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freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 205

Readings:

Clara Ng, “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” Post-Conflict Research Center, 6 April 2019. https://p-crc.org/2019/04/06/not-the-holocaust-but-the-herero/


Clara Ng, “Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice,” Post-Conflict Research Center, 8 May 2019. https://p-crc.org/2019/05/08/hereros-quest-for-justice/


Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber, “Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective,” Pambazuka News, 20 March 2012. https://www.pambazuka.org/human-security/genocide-namibia-1904-08-and-its-consequences


“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?

Wyverary
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

First Genocide of the 20th Century

While I had learned about the Herero and Nama genocide in AP World History, I hadn’t realized how few people were aware of this atrocity, and that even the government of Namibia does not fully recognize the genocide, as the Herero are now a small minority group in the country, which now relies on German aid.

Throughout the world, colonialism has morphed into genocide as colonists have killed inidgenous peoples for defending their ancestral lands from waves of immigrants. In the case of the Herero and Nama, their destruction began when Germany decided to assert itself as a global power by inviting numerous European nations, as well as the United States and Canada, to the Congress of Berlin. Before these countries had even begun to colonize Africa, they had already dehumanized African people, by considering them as well as their homelands as unclaimed and uncivilized; resource filled lands that Europeans had a right to conquer. Germany claimed four pieces of land, but decided that only South West Africa, modern-day Namibia, would be suitable for settlers.

Due to rapid industrialization, Germans experienced poverty and overcrowded cities in the late 1800s, which served as motivation for many to emigrate to South West Africa. Almost immediately upon arrival, they began to exploit the land’s natural resources such as diamond and copper, and forced the indigenous Nama and Herero to work for them as they stole their land. By 1903, Germany had seized a quarter of the ancestral lands of the Herero, but the final straw came when they began to construct a railroad that cut through the heart of the Herero’s land holdings, a further effort to destabilize the indignous group. As a result, the Herero began to fight back against the colonists, but maintained an extremely strict code of honor, as they refused to kill missionaries, women, children or members of other African tribes, instead escorting them to safety. After the Herero won several battles, the Germans brought in Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha, in addition to large numbers of reinforcements. Von Trotha announced that all Hereros would be killed on sight, and while women and children were officially “spared”, in reality they were chased into the Omaheke desert, where thousands died from thirst, and water poisoned by the desert. Further, he repeatedly referred to the Herero as non-humans, who had to be wiped out.

Even after the wars between the Herero and Nama and the Germans concluded, Germany’s genocidal acts continued, as all survivors were detained in concentration camps. Recieving few rations and forced to do brutal work, thousands more died, as these camps functioned as extermination camps. Only freed when Germany was stripped of its colonies following World War I, of the estimated 100,000 Herero living in Namibia prior to German colonization, only 10,000 remained, and half of the Nama’s population of 20,000 perished. These acts show that colonialism leads directly to genocide. In order to steal land from others, these countries had to claim that the people already living there were inferior or non-human, as otherwise colonialism would have been recognized for the human rights violation that it is. And once people can consider others as non-humans, genocide suddenly becomes far easier to justify, as it is now an act that helps “real” people, at the expense of a people deemed inconsequential.

Further, the roots of the Holocaust can be seen in this genocide. The most blatant of these precursors is the extermination camps run by Germans. Rounding up thousands of men, women and children, and forcing them to work under horrible conditions with little food was merely extended to millions of people in the 1940s, instead of the thousands of Nama and Herero. But perhaps the most insidious connection between these two horrors is the propaganda. In both cases, the Germans published postcards, newspaper articles, government bulletins and more that dehumanized the groups they sought to oppress. By convincing the German public that there were people who deserved to have atrocities committed against them, the government was able to have free reign to brutally oppress groups seen as standing in the way of German progress.


PineappleMan30
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 14

Predecessor to the Holocaust

This genocide is something I had originally never heard of before this week, yet it was a major event in history. Both Namibia and Germany had kept it quiet, and while Germany had acknowledged the Holocaust, they have yet to do so for this one. Colonialism has always had negative effects to those who lived in the area before them, and suffice to say this genocide was a result. Europeans had made claims for everywhere in Africa, without having a SINGLE representative or leader from Africa attend that conference. Africa is not the only place colonialism has had a negative effect on people of course. For example, when America was colonized by the English, they continued to push and persecute the indigenous peoples already inhabiting the land.

Colonialism had morphed into genocide over time. In the 1600's colonialism was taking the land of those already there and forcing them to live somewhere else, but at that point there wasn't necessarily any genocide. Over time, however, it got increasingly violent and people were increasingly persecuting other people. The belief of Social Darwinism grew in popularity, the belief of survival of the fittest. Then, the beginning of eugenics, and the belief that white skin is superior to any others. In German Southwest Africa's case, genocide had started after the Herero had started to fight back, against the Germans abusing them and a railroad that had cut through their land.

The events that had happened in what is now Namibia was essentially a lead-up to the Holocaust. Germans had began to believe that the Aryans -- white people with blonde hair and blue eyes that were Christian -- were superior, and they began to believe there was a massive problem with Jewish people (as well as other people). They saw that genocide and concentration camps had been really efficient in Namibia, so they built some in Europe and had used them to kill millions of people they believed were inferior.

broskiii
Charlestown, MA, US
Posts: 18

100,000.

The Berlin Conference was a series of conferences where essentially European leaders met up and decided that Africa was a continent for their taking. In class, I remember seeing the map of Africa and how the lines were hand-drawn by those leaders and the looks on their faces were joyful, as though they were enjoying themselves. It is astonishing how important European figures, specifically General Lothar von Trotha, belittled Africans as if they were pests waiting to be exterminated(Clara Ng, The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero). Their efforts to expand and to generate more European settlement gave their people a justifiable reason to enslave, and slaughter the innocent Hereros that were living peacefully at their own homes. From the documentary we watched in class, there was one professor that clarified that the Herero people were not “uncivilized.” In fact, they had stable food and water and even weaponry to protect themselves from---no need for European guns and their “help.” General Lothar von Trotha entered the country with the distinct mindset of annihilating the Herero race and we have seen this so-called “expansion” has led to others killing off thousands for inhabiting their land. Although it is true that the country is called German Southwest Africa, it is made clear from all the articles and the slides in class, that it was wrongfully theirs and cannot be justified any longer. These genocides are not defined by the numbers of deaths they managed to perform, but by the way that they targeted specific group(s) of people for their religion/race/ethnicity, and nationality. (Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber). It is extremely devastating to know that it also wasn’t punishable by crime up until 48 years ago. (Clara Ng: Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice). Therefore, the German colonists were instructed by their government to express their superiority to the native peoples living in Namibia. They specifically targeted them for the sake of maintaining their racial hierarchy, fueling the future Nazi ideology of the Aryan-race.


Furthermore, these events prefigure what happened in the Holocaust for a number of reasons. Their commander, General Lothar von Trotha, proclaimed the idea of survival of the fittest from Darwin as a way to exterminate the Herero people. In addition, as learned in class, he wrote his mission down on paper as evidence, called the annihilation order (Clara Ng: The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero), for what he explicitly wanted to do to the new German land.


“Every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot.” (Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber)


His intentions were to slaughter every single man, woman, or child and eradicate their entire race within the thirty-five years that Germany occupied Namibia. The Hereros starved, worked intensely trying to produce enough product for their boss, and were forced out to the Omaheke desert by surrounding their people with guns and threatening to shoot them at any moment. With the little water they found, the German troops had already poisoned the water wells and the Hereros suffered even more deaths at the hands of the troops.


Additionally, the term concentration camps were first used in the Spanish-American War in Cuba and were largely populated then by the Holocaust (Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber). A concentration camp that kept the small but surviving population of the Hereros and the Namas was located on Shark Island. Death certificates were printed every day, even before the actual person even died. Their reason for death was almost always death from exhaustion. Their hard-work was being exploited by large companies who used them for “land leveling, harbor building, and railway construction projects” Postcards were produced and skulls were being extracted for “academic research” based on what the people saw every day happen to the African people. They were not allowed to own land, have livestock, and were “systematically prevented from reconstructing a basis for an independent life for themselves.” There was no room for advancement and the idea of leaving was no more than a pipe dream. Africans older than 7 were forced to labor in intense and inhumane conditions and were required to carry a token around the necks (Passmarke) to make sure that they were allowed to be where they were at a given time, similarly to the yellow star that Jews were given during the Holocaust (Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber). And to think, throughout all the similarities listed in these articles, Germany did not release a formal apology until 2004.


My biggest takeaways from this would be that colonialism and genocides stem from the same foundation of institutional racism and can only lead to more mass-killings around the world. There is no justified reason to appoint the mass-slaughter of others because of the color of their skin, their religion, and their beliefs. In addition, it is shameful and unfortunate that there is not enough coverage on the Namibian Genocide. I didn’t even know about this until we learned about it in class and this is a large problem within our society. 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. Since we currently live in the age of technology and information, it is absolutely unacceptable that we stepped foot into this class without even knowing more about these unknown genocides, and yet we know more about the newest iPhone coming out in September than the millions that lost their lives in the name of “Aryan-superiority.”

239bid0073
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

What Would Have Happened if the Genocide was Recognized as a Genocide Sooner

“Genocidal intent soon became apparent – it was clear that this was no longer a matter of colonial “self-defense” ( Clara Ng). Twenty years after the first German settlers arrived in Namibia the Herero were depleted of all of their natural resources and were living through a genocide. Germany first brought the idea of dividing Africa amongst the most powerful countries and exploiting it of all of its resources. I believe that here the intent was to do whatever it took to gain the wealth of the natural resources. But when the Herero chief, Samuel Maherero, began to lead a revolt (Clara Ng) the colonists knew they were going to have to do a lot more to keep their control over the Herero and Nama peoples. This is when colonization turned to genocide.

Von Trotha declared the conflict a “race war”, one impossible to “conduct humanely against non-humans”. In the German media, he presented the African tribespeople as subhuman and diseased, no more than pests to be eradicated (Clara Ng)”. This is the justification that Von Throtha and the colonist gave to impose their genocide among the people. They have always looked down on the Herero and Nama peoples but they could never justify it. Until they came to say that it was due to disease and race. Here we can see just how easily the colonial rule can turn into genocide. Greed turned into the controlling of people, and when it was realized that the people could revolt it turned to genocide. As stated from the in-class video “The German military thought that this was perfectly acceptable”. They saw this just as something they had to do. As said by the Nama chief “Let us die fighting”, the Herero and the Nama were not going to surrender. I believe in any situation this is the right thing to do. You have to be able to look back and know you did everything that you could and did not let evil take over. So in this case, 80 percent of the Herero and Nama population was killed and they have never fully received the justice that they deserved.

While this genocide ended it is very closely tied to the Holocaust. This genocide set a precedent that deemed it acceptable to wipe out an entire race of people. When it is done once it can always be done again. As said by Pambazuka News the genocide of Herero and Name people “eventually fed into Nazi ideology and propaganda”.

The genocide was not recognized as a real genocide until 1985. It wasn’t until then that it was viewed as the first genocide of the 20th century. I believe if it has been recognized as a genocide sooner then the Holocaust would not have happened. If it was recognized as a genocide and the proper steps were taken to deliver reparations and forgiveness, then many of the axis powers would have thought twice about what they were about to do in WW2. While it was not recognized then we have the power to recognize it now and prevent it from ever happening again.

razzledazzle8
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 28

How the Holocaust tactics were perfected during the Herero and Nama Genocide

I believe what led to the Herero and Nama genocide was the Berlin Conference. This allowed leaders of different countries to believe they can just take the land of people all over Africa. So why can’t that lead them to think they can rule its people too. As broskiii said, I also remember seeing that same map dividing up Africa and making territories for themselves and not considering the people in these territories whatsoever. Colonialism by definition is the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. It wouldn’t be hard for settlers to think it was also ok to exploit the indigenous people on that land. Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha especially believed that the Herero and Nama people were “uncivilized” and “non-human” and wanted to kill every last one of them to preserve the “Aryan race” (Clara Ng, The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero). He actually said, “Every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot.” (Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber). So obviously putting him in charge of colonizing the Herero and Nama people would result in killings, and as we know genocide. We also know from the documentary that the Herero and Nama people were far from uncivilized because they could provide for themselves and lived in their own way before the Germans. So we can conclude that with the leadership of that kind colonialism can easily turn into genocide because of the colonizer’s ideals and beliefs about the people they are colonizing.


The genocide of the Herero and Nama people is known as the first genocide of the 20th century which is known and the Age of Genocide (Clara Ng, The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero). Many people don’t know of the Herero and Nama genocide because it is overshadowed by the atrocities of the Holocaust but in reality, Germans’ beliefs and tactics from the Holocaust started way before. For example, concentration camps were also used in the Herero and Nama genocide, they had to do awful labor and would often die from exhaustion which also happened on a larger scale in the Holocaust. These camps were also extermination camps because the Germans were never allowing them to get out of their alive and making death certificates before the person even died (Clara Ng, The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero). In the Holocaust, this also happened but instead of working people to death, they used gas chambers to kill them. Germans’ beliefs were also the same because the Herero and Nama people were targeted for their race, which also happened to Jewish people during the Holocaust. One very big similarity between the Holocaust and the Herero and Nama genocide is how Jewish people during the Holocaust wore the Star of David on their clothing and the Herero and Nama people wore a token around their necks called a Passmarke. This tactic was probably passed on from one generation of Germans to the other. One way these genocides are different is how they are recognized. The Holocaust is taught in German schools and as part of their curriculum, they have to travel to a concentration camp in Poland from the Holocaust. Germans have condemned Nazism and the Holocaust and continue to show ways they are trying to teach their youth about how wrong and awful the Holocaust was. But up until the 2000s, the genocide of the Herero and Nama wasn’t recognized by Germans. In 2011, the skulls the Germans stole from the land a century before were returned as a sign of remorse (Clara Ng, Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice). Now the Herero and Nama people are looking for reparations even to this day.


My biggest takeaway from this is that genocide can be a by-product of colonialism and they both come from racism. No one should ever be killed for their race or religion and it’s disheartening to see that show many people have died for what they look like or what they believe in. Even today this is going on Uyghur Muslims in China and people around the world fail to see it. I thought the world would’ve learned from the countless genocides that have happened throughout time but I guess we haven’t. Just because it isn’t happening to us doesn’t mean we shouldn’t step in. I believe all genocides need to be taught earlier on in school so the world knows that this is not tolerable and we stop it earlier.


dailychristmascountdown
Posts: 18

The Herero and Nama Genocide

Colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide because the colonizer’s mentality is backed by the belief in “superiors” and “inferiors.” In “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” Ng describes how the belief in Social Darwinism allows colonialism to inevitably turn into genocide: “he [Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha] advocated for a radical struggle for survival of the fittest, which called for the extermination of “inferiors” in order to purify the so-called “Aryan” race.” He later issued an “annihilation order” on the Herero with violence that continued for 3 years until the German public grew bored of it and the Germans faced some defeats by the Nama people. In “Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective,” Kössler and Melber explain how in southern Namibia, the Nama people were able to hold out longer against the Germans, and in turn von Trotha issued his genocidal decree in that region too. In the end, it was recorded that there was an 80% reduction of the tribal populations.


Germany’s need for Lebensraum allowed them to think that the stripping away of lands from the Herero was justified. Colonialism led to the destructive construction projects like the Otavi railway line. While some may say that colonialism initially has the aim of coexistence, it quickly turns to displacement and genocide. German colonists hid their motives for killing the Herero by labelling it as “a matter of colonial ‘self-defense’,” however Lieutenant-General Lotha von Trotha later explicitly wrote: “I think it is better that the Herero nation perish rather than infect our troops.” Ng explains, the Herero were initially successful in revolting, but eventually some of the Herero needed to escape to Omaheke Desert, then to British Bechuanaland as chief Samuel Maharero did.


Kössler and Melber mention the “settler ideology” and the Berlin conference. They explain how anything that threatened Germany’s colonial rule was only viewed as something “disparaging national honour and grandeur” and in turn justifiably removable. The “settler ideology” is that “anything or any people who get in the way of the invading power should be rightfully wiped out.” Just this sentiment alone allows for genocide to take place.


These events prefigure what happened in the Holocaust in many ways. Clara Ng in “Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice” writes: “More than eighty percent of their tribe perished, making it the first documented genocide – and perhaps one of the most effective to date. It wasn’t until 1948, however, that the United Nations recognized genocide as a punishable crime.” If there had been more light on the Herero genocide, the world could have recognized genocide as a punishable crime years before the Holocaust. In “The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero,” Ng explains how the Holocaust was not an “aberration in German history.” Germany has a colonizing history and that includes the Herero genocide. Germany’s imperialistic foreign policy, stemming from the need for “living space,” is what led to the formation of Nazi ideals. After the annihilation order by Von Trotha against the Herero people, the remaining Herero and Nama survivors were put into concentration camps where they were forced to work and many died. Later these same kinds of concentration camps were put to use during the Holocaust. Also, Eugen Fischer’s experiments on the Herero and Nama prisoners mirror how experiments were done on prisoners during the Holocaust.


Kössler and Melber write about how active remembrance is making sure nobody forgets the Holocaust, but there was and is little push for actively remembering the Herero and Nama genocide. As a result, people can easily ignore and forget the past, allowing for the Holocaust to occur without much recall of Germany’s previous genocides.


One of my key takeaways is that lack of knowledge and propaganda are what can lead society to accept such horrible acts of genocide as they happen. Kössler and Melber describe how there was the creation of postcards showing the suffering Herero. This made the inhumane things done to them become more “regular” and tolerable in the public eye. Chief Samuel Maharero gave orders to his people to not hurt innocent people. Still, propaganda against the Herero and Nama as savages continued to spread. Lack of information and propaganda can lead people to support horrendous acts, even genocides.


Another of my key takeaways from learning about this genocide is that in order for society to even try to compensate for the genocide that happened in modern-day Namibia, there needs to be willingness to work towards material and symbolic reconciliation. As stated by Ng in “Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice,” the Herero should get legal compensation from the German government and corporations involved in colonization. Formal acknowledgement, something we have not seen much of, is also key to helping create a subversive postcolonial narrative. A simple apology does not change much of anything. One quote I found important by Ng was: “genocide does not end with extermination but with the need to address denial.” Denying genocides allows them to happen again. Also, the lack of monuments or memorials shedding light to the monstrosities that happened during the genocide makes it so much easier for people to forget it ever happened.


alberic25
boston, massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

The Unspoken Past

This genocide is definietly something that should be more widely talked about. I never knew about this genocide until I took AP Euro last year, and I’m sure many other people were also unaware of this tragidgy. People used ideas of social darwinism and racial superiority to justify their own greedy desire to take over other people's land. Normalizing racial superiority is bond to make people think they can murder and supress people just because of their race. The Germans ideology of wanting to racially cleanse land is basically just an excuse to be able to take control of the land. The number of people who died because of this are unknown but the numbers aren’t as important as the main idea that we can draw from the genocide. Which is that human greed and need for power come before the regard for other human life. This is the main idea of colonialism, taking others land and ignoring the consequences. This is a highly disturbing concept however, it is important for us to know how dangerous colonialism can be. You never know how far people will go for power and control. This is how genocide and colonialism are related. Colonialism normalizes the idea of mistreating and looking down upon a group of people. Once you stop looking at these people as respectable equals to you, it becomes acceptable to discriminate against them. Once this discriminiation becomes something normal and accepted, you stop thinking of these people as people. If they get in your way, you won't think it's a bad thing to want to get rid of them. This relates back to the idea of othering because once you separate yourself from a group of people you don’t feel connected to them and don't feel bad killing and mistreating them.

The Namibian Genocide happens in the early 1900s and really has no consequences towards the Germans who made this happen. They were very public about sending people to concentration camps, being upfront about their “disregard for human suffering”. However, no one really did much to stop this and this tells Germans they can get away with behaviors like this. Therefore in WWII, they already know how to get rid of the Jewish people because this isn’t their first time doing something like this. Most disturbingly, the germans who were killing people in Namibia were actually being praised for their hardships while killing old people, women, and children as well as troops. This praise and respect they recieve is quite appalling, as they tried to romanticize genocide. This idea is brought into the Holocuast as the Germans are praised for cleansing the world. This really pushes the importance of learning history and realizing the truth behind it. If this genocide was seen the same way the Holocaust is seen todsy, the holocaust probably wouldn’t have ever happened because people would remember how disgusting and horrific the first genocide was.

When reading and learning about this genocide my biggest take away was how unknown and unspoken about this genocide is. History seems to highlight some events while hiding others. It is really important for us to learn about things like these and not hide them. Although the events are tragic and hard to learn about we must see the suffering of others or else we will repeat these events. We need to learn how important it is to keep our humanity.


sanandomun
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 11

German Colonialism

Colonialism is built off of the idea of racial superiority. Countries mainly began practicing colonialism for the economic incentive of the resources within the region in addition to having more land for citizens to live on, as explained in Ng’s first article with the idea of lebensraum. A country can only go through with this if they believe their people are superior to the native population of that region. Labor is required to extract the valuable resources within a region, and the native populations were typically used for this purpose: this has been seen in examples of colonialism all throughout history, from the Americas to the Congo. Colonialism allowed countries to commit crimes against humanity without any repercussions as there existed no sort of international group such as the United Nations to speak out against it. While colonialism doesn’t cause a country to engage in genocide, it certainly paves an easy path towards it. That is what happened in Namibia.


Colonialism in Namibia led to the German general von Trotha engaging in a total race war first against the Herero, then the Nama. The article by Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber talks about how 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 justify the atrocities that they committed. This led to the idea of “purifying” the Aryan race, the idea on which the events of the Holocaust were based on. Furthermore, they created propaganda spearing the idea that the Herero and Nama were thieves and detrimental to society. After public opinion showed to oppose war, the Harara and Nama were sent to concentration camps instead, where people were worked to death, much like the concentration camps of the Holocaust. Prisoners were shot for little to no reason at all. The atrocious conditions of these camps were kept secret from the public, as shown in the second article by Ng, which discussed how few knew about the horrible conditions within the camps until a survivor was interviewed.


The German soldiers in South Africa also did not see their victims as human beings. This is evidenced by the postcards and photographs they took of concentration camps and hanged prisoners, eerily similar to the postcards taken of lynchings in America.


Colonialism and the Herero and Nama genocide were built off of the idea of racial superiority, but it also led to “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 detailed by Ng in the first article, led to the Nuremberg Laws that led to the Holocaust. These experiments also bear a resemblance to those conducted on Jewish prisoners within the concentration camps during WWII to find so-called justification or evidence that might prove the Aryan race to be superior.

ilikekiwis
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 20

Namibia's Genocide Hidden

The 20th Century: the Age of Genocide, as Clara Ng rightly put. We see history repeating itself in matters of decades. The Industrial Revolution and need for resources fueled colonialism, eventually turning into genocide in Namibia, or former German West South Africa. Time and again, the taking or resources for the benefit of the European government was justified; the Europeans simply needed more living space, or lebensraum, amidst their overpopulation. There was plenty in Africa, most of which was deemed uncivilized and barely cultivated by the sub-human Africans. Upon seizing control over the land, the Germans needed someone to work the land, so the native Africans became cheap labor. They set rules that the Herero and Nama indigenous groups could not intermingle with their pure white race, as if it wasn’t the soldiers raping African women, and that the Africans had to work with them to keep peace. They really meant succumbing to the German rule. Yet like most powers, the Germans became corrupt and enslaved and killed the Herero over any inconveniences. A small uprising somehow justified the hunt for Hereros and Nama to extermination. They expressed their beliefs of superiority by killing those they thought inferior to take their land. This was justified because of the twisted stories and postcards sent back to Germany about the Herero allegedly treating Germans badly, similar to the propaganda created by the Third Reich to show Jews as greedy parasites, invading civilized society. It was seen as righteous for the Germans to give the Africans work such as the railroad. Thus, colonialism can clearly morph into genocide if the government is hungry enough to exterminate people for land and resources. If they have the means to hide their treatment of natives, then they do. To this day, the effects of colonialism are hidden, such as the town of Swakopmund being turned into a tourist hub, a facade hiding its mass graves and concentration camp in the outskirts of the town. Then, the gathering of hundreds of Nama skulls and bodies was too justified for their use for scientific experiments, most of which only wanted to somehow prove the inferiority of Africans.

It is clear that the propaganda was all a ploy as it was in the Holocaust. The Jews and Roma were recognized as uncivil and demonic, needing to be purified and cleansed, as the Herero and Nama were before. The Germans seized their belongings and livelihood, then sent them to camps to die, or work and then die. They took precedent from the Second Reich, whose leaders did the same. They knew they could conceal it, but they took steps to not make their ethnic cleansing noticeable at first in the Holocaust by not issuing an actual extermination order as General Lothar von Trotha did for Namibia. The parallels are clear; the Germans wiped out the undesirables first from their colonies, and then in their own land, when their control and care over their African territories dwindled .

My big takeaway from learning about the genocide of the indigenous people of Namibia by the Germans is that despite our society rejecting eugenics and disproving this pseudoscience, the lack of care for the well-being and history of Black people is still prevalent. Their history is seen as uncivilized, until the white saviors of Europe “brought them civilization” and “saved them from savagery.” Eurocentric society still holds the belief that colonization overall benefited the people of Africa, so their history before then is taught for 5 minutes and their history during colonialism is distorted with these notions that they were brought resources, religion, and civilization. The reality is clearly that it was the Germans who were power- and land-hungry for their lebensraum, driven by racism. They deceived the German public into believing in their cause, so that is the way their side of history is taught. Until we change our approach in honoring the history of all peoples, regardless of whether they are better off now or not, there is little hope for the truth about this genocide to come out for all the world. We also need to hold the perpetrators accountable, despite them being dead for decades, and we need to uplift the voices of the remaining Herero who fight for justice and try to inform us of their history.

ThankYouFive
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 26

A genocide that is too often ignored

Despite the fact that the Herero and Nama genocide that occurred in the early 20th due to German colonial rule over the region was incredibly brutal and resulted in the deaths of so many innocent people, it isn’t known about by most people in the world, compared to the other genocide done by German in the 20th century, the Holocaust. However, the Herero and Nama genocide is a strikingly clear example of how colonialism and the ideas that enable it to spring up so much throughout history can quickly turn into genocide and the attempt to destroy an entire culture. While supporters of colonialism often claimed that it was to bring order and civilization to nations, the truth is that colonialism was all about stripping all of the resources from a country and using them to enrich the colonizing nation and its leaders. For example, Namibia was viewed as a place for Germans to settle in and make their own, despite the fact that there were already people living there. Of course, another justification for the act of colonialism is the idea that certain people are primitive and inferior to the colonizers, and therefore, the colonizers have a god-given right to rule over them and do with the colonized nation and its inhabitants as they please. This idea of superiority is also connected to the belief that some races are actually subhuman, and shouldn’t be allowed to exist, because they supposedly destroy the purity of the human race. This idea of eugenics is very visible with Eugen Fischer and his studies of the Herero and Nama, because Germany was desperate to prove that the Herero and Nama were anatomically different from “pure” Europeans, and it was therefore justified to wipe out these populations, because they weren’t actually human. This pseudoscience was absolutely false, of course, but it was still a justification the genocide of the Herero and Nama.

The events that occurred in the Herero and Nama genocide were clearly precursors to the events of the Holocaust, as the same idea of racial superiority and purity was visible in both genocides. Also, the idea that an entire group of people needed to be killed, including women and children, shows that both genocides were about removing those people from society who were deemed biologically inferior. Although the circumstances of the two genocides were different, the end goal, that being the extermination of an entire race, was the same. It’s important that people are taught about the Herero and Nama genocide regardless of whether they are also learning about the Holocaust, because such terrible events must not be allowed to be buried by purposeful neglect and the passage of time.

My big takeaways from learning about this genocide are that history can certainly repeat itself in some form, and learning about certain genocides while ignoring others is a severe injustice to all of the various peoples of the world that have been forced to suffer through genocides. To better understand history, it is important to recognize the patterns that are visible throughout it, because it allows us to see cause and effect. Additionally, acknowledging that these patterns exist allows us to notice warning signs throughout the world, such as the fact that Uighurs in China are being sent to camps and are having their culture destroyed. The lessons of history should act as a call to action, because we must understand that the horrors of genocide are not merely relics of the past, but realities of the present.

SlothsPoopOnceAWeek
Chestnuthill, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 21

Colonization and Genocide

I knew that we weren’t taught a lot of history that occured, but to find out that we never learned about a genocide that happened in such recent history shoked me to the core. When I first heard about it in class and that it was led by the Germans, it reminded me of the Holocaust. It began when Germans wanted more land, just as the other global European powers at the time did. They drained the resources of the land of the Herero, and that led to a fight between the tribe and the Germans. This escalated into “ into a program of widespread ‘extermination’.” More than 80% of the tribe was killed, and it was the first documented genocide. The United Nations only recognized it as a genozide in 1948.

This all began with colonization. Germany went into a land that was not theirs, and took the resources of the land. Germany ruled the land for 35 years, and today Namibia is the youngest country in the world. There are still many barriers to this present, as there are many German speaking farms present in Namibia, taking up the land that others could be living on. Colonization is clearly still present in the modern day, and there is not much that is tackling this, as the organization that is providing the lands to the people is heavily aided by the German government and German organizations. This means that despite all that the Germans have done to the Herereo.

Just as mentioned earlier, this event reminded me slightly of the Holocaust when first hearing about it. It was a genocide that was led by the Germans, but this one happened first. The Germans were able to portray African Americans “as subhuman and diseased, no more than pests to be eradicated. “I think it is better that the Herero nation perish rather than infect our troops,” he wrote in late 1904.” (Clara NG) The Germans also advocated for survival of the fittest, and that they were “purifying” the race. There was much violence in a war, and there were camps that the Herero would stay in, which were, “Fenced in by thorn bushes and barbed wire.” Many Herero died from abuse and exhaustion in these camps. Some were disguised as labor camps, but people knew the true horrors of what occurred. The camps that were used for Germany’s first genocide were the example for the next, the Holocaust.

After reading all about this, I realize more and more that we must not only teach the history of Europe and the history that we have been learning about since day one. Much happened around the world, many being killed and treated inhumanely. Learning more about this history can bring awareness to the current issues present, as well as teach others about the horrors that some went through. I also learned about how history repeats itself, and everything in the world is cause and effect. The horrible Holocaust was based on the horrible genocide of the Herero, and if one was taught to be wrong, the other might not have occured.

Bumblebee
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 27

First Genocide of the 20th Century

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.”

lavagirl
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 11

The Herero and the Nama People

Colonialism has the potential to morph into genocide because of power and greed. Power is a very dangerous thing because it fosters not only a sense of entitlement but also an insatiable desire for more. Greedy people will never be satisfied with what they have; no amount of land or people will ever be enough since there is no cap on the amount of power a person can have.

These events prefigure what happened during the Holocaust. I feel as if the Germans were smarter about how they handled the Holocaust than they were with the Nama and the Herero people because they had already been through it once before. Hitler never issued a direct order to kill all the Jews, Roma/Sinto, homosexuals, etc. whereas Von Trotha did. If there is no direct order, the person at the top can weasel their way out of getting caught. It reminds me of the mafia in a way because mob bosses never directly order their subordinates to do anything.

I don’t understand how Germany can just completely disregard this genocide. They have turned these mass burial grounds into beaches and tourist attractions and the fact that little children are blissfully unaware that underneath their feet where they are playing are thousands of graves. The difference between how Germany has handled their history with the Jews versus their history with the Africans is astounding. This leads me to believe that if the rest of the world wasn’t aware of the Holocaust while it was happening, none of the reperations that they have tried to make would’ve happened.

Dolphin42
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Acknowledging the First Genocide

In the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, European superpowers seeks to justify their actions of dividing Africa among themselves with the need to solve overcrowding amid industrialization (The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero). Germany, like many other colonizer countries, seeks to exploit their colonizing country of Namibia of diamonds and copper. However, colonization and exploitation soon turned into genocide. I remember learning about the Hereros and German colonization in history class and I was shocked that despite this tragedy being the first genocide in the 20th century, it was not something that was discussed or even acknowledged. As I learned more about the genocide I realized that Germany had tried to dismiss this part of history because the lack of records makes it harder for others to hold the country accountable for their actions. The reason behind the genocide is the idea of race and social darwinism. Europeans viewed themselves as the superior race and according to The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero, “Lieutenant-General Lotha Von Trotha declared the conflict a ‘race war’….In the German media, he presented the African tribespeople as subhuman and diseased, no more than pests to be eradicated…he advocated for a radical struggle for survival of the fittest, which called for the extermination of “inferiors” in order to purify the so-called ‘Aryan’ race.’” If the media presents a group of people as pests, then the people will disregard the Hereros, whom most of the Germans have never met, as obstacles they need to get rid of in order to “purify” their race. Lotha Von Trotha was able to get away with genocide because his people did not see the extent of the torture and killing, which allowed him to further pursue his ideology.


The concentration camps that the Germans placed the Hereros and Nama people in after the war with Germany prefigures what happened later in the Holocaust. The Nama were placed in cold and moist climates, they were “unaccustomed to these conditions, underfed, ill-clothed and badly accommodated” and “died from sheer neglect, or from their exertions as forced labour” (Toward a culture of memory for a memory culture today – a German perspective). The experimentation of the skulls by Eugen Fischer, who is a professor of medicine and anthropology and one of the founding fathers of German (and later Nazi) eugenics, represents the ongoing idea of the study of eugenics and the attempt at proving white supremacy with science. This is similar to the treatment of Jews in the concentration camps during World War II, where many of them suffered in concentration camps and are experimented on (The 20th Century’s First Genocide: Not the Holocaust, but the Herero). Additionally, the spread of colonial propaganda during this time also served as early indication of Nazi Propaganda. The media plays a large role in manipulating the public’s opinion of the groups of oppressed people. German government utilized the media to obscure the truth behind genocide and convince the people that this is necessary for the benefit of the nation.


My big takeaways from learning about the genocide is that there is still a long way to go, both in terms of acknowledging the horrific mass killings in the past and for the victims to recociliate with the past. Although the German Minister for Economic Cooperation apologized for the genocide in 2004, nearly one hundred years after the event took place, it’s never enough to make up for the tens of thousands of deaths and the effect of colonization on the community and their descendants (Regarding Reconciliation: The Herero’s Long Quest for Justice). It’s important for everyone in the world to recognize these genocides so that the people can learn to recognize when a group of people is being oppressed and to prevent events like these from happening in the future.

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