When I first become aware of the genocide of the Herero and the Namaqua in Namibia a few months ago, I was stunned. I had up until that point never heard of what some historians call the first genocide of the 20th century. I soon learned that this genocide perpetrated by the German government paved the way for another campaign of mass extermination (i.e. the Holocaust) on European soil some 30 years later. Under German colonial rule, the Herero and Namaqua people were subjected to some of the worst atrocities and human rights violations and were victims of crimes against Humanity. An official report of these heinous acts were meticulously recorded in a “Blue Book”. No-one was supposed to know what had happened.
This tragedy led to the murder of over 85 000 people.
When reading about the fate that befell the Herero and Namaqua, I couldn’t help but feel saddened that their testimonies and stories had been largely ignored from the history books.
How could this be? How could the massive extermination of a people be overlooked? How can anyone justify the killing, rape, torture, beating, and persecution of innocent people on the basis of “race superiority”? How can we be so blinded by hatred and ignorance that we allow ourselves to kill in the name of preserving our “race/ethnicity”?
While it was such a long time ago, my heart feels heavy to know that these atrocious acts still take place to this day.
Don’t we ever learn? I sincerely hope that one day this genocide will be acknowledged and the descendants of the victims will be provided with a platform whereby they can collectively grieve and move forward.
For further resources about the genocide,
1) you can read this excellent account (in French) called “blue book” by Elise Fontenaille-N’Diaye
2) Casper Erichsen, “The Angel of Death has Descended Violently Among Them, Concentration camps and prisoners of war in Namibia”.
3) Jan-Bart Gewald, Jeremy Silvester, “Words Cannot be Found, German Colonial Rule in Namibia: an Annotated Report of the 1918 Blue Book”.
There is also a documentary
that you can watch that talks about the genocide of the Hereros .
To all the victims and the descendants of the genocide, please know that your voices will not be silenced. Your stories need to be told!
About the Author:
Lea Gabay is a French American graduate student who is studying for a Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in San Francisco, California. She previously taught English as a Foreign Language for several years in various countries, particularly in Vietnam. She is passionate about interfaith dialog building, social justice, and human rights.