one of the clearest ways that the events of the Herero genocide prefigure what happened in the Holocaust. During the Herero genocide, the Germans figured out what methods were most effective at systematically killing people. They were able to use the model of these concentration camps on Jews during WWII, shown by the fact that the Herero prisoners were given minimal rations, no medical treatment, forced into hard labor, and beaten daily; all tactics used in Holocaust concentration camps.
Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber also talk about how colonial propaganda was used to build popular support for the Herero genocide. There were novels and other forms of literature filled with heroic tales of the German soldiers that praised them for killing not only adversaries but unarmed women, children, and elderly as well. Propaganda is another key part of colonialism. It is how the leadership of the parent country keeps the support of the people for the country’s conquests. By spinning any and all of the country’s actions, regardless of how atrocious, into something positive, colonizers never have to worry about being held accountable or rebelled against by their own people. This allows them to commit deeds such as genocide, as shown through the Herero.
The propaganda present during the Herero genocide is also a hint of what’s to come during the Holocaust. As Kössler and Melber point out, much of that propaganda fed into Nazi ideology. Precursors to the art and stories depicting Jews as animals and less than human can be found among the imagery produced about the Herero. Just as in colonialism, that message allowed Hitler to control public opinion and keep popular support for his genocide.
In the passage by Adam Jones, you can also see evidence of how events prefigure the Holocaust. One account from the reading tells of how at men, women, and children were all rounded up and corralled into an enclosure before being burnt to death. Upon reading this, I was immediately reminded of the massacre of Jews at Jedwabne, a small town in Poland, during WWII. At that massacre, over 1000 innocent people were rounded up one night, forced into a barn, and set on fire. It is clear how the mentality that certain populations were not worth as much as others contributed to allowing people to commit these heinous acts.
After reading about this genocide, similar to @broskii, my big takeaway is that colonialism, genocide, and how we discuss both topics while studying history all stem from racism. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that everyone knows the Holocaust, yet most people have never heard of the Herero. When deciding what topics in history are studied, a more inclusive lens needs to be used to ensure that students are learning about diverse narratives. Like @broskii says, “Genocides happen way more often than we think and being unaware of this problem has led us to be ignorant about their history and their cultures.”