Query on massacre Namibia 1904

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at SPAMgreenleft.org.au
Thu Oct 19 01:56:52 MDT 2000

Mail&Guardian: The tribe Germany wants to forget  NAMIBIA  WMG March
13, 1998
 During his visit to Namibia this week, German President Roman ì Herzog refused
to apologise for the genocide that all but ì eliminated the Herero tribe --
forcing its women to become the ì sex slaves of German colonials to evade
In the small, dusty graveyard of Usakos, Adelheid ì Tjijorokisa-Ndjavera points
to headstones marking the graves of ì her family.The impressive headstone of
Karl-Heinrich Knaeble, ì born in Oberndorf, Bavaria, and the modest cross of
Klara Kozeri ì Muukua, place of birth unstated, face each other over what used
ì to be the great colonial divide, a rusty barbed-wire fence, that ì has
collapsed allowing both her grandparents to rest within the ì same place of
peace."We know the white side of the families here ì in Namibia," she says, a
frown creasing her light olive ì complexion. "But they don't want to know
anything about us. The ì local German community is very hostile to us." An
outspoken ì activist for Herero rights, she is not surprised by this ì
attitude. After all, about two-thirds of her people were killed ì in Herero
uprisings between 1887 and 1907.
The Hereros' quest for reparations from the German government ì cuts to the
heart of the burning land question in Namibia. Unlike ì the politically
dominant Owambo people - who are well-represented ì in the ruling South West
African Peoples Organisation (Swapo) - ì the Hereros lost most of their grazing
areas, now occupied by ì prosperous white farmers, many of them
third-generation German ì Namibians.This became a painful political reality for
German ì President Dr Roman Herzog, who visited Namibia last week and is ì
currently in South Africa.Tjijorokisa-Ndjavera was born of the ì stolen love
between Knaeble and Muukua. But for most of the ì Herero women subjected to
sexual union with German colonials, she ì asserts, their experience was one of
humiliation. "What could ì they do? All the men were killed, all the land
stolen from us and ì all our cattle either dead or confiscated. They became sex
slaves ì to just survive."
The German colonial policy of divide and rule saw governor ì Theodore Leutwein
in 1894 recognise Samuel Maherero, fond of ì drink and prone to selling other
people's land, rather than the ì more traditional Asas Rirua, as successor to
Chief Tjamuaha of ì the Hereros.
The first Herero uprising on March 14 1897 failed, but seven ì years later,
Samuel Maherero, sobered by the land-grabbing of the ì Germans, rose with his
people at Okahandja in May 1904, killing ì every German farmer and trader they
could and seizing 25 000 head ì of cattle. The reprisals came slowly at first,
but increased in ì swiftness and brutality. Leutwein wanted to preserve the
Hereros ì as a pool of labour. But as German losses mounted, the colonial ì
office of Prince Otto von Bismarck dispatched Lieutant-General ì Lothar von
Trotha. He delivered quick results with such brutality ì that Leutwein resigned
in protest. The defeated Hereros fled into ì the eastern Omaheke desert. But
Von Trotha wanted to make an ì example of them - nothing but annihilation would
do.Offering huge  (;T7  ìèbounties for the heads of Maherero and his
captains, Von Trotha ì issued his infamous extermination order on October 2
1904. He ì warned: "Every Herero found within German borders, with or ì without
guns, with or without livestock, will be shot. I will not ì give shelter to any
Herero women or children. They must return to ì their people, or they will be
shot."The Herero uprising came to ì an end soon after this, although mop-up
operations continued ì until 1907. Only a few hundred survived; many more were
shot as ì Germans pursued them from waterhole to waterhole.Thousands of men ì
gave themselves up and were locked in concentration camps in ì central Namibia
and along the coast, where death came more slowly ì in the form of smallpox,
typhus and tuberculosis. ì Tjijorokisa-Ndjavera says many Herero women were
forced into ì sexual serfdom as their men died in their thousands. But what ì
grieves her and fellow Herero activist Professor Mberumba Kerina ì most is that
the colonial tactic of divide and rule has been ì adopted by the Swapo
government and its German aid donors. When ì the Hereros tried handing a
petition to Herzog at a state banquet ì last week, the rival Swapo-aligned
Mbanderu faction quickly ì handed up their own petition.Kerina says Herzog is
willing to ì discuss the issue. "Up to now, our experience has been simply of ì
a frozen ocean between us and the German government." But Herzog ì said too
much time has passed for a formal apology to the Hereros ì to make  sense.He
argued that no international legislation ì existed at the time under which
ethnic minorities could get ì reparations. Kerina disagrees: under the Fourth
Hague Convention ì of 1899, he says, reprisals against civilians on the losing
side ì were outlawed.Newspapers last week reported that Herzog was ì prepared
to apologise to the Herero people. But it now seems he ì may have been
misinterpreted - literally. Last weekend, Herzog ì blamed the furore about
German-medium education on an incorrect ì translation -  then publicly fired
his translator Christopher ì Hain at a press conference when Hain faltered in
translating ì this. It's too bad a German president did not do the same with ì
Lothar von Trotha. -- Mail&Guardian, March 13, 1998.

Gary Maclennan wrote:

> I have a Botswanan student who is researching for a documentary on a
> massacre that took place in what was then the German colony of South West
> Africa (Namibia) in 1904.  The Officer in charge of the killings was a
> General Von Trotter.
> there are supposed to be links of some kind between the labour camps set up
> in Namibia and the concentration in the 30s.  Hitler is supposed to have
> studied the Namibian experience and learned from it.
>   Does anyone have any suggestions as to sources or he would go about
> getting more information on this?  Help much appreciated.
> regards
> Gary

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