The Namibian Genocide…the day Germany killed 75,000 Herero and Nama people

During the colonization of Namibia by German forces in the early twentieth century (1902–1908), genocide was initiated against the African Herero and Nama ethnic groups, killing approximately 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama.

Germany has decided to side with Israel in a lawsuit filed against it at the International Court of Justice in early 2024 over its crimes against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and accusing it of committing genocide and genocide against Gazans, Namibia reminds Germany of its Provided. Colonial history and genocide against indigenous people.


The Republic of Namibia is located in South-West Africa, with an estimated area of ​​approximately 824,292 square kilometres. It is bordered by Angola and Zambia in the north, Botswana in the east and South Africa, which also borders it, in the south. East and west by the Atlantic Ocean.

Namibia is distinguished by its cultural and linguistic diversity, as its population, approximately two million and 642 thousand people (2023 estimate), speaks approximately 16 languages ​​and dialects. Despite this diversity, English remains the official language in this country, which adopts a pluralistic democratic system of government, and about 90% of its population is Christian.

Beginning of colonialism and beginning of resistance

Namibia was annexed by Germany on April 28, 1884, with the consent of Britain and South Africa, and was officially proclaimed on August 7 of the same year.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 5,000 German settlers arrived in Namibia and immediately began imposing their rule with iron and fire on the approximately 250,000 indigenous people in this African country.

German settlers carried out a campaign of mass expulsion of the indigenous population, forcing them to abandon their lands and seizing them by force, and displacing them into reserves outside the boundaries of the lands in which they lived.

January 12, 1904, saw the outbreak of a revolution led by the Herero tribe against German colonialists imposing repressive laws and exposing the population's wealth to plunder and theft.

Members of the tribe led a fierce resistance against the settlers and German forces, resulting in the deaths of approximately 120 settlers and German soldiers.

As resistance grew, Germany decided to remove the military governor, Theodor Gotthelf Lüttwin, and appoint General Lothar von Trotha as his successor. General Trotha arrived in the colony in June 1904 with major military assistance.

Upon their arrival, approximately 50,000 Herero men, women and children gathered with their herds under the leadership of Samuel Maharero, hoping to negotiate with the general after their attacks stopped. However, Lothar von Trotha had no intention of negotiating.

(Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) After the rebellion was suppressed, the captured Heros were taken by Eisenbahn to a camp on the coast.  Photo in Khan Mountain.  1905 (Photo by Ullstein Bild/Ullstein Image via Getty Images)
Herero persons during the transfer to concentration camps in the Khan Mountains in 1905 (Getty)

On October 2, 1904, General Lothar von Trotha issued an “extermination order” against the Herero, declaring that they must leave the colony or be killed. As a result, about 65,000 Herero and 10,000 people of the Nama tribe were killed, who in turn took up arms against the Germans, and its population suffered the same fate as the Herero.

Following the assassination campaign led by General Trotha, the colony's governor, Friedrich von Lindquist, called for all heroines to surrender and be sent to “consolidation camps” from November 1905 to August 1907.

Historians confirm that thousands of Namibians died of thirst or hunger while being transported to neighboring Bechuana Land (today's Botswana), and that Namibian female prisoners were systematically sexually assaulted.

In the cities of Lüderitzbucht and Swakopmund, Herero prisoners died as a result of exposure to the harsh climate, malnutrition, and forced labour. The death toll peaked on Shark Island, adjacent to the town of Lüderitzbach, which the Germans initially leased from the British Cape Colony.

The war officially ended on March 31, 1907, but the camps did not close until January 27, 1908.

After the end of the First World War in 1918, the League of Nations decided to withdraw the German colony, and a mandate was given to South Africa, which was under British protectorate. Administration of the colony was handed over to South Africa in 1920 and remained under its control until Namibia's independence in 1990.

In 1923, the Herero leader Samuel Maharero was cremated, with the slogan “We died fighting”, marking the beginning of a mass movement by tribesmen to tell the world what had happened.

In October 1966, the United Nations General Assembly issued a resolution ending South Africa's mandate over Namibia, a decision which South Africa rejected, leading the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) to arm the Namibian people. Had to join the struggle. They gained independence on 21 March 1990.

Prisoners of the Herero and Nama tribes during the 1904–1908 war against Germany.  From: The Herero rebellion against German occupation began in January 1904.  This undated photograph shows a German soldier with a – possibly – Namibian POW.  Date August 1904 Source Der Spiegel
Prisoners of the Herero and Nama tribes during the rebellion against German colonialism between 1904 and 1908 (French – Archive)

In 1985, the Whittaker Report released by the United Nations described “genocide” on the Herero and Nama tribes. This account included details of the horrific practices under which the inhabitants of these two tribes were subjected to murder, torture, sexual assault and cruel treatment.

The report was based on evidence and testimony collected by investigators, and had a significant impact in raising awareness of what happened and encouraging demands for justice and reparations for the damage caused by the massacre.

In May 2021, the German government officially recognized that the events that took place in Namibia during the period 1904 to 1908 constituted genocide.

In a joint declaration with Namibia, the German government committed to pay €1.1 billion to the Namibian government to contribute to development and reconstruction over 30 years. The declaration stressed the need to spend this money primarily in areas where the descendants of the victims of this genocide currently live.

The joint declaration between the German and Namibian governments sparked widespread controversy in Namibia, where activists from the Herero and Nama tribes called for it to be reconsidered.

skull for scientific research

This was not limited to murder and torture, but also to the remains and skulls of the Herero and Nama. Military doctors serving in the camps received requests from scientists in Berlin to keep complete skulls and heads for themselves.

The German doctor Buffinger was conducting a number of experiments on captives on Shark Island, and researchers in Germany, between 1906 and 1907, obtained several heads from both tribes for experiments aimed at confirming the superiority of the white race over the black race.

Prominent among the published studies is the study of German doctor Eugene Fischer (1913), whose aim was to prove the negative effects of racial mixing.

Letters sent in this context also included a letter sent by the anthropologist Felix von Lochen to Ralph Zern, who was a lieutenant in Okahanja, on June 22, 1905, where he addressed him, asking, “Do you find any way to get it know? Large numbers of Herero skulls? The skulls that you have provided us “they do not fit well with the images that have been created so far… so it seems to me that a large number of skulls for scientific research purposes It is essential to receive the collection as soon as possible.”

It is noteworthy that Germany handed over 19 skulls, as well as bones and skulls to Namibia in religious ceremonies held in Berlin in August 2018. These skulls and bones were taken by German colonial forces more than a century ago, and preserved in the University Hospital of Berlin.

BERLIN, GERMANY – AUGUST 29: A ceremony for the victims of the Namibian Genocide is held at Berlin's Französische Dom on August 29, 2018 in Berlin, Germany.  Germany on Wednesday handed over the remains of about 20 Herero and Nama people killed by German colonial troops in Namibia in the early 20th century.
Two skulls of members of the Herero and Nama tribes killed during the genocide (Getty)

history of genocide

The “Blue Book” is the first historical document detailing the massacre and was published by the United Kingdom through its official publisher in 1918. The book was presented at the Houses of Parliament in London in August 1918.

The description “blue” was chosen because it was used to refer to any report published by the British Parliament, and the full title of the book was “The Union of South Africa… A Report on the People of South Africa and the “Germans”. ‘‘Dealing with Them’’, and was prepared by the Office of the Director of South West Africa in Windhoek.

The Blue Book is based on the testimony of 47 witnesses to the events of the massacre, carried out on the orders of the German administration, and contains detailed data and photographs.

The evidence included in the “Blue Book” includes evidence that confirms that the Germans were shooting everyone they met, or ripping out their stomachs, and killing infants and children, in addition to wounded prisoners. And were killing other people, besides killing them. Their resistance was punished by flogging, and anyone who was able to escape from the hands of the German soldiers was destroyed by hunger and thirst in the desert.

The book was used for political purposes at the time, intended to justify the presence of the British administration in Namibia and its allies in South Africa. In 1926, after Germany was restored to dignity by its allies after World War I, the British government and its allies in South Africa ordered the book's complete destruction. The book became a source of irritation for Germany and the entire “white race” because it depicted Europeans as cruel and inhuman beings.

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