Germany for the first time admitted, Friday May 28, to have committed “Genocide” against the Herero and Nama populations in Namibia during the colonial era.
“We will now officially qualify these events for what they are from today’s point of view: genocide”German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.
He welcomes in this statement the conclusion of a « accord » with Namibia after more than five years of bitter negotiations on the events which occurred in this African territory colonized by Germany between 1884 and 1915. The German colonists had killed tens of thousands of Herero and Nama in massacres committed between 1904 and 1908, considered by many historians as the first genocide of the XXe century.
“In the light of the historical and moral responsibility of Germany, we will ask forgiveness from Namibia and the descendants of the victims” for the “Atrocities” committed, continued the Minister. In one “Gesture of recognition of the immense suffering inflicted on the victims”, the European country will support the “Reconstruction and development” in Namibia with a financial program of 1.1 billion euros, he added.
Not legal compensation
He specifies that it is not a question of compensation on a legal basis, and that this recognition does not open the way to any “Legal claim for compensation”. This sum will be paid over a period of thirty years, according to sources close to the negotiations, and must primarily benefit the descendants of these two populations.
The crimes committed during colonization have poisoned relations between the two countries for many years. “We cannot draw a line on the past. Recognizing one’s fault and asking for forgiveness are, however, an important step in overcoming the past and building the future together ”, estimated the head of German diplomacy.
In a desire for reconciliation, in 2019 Germany handed over to Namibia the bones of members of the exterminated Herero and Nama tribes, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Michelle Müntefering, then asked “Forgiveness from the bottom of my heart”.
A gesture deemed clearly insufficient by their descendants and the Namibian authorities, who demanded an official apology and reparations. Germany had repeatedly opposed this, citing the millions of euros in development aid paid to Namibia since its independence in 1990.
If the work of memory in Germany on the Nazi period is generally considered exemplary, that on the colonial period in Africa, from the second half of the 19th century.e century and early twentiethe, has been neglected for a long time.
Extermination of the rebellion
The Herero tribes today represent about 7% of the Namibian population against 40% at the beginning of the 20th century.e century. Deprived of their land and their cattle, they revolted in 1904 against the German settlers, killing around 100 among them. Sent to put down the rebellion, the German general Lothar von Trotha had ordered their extermination. The Nama rose up a year later and suffered the same fate.
In total, at least 60,000 Herero and around 10,000 Nama died between 1904 and 1908. German colonial forces had employed genocidal techniques: mass killings, exile in the desert, where thousands of men, women and children died of thirst, and concentration camps, like the infamous one on Shark Island.
Bones, especially the skulls of victims, were sent to Germany for racial scientific experiments. Doctor Eugen Fischer, who served on Shark Island and whose writings influenced Adolf Hitler, sought to prove the “Superiority of the white race”.