Documentary Review: Namibia – Genocide and the Second Reich

Come to Namibia, “A little Germany under the African sun.” That is the signature slogan for Germanophile visitors to Namibia, a country north-west of South Africa that gained its independence from South Africa on March 21 1990 as part of a wider agreement between South African forces and African nationalist forces seeking to breakaway.[1] Annually, when the warm months come to the Republic of Namibia, tourists flock to this sunny country to enjoy its idyllic landscape, German architecture, and buy mementos of the second Reich. Unwholesomely, even Third Reich memorabilia is sold under the table, communicating the initial impression that there is an underlying history here between Germany and Namibia that should be critically evaluated.  Neither the German nor the Namibia government have fully come to terms or recognized this history, but it’s on plagued by colonization, starvation, hard labor, and even genocide. Two people in particular resisted and suffered the brutality of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his occupying German forces, the Herero and the Nama.

Germany came late to colonization, but its actions were no less oppressive than the original colonizers, Portugal and Spain or dominant colonizers of Africa, France and England. “Places like Auschwitz were not Germany’s first concentration camps, and the Holocaust was not Germany’s first genocide.”[2] Kaiser’s Second Reich ran concentration camps at the dawn of the twentieth century. The policy was two-fold: to one, use the indigenous people as slave labor. And two, the Germans sought to repopulate the area with German citizens. The Germans had something quite interesting in this case in common with the Roman Empire. The original Roman Empire, after conquering lands, whether Gallic in northern Italy or Gaul, or in Greece, rewarded soldiers with land in conquered territories. The Second Reich also had this policy, of eventually relocating German soldiers in Saharan Africa, owning the spoils of war and overseeing the indigenous people made to be slave labor.

This policy exposes the state of mind for the average German general, soldier, or even the Kaiser, at that point in time. That the German Empire was to be the new Roman Empire, and that the lands they conquered were to be in service to the empire. K.B Khan states in The Kaiser’s Holocaust: the coloniality of Germany’s forgotten genocide of the Nama and the Herero of Namibia that “A politic-military organization controlled by white males was a primary agent for the physical destruction of the Nama of Namibia.”[3] Even today, the people of that nation are not in control of their own fate. White landowners continue to dominate some sectors of the economy and government, which has stalled the self-determination of Namibia and the memorializing of the people lost to genocide.

The people lost were chased from their homeland, captured and beaten, enslaved, starved, and forced to work under slave labor practices. Today, a memorial to the German army stands on top of the former concentration camp of indigenous people. The history here, may never be dealt with adequately to commemorate the struggles of those in the resistance.

Questions:

  1. What policies would alleviate the dark history done to the indigenous people living under German occupation? Would changes and statements have to be made by both the German government and the white class of people living in Namibia?
  2. What does this episode tell us, the observer, about how imperial forces deal with the aftermaths of genocides? Why the Jewish holocaust gain recognition but the Namibia does not? Is there a factor of perceived inferiority? Example: Turkish government sees Turks as superior to Armenians therefore the events of 1914 have not been adequately apologized for. Has the same occurred in Africa?

[1] Namibia Independence, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/402283/Namibia/44020/Independence

[2] Namibia – Genocide and the Second Reich, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4OZ7Xc5pWQ

[3] K.B. Khan, “The Kaiser’s Holocaust: The Coloniality of Germany’s Forgotten Genocide of the Nama and the Herero of Namibia,” African Identities 10, no. 3 (August 2012): 211-20, accessed November 10, 2014,http://ezproxy.wpunj.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=83864143&site=ehost-live.

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