The Herero and Nama Genocide
Before this class, I had never heard of the Herero and Nama genocides. It is shocking that so many people were murdered, and yet many students do not ever learn about this history. Germany has only recently acknowledged this genocide, and justice has never been served. At the Berlin Conference, Africa was divided up among European countries. Germany received the area of land that is now Namibia, and their rule over the country led to the death of tens of thousands of people. At the time, the ownership of colonies was thought a necessity to be considered one of Europe's successful nations, but the entire concept of colonization is extremely problematic. When settlers enter a new country with weapons, power, and preformed ideas about their own superiority, the effects can be disastrous. Colonialism and genocide are closely intertwined; colonialism can easily morph into genocide.
The ideology of the Germans entering Namibia was that the Indigenous people, who had occupied the land far before the arrival of German settlers, were inferior and “undeserving of the same human rights as the white populations” (Clara Ng). The idea that the indigenous people of Africa were “uncivilized” was echoed all across European nations. Europeans came to “barbaric” countries to “civilize” people, often forcing their religion and ideas onto the people of Africa. As Reinhart Kössler and Henning Melber say, “the negation of the full human worth of the persons of the colonized is predicated in the structurally racist set-up of colonialism.” Colonialism itself was built on racist ideas, ones that can lead to the mass killings of entire groups of people. Whether it morphed into genocide or not, colonization was always harmful. It stripped many Indigenous Africans of their cultures and traditions, and caused only pain, suffering, and dehumanization.
The Herero and Nama genocide set a precedent in Germany that was followed by the Holocaust. It established “a specific routine among the German military and also amongst civilians and the way they looked at war and specific acts of war” (Kössler and Melber). The alienation of the Herero and Nama that the Germans used during the genocide, the way they viewed them as an ‘inferior race,’ fed into Nazi propaganda and ideology. Furthermore, the work done on eugenics during the Herero and Nama genocide led to many of the ideas used by Nazi’s to prove their superiority; Eugene Fischers studies led to the Nuremberg laws. The ideas behind the Herero-Nama genocide about a “pure Aryan race” and the “expansion of the German people” were also much of the foundation in Nazi ideology. Concentration camps were also used by the Germans for the first time in Namibia. The use of concentration camps for imprisoning an entire group of people was a new concept, and one that the Germans used in the Holocaust as well.
Learning about this genocide, I wonder why it is not well known. Why had I never heard about it before? It is important for Germany, and the rest of the world, to acknowledge that this happened, and face the effects of colonialism as a whole on Africa and the world. The Herero-Nama genocide should not continue to be covered up and swept under the rug, but talked about and dealt with head on, for that is the only way to move forward and make sure that it never happens again.