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Germany's Genocide of the Herero

Germany's Genocide of the Herero: Kaiser Wilhelm II, His General, His Settlers, His Soldiers

Jeremy Sarkin
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Germany's Genocide of the Herero
    Book Description:

    In 1904, the indigenous Herero people of German South West Africa (now Namibia) rebelled against their German occupiers. In the following four years, the German army retaliated, killing between 60,000 and 100,000 Herero people, one of the worst atrocities ever. The history of the Herero genocide remains a key issue for many around the world partly because the German policy not to pay reparations for the Namibian genocide contrasts with its long-standing Holocaust reparations policy. The Herero case bears not only on transitional justice issues throughout Africa, but also on legal issues elsewhere in the world where reparations for colonial injustices have been called for. This book explores the events within the context of German South West Africa (GSWA) as the only German colony where settlement was actually attempted. The study contends that the genocide was not the work of one rogue general or the practices of the military, but that it was inexorably propelled by Germany's national goals at the time. The book argues that the Herero genocide was linked to Germany's late entry into the colonial race, which led it frenetically and ruthlessly to acquire multiple colonies all over the world within a very short period, using any means available. Jeremy Sarkin is Chairperson-Rapporteur of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and is at present Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. He is also an Attorney of the High Court of South Africa and of the State of New York. A graduate of the University of the Western Cape and of Harvard Law School he has been visiting professor at several US universities where he has taught Comparative Law, International Human Rights Law, International Criminal Law and Transitional Justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-937-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Foreword By the Paramount Chief of the Herero
    (pp. v-vii)

    Just as the human predicament transcends all boundaries of time and place, the eternal facts of life revolve around problems of living together that every individual, community and nation must face. Perhaps we should be cognizant of the true meaning of life and community and the inevitability of wrong behaviour being a precarious foundation to lay any cornerstone of civilisation on. A century has now passed since scholars began to realise the need of interpreting this particular episode in history and to scientifically analyse the event from an unbiased perspective. It has become critical to expose the insidious social mechanisms...

  4. Preface
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xii)
    Jeremy Sarkin
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-35)

    Germany’s colonisation of Namibia, then German South West Africa (GSWA), encompasses one of the worst atrocities ever: the genocide of between 60000 and 100000 indigenous Herero people at the beginning of the twentieth century.² Tens of thousands of people—men, women and children—were killed in a very short period of time. Water wells were sealed and poisoned³ to prevent access to water.⁴ Thousands, including women and children were condemned to slavery in the German military and civil institutions, as well as for private companies and on German farms.⁴ Surviving Herero women were forced to become ‘comfort women’ for the...

  7. Chapter One Aetiology of a genocide
    (pp. 36-101)

    The historiography of the events around the Herero genocide is subject to a great deal of controversy. The reasons why there was a war (or a rebellion) between the Herero and Germany in 1904 are extensively debated. Even the linguistics are not accepted without argument. Thus, Melber has termed the events between the Germans and the Herero the ‘German-Namibian War’.² Acknowledging that the use of the word ‘Namibia’ only emerged in the 1960s, his preference is motivated by political reasons.³ Neville Alexander has called it ‘the first war of anti-colonial resistance’.⁴ It was undeniably a resistance conflict, but given the...

  8. Chapter Two Implementing the genocide: Annithilating ‘the African tribes with streams of blood and streams of gold’
    (pp. 102-154)

    Many have debated whether German cruelty in the colonies exceeded that of other colonial powers. According to Cooper, what the Germans did to the Herero was ‘among the most inhumane actions of the colonial era’.⁴ On the other hand, Howard notes the matching brutality of the British: ‘The British were often quite ruthless in their suppression of resistance. For example, every person in the market of the village of Muruka (Kenya) was slaughtered to revenge the killing of one British soldier in 1902.’⁴ Yet others have argued that despite their abhorrent treatment of the Herero and Nama, ‘the Germans treated...

  9. Chapter Three Did the Kaiser order the genocide?
    (pp. 155-232)

    The role of Kaiser Wilhelm II, born Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Hohenzollern 1859–1941, in the Herero extermination order has been debated over the years. Most people do not believe that the Kaiser gave the order to General von Trotha.³ Others, however, have speculated whether the Kaiser was behind the order. Even at the time of the genocide, such conjecture occurred. On 1 December 1906, August Bebel, an opposition Member of Parliament in the Reichstag, stated:

    I don’t know whether Herr Von Trotha acted on his own or according to a similar slogan to the one made in 1900:...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 233-245)

    It is nearly unanimously agreed today that between 1904 and 1907 to 1908 Germany conducted genocide, as legally defined, of the Herero of then German South West Africa (GSWA), today Namibia. The Herero genocide is unique in that the order to annihilate the Herero was publicly proclaimed and specifically made known to the target group in their own language. The official proclamation initially sought the extermination specifically of the Herero. However, other groups, especially the Nama, were later targeted because of their rich land holdings and their intransigence against the Germans. The severe treatment meted out to the Nama and...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 246-265)
  12. Index
    (pp. 266-276)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)