Friday, September 30, 2011

Germany / Namibia / Herero Genocide

"The Namibian delegation attended a service in Berlin." (Associated Press)
Germany Returns Namibian Skulls Taken in Colonial Era
BBC Online, September 30, 2011
"Namibian tribal leaders have visited Berlin to collect the skulls of 20 compatriots who died under Germany's colonial rule in the early 1900s. German scientists took the heads to perform experiments seeking to prove the racial superiority of white Europeans over black Africans. The skulls were uncovered three years ago in medical archive exhibits. A ceremony was held in the German capital to return the remains as a gesture of reconciliation. But chaotic scenes accompanied the speeches, particularly an address by German Deputy Foreign Minister Cornelia Pieper. A handful of demonstrators shouted 'reparations', 'apology' and 'genocide'. In the 1880s, Germany acquired present-day Namibia, calling it German South-West Africa. In 1904 the Herero, the largest of about 200 ethnic groups, rose up against colonial rule killing more than a 120 civilians. The German response was ruthless. Gen. Lothar von Trotha signed a notorious extermination order against the Herero, defeated them in battle and drove them into the desert, where most died of thirst. Of an estimated 65,000 Herero, only 15,000 survived. It is thought about 10,000 Nama people also died. In 1985, a UN report classified the events as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples of South-West Africa, and therefore the earliest attempted genocide in the 20th Century. In 2004, Germany's ambassador to Namibia expressed regret for what happened. Germany has consistently refused to pay reparations to its former colony, arguing that it has given much development aid to Namibia.
But Namibians at the ceremony said the aid had not reached them. Earlier, Ueriuka Festus Tjikuua, a member of the Namibian delegation, told reporters: 'We have come first and foremost to receive the mortal human remains of our forefathers and mothers and to return them to the land of their ancestors.' The skulls belong to 20 people who died after an uprising against their German colonial rulers more than 100 years ago. They were among hundreds who starved to death after being rounded up in camps. Some of the dead had their heads removed and of these, about 300 were taken to Germany, arriving between 1909 and 1914. The skulls gathered dust in German archives until three years ago when a German reporter uncovered them at the Medical History Museum of the Charite hospital in Berlin, and at Freiburg University in the south-west. German researchers believe the skulls belong to 11 people from the Nama ethnic group and nine from the Herero. They were four women, 15 men and a boy. [...]"

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