War

Germany returns Namibian skulls from colonial-era genocide

Germany returns the skulls of Namibian tribespeople killed in a genocide at the start of the 20th century – but doesn’t give an official apology. David Doyle reports.

BERLIN, GERMANY (REUTERS / ARD POOL) – They were victims of the first genocide of the 20th century – now the skulls of Namibian tribespeople are finally heading home.

The remains will arrive in the capital Windhoek on Friday (August 31) after being received by a Namibian delegation in Berlin.

BISHOP ERNST GAMXAMUB, EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA,

“The Namibian and German history was born out of a very bad experience and reality.”

That experience was the slaughter of 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people by soldiers of German Kaiser Wilhelm between 1904 and 1908.

At the time Germany was the world’s third biggest colonial power and Namibia was known as German South West Africa.

The genocide was in response to tribespeople rising up after they were expelled from their own land.

The bones now being repatriated had been sent to Germany for since-discredited research attempting to prove the racial superiority of white Europeans.

MINISTER OF STATE AT GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, MICHELLE MUENTEFERING,

“Today, in view of a resurgent nationalism and populism in the world, in Europe and also here in Germany, it is even more important to take a clear position and admit guilt when it comes to our own past, as well as human rights and peace which have grown out of togetherness.”

German has accepted “moral responsibility” for the massacre but what it hasn’t done – in order to avoid compensation claims – is officially apologize.

That fact acknowledged by these protesters outside the handover ceremony on Wednesday (August 29) and amid increasing attention on Germany’s colonial history.

Legal representatives for the Herero and Nama people have brought a lawsuit against Germany in New York over genocide and property seizure.

The German government has also entered talks with the Namibian government over possible compensation.


Associated Links

  • Geography of Africa
  • Genocide
  • International criminal law
  • Mass murder
  • Commonwealth of Nations
  • Stolen Generations
  • Doyle
  • Namibia
  • Culture

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