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The Herero and Namaqua Genocide Options
Posted: Friday, January 05, 2018 12:00:00 AM
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The Herero and Namaqua Genocide

In the early 20th century, Germany claimed territory in what is now Namibia and colonized the land as German South-West Africa. From 1904 to 1907, the Germans quashed rebellions by the native Herero and Nama tribes by driving them into the desert. Approximately 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama—80 percent and 50 percent of their populations, respectively—died in what is perhaps the earliest attempt at genocide in the 20th century. When did Germany officially apologize for the massacre? More...
zina antoaneta
Posted: Friday, January 05, 2018 7:23:13 AM

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What a story! So Hitler wasn't really that unique after all.
Posted: Friday, January 05, 2018 9:11:58 AM

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Low numbers compared with Rwandan genocide.
Posted: Friday, January 05, 2018 10:05:27 AM

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Posted: Friday, January 05, 2018 12:27:56 PM

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Germany at least has the decency to acknowledge their crime. Japan's Abe, on the other hand...
Posted: Friday, January 05, 2018 1:14:15 PM

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For activists and historians, Germany’s evasiveness, that genocide wasn’t yet an international crime in the early 1900s, was maddening. Roeschert believes the government avoided the topic on pragmatic grounds, because historically, declarations of genocide are closely followed by demands for reparations. This has been the case with the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the Rwandan Genocide.

Kaunatjike is a witness and an heir to Namibia’s history, but his country’s story been doubly neglected. First, historical accounts of apartheid tend to place overwhelming emphasis on South Africa. Second, historical accounts of genocide focus so intently on the Holocaust that it’s easy to forget that colonial history preceded and perhaps foreshadowed the events of World War II.

This might finally be changing, however. Intense focus on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide also drew attention to brutality in European colonies. A decade of activism helped change the conversation in Germany, too. Protesters in Germany had some success pressuring universities to send Herero human remains back to Namibia; one by one, German politicians began talking openly about genocide.

Perhaps the greatest breakthrough came this summer. In July, the president of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, in an article for the newspaper Die Zeit, described the killing of Herero and Nama as Voelkermord. Literally, this translates to “the murder of a people”—genocide. Lammert called it a “forgotten chapter” in history that Germans have a moral responsibility to remember.

“We waited a long time for this,” says Kaunatjike. “And that from the mouth of the president of the Bundestag. That was sensational for us.”

“And then we thought—now it really begins. It will go further,” Kaunatjike says. The next step is an official apology from Germany—and then a dialogue between Namibia, Germany, and Herero representatives. Germany has so far balked at demands for reparations, but activists will no doubt make the case. They want schoolchildren to know this story, not only in Germany but also in Namibia.

For Kaunatjike, there are personal milestones to match the political ones. 2015 year marks 25 years of Namibian independence. In November, Kaunatjike plans to visit his birthplace. “I want to go to my old village, where I grew up,” he says. He’ll visit an older generation of Namibians who remember a time before apartheid. But he also plans to visit his grandfather’s grave. He never met any of his German family, and he often wonders what role they played in the oppression of Namibians.

When Kaunatjike’s journey started half a century ago, the two lines of his family were kept strictly separate. As time went on, however, his roots grew tangled. Today he has German roots in Namibia and Namibian roots in Germany. He likes it that way.

Kaunatjike sometimes wishes he spent less time on campaigns and interviews, so he’d have more time to spend with his children. But they’re also the reason he’s still an activist. “My children have to know my story,” he says. He has grandchildren now, too. Their mother tongue is German. And unlike Kaunatjike himself, they know what kind of a man their grandfather is.

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