Research shows the crimes of the past continue to shape the country today.
“Every Herero, armed or unarmed, will be shot,” ordered lieutenant general Lothar von Trotha.about:blank
Between 1904 and 1908, German soldiers violently crushed an uprising by the Herero and Nama.about:blank
Namibia was under German colonial rule until the beginning of the 20th century.about:blank
Photos: Photo archive of the German Colonial Society / University Library Frankfurt am Main; University of Cape Town. Libraries; Forensic Architecture
“It’s As If We Never Existed”Namibia Continues Seeking Justice for Germany’s Colonial-Era Genocide
“Every Herero, with or without a gun, will be shot.” That was the order given in October 1904, setting off Germany’s genocide in Namibia. New research shows how the crime continues to have an effect today, and how Berlin seems uninterested in real reconciliation.
The pain comes on suddenly, says Kambanda Nokokure Veii. It comes when she is driving through the steppe of central Namibia, past the trees where German soldiers hanged Veii’s ancestors. It comes when she is in the capital city of Windhoek and sees compatriots with lighter skin, many of whom are descendants of rape victims. Or when she, as on this afternoon, visits a memorial site on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in the Omaheke region, one of the few places that recalls the genocide committed by the German Empire against the Herero and Nama from 1904 to 1908.
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 45/2022 (November 4th, 2022) of DER SPIEGEL.SPIEGEL International
Veii, a 60-year-old retired English teacher and a member of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation from Windhoek, is standing before a grave that is covered in thornbushes. Some of her fellow campaigners have joined her, and together, they sink to a knee. A man recites verses in the Otjiherero language, and the others repeat after him. Veii’s voice falters. She wipes tears from her face. “Even today, our suffering goes unrecognized,” she says.
More than a century has passed since the Herero and Nama rose up against the German colonial regime in Namibia, then called German South West Africa. German rule was incredibly cruel.
The research agency Forensic Architecture joined forces with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation to reconstruct the atrocity
Researchers focused their attentions on key locations like Okahandja in central Namibia.
They examined historic photographs …
… and, with the help of terrain mapping and 3-D models, they were able to determine the precise location of the photos and when they were taken.
By doing so, it became possible to see just how systematic the Germans proceeded.
Over the course of several years, the Herero were driven out of places like Okahandja.
Today, many places reveal no sign of what happened there.
On a hill not far from the memorial, the senior commander of the German “Schutztruppe,” or “Protection Force,” Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, issued the order for genocide on October 2, 1904: “Within the German borders, every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I will no longer accept women and children.” According to estimates, between 50,000 and 70,000 people were slaughtered by von Trotha and his troops.