9 February 2009
Many modern historians believe the Herero were the first ethnic group to be subjected to genocide in the 20th century. According to the 1985 United Nations' Whitaker Report, 80 percent of the total Herero population (some 65,000 Herero), and 50% of the total Nama population (10,000 Nama) were killed by Germans between 1904 and 1907.
Herero and Nama Genocide has also been linked to later events in Nazi Germany.
In 1998, German President Roman Herzog visited Namibia and met Herero leaders. Chief Munjuku Nguvauva demanded a public apology and compensation from Germany. Herzog expressed regret but stopped short of an apology. He also pointed out that reparations were out of the question.
On August 16, 2004, the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide, Germany has offered its first formal apology for the colonial-era genocide in Namibia. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany's development aid minister, officially apologized for the first time and expressed grief about the genocide committed by Germans. She admitted that the massacres were equivalent to genocide, without explicitly mentioning the concentration camps and slavery that also existed, both of which were well documented by the Germans themselves. Furthermore, she ruled out paying a special compensation, declaring that the German government already paid a yearly sum of €11.5 million as development aid for Namibia. after the minister's speech, the crowd repeated calls for an apology. "Everything I said in my speech was an apology for crimes committed under German colonial rule," she replied. Ms Wieczorek-Zeul repeated that there would be no compensation. A group of Herero has filed a case against Germany in the United States demanding $4bn in compensation.
On January 12, 1904, the Herero people under Samuel Maharero rose in rebellion against German colonial rule in south-west Africa. In response, the German military commander, General Lothar von Trotha, ordered the Herero people to leave Namibia or be killed. In August, German general Lothar von Trotha defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of thirst. In October, the Nama also took up arms against the Germans and were dealt with in a similar fashion. Herero were massacred with machine guns, their wells poisoned and then driven into the desert to die. In total, between 24,000 and 65,000 Herero (all values are estimated as being 50% to 70% of the total Herero population), and 10,000 Nama (50% of the total Nama population) perished. Two characteristics of the genocide were death by starvation and the poisoning of wells used by the Herero and Nama populations that were trapped in the Namib Desert.
In 1985, the United Nations' Whitaker Report recognized Germany's attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa as one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century. The German government apologized for the events in 2004.
Germany argues that international laws to protect civilians were not in force at the time of the conflict. Alain Gresh says "this first genocide of the 20th century was one of a series of colonial policies that served as model and precursor to the Nazi genocide against the Jews".
- Alain Gresh, "The West's Selective History Reading', Le Monde Diplomatique, January 2009.
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- Christopher Clark, (2006). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard. pp. 776. ISBN 067402385-4.
- Exterminate all the Brutes, Sven Lindqvist, London, 1996.
- Casper W. Erichsen, A Forgotten History-Concentration Camps were used by Germans in South West Africa, in the Mail and Guardian, Johannesburg, 17 August, 2001.
- David Olusoga, "Genocide & The Second Reich', BBC Four, , October 2004
- German Federal Archives, Imperial Colonial Office, Vol. 2089, 7 (recto)
- "The Herero and Nama Genocides, 1904-1908', J.B. Gewald, in Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, New York, Macmillan Reference, 2004.
- J.B. Gewald, "Herero Heroes: A Socio-Political History of the Herero of Namibia 1890 - 1923' , Oxford, Cape Town, Athens OH, 1999.
- Horst Drechsler, Let Us Die Fighting: the Struggle of the Herero and Nama against German Imperialism, 1884-1915, London, 1980.
- Jon M. Bridgman, "The Revolt of the Hereros', Perspectives on Southern Africa, Berkeley, University of California, 1981.