100 years on, Germany admits Namibia massacre was genocide

A spokesman for Angela Merkel\'s government said the country would formally apologise to Namibia.

Published: 15th July 2016 09:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th July 2016 09:59 AM   |  A+A-

BERLIN: GERMANY is to recognise as genocide the massacre of 110,000 of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia by German troops between 1904 and 1908 in a landmark admission of historical guilt.

A spokesman for Angela Merkel's government said the country would formally apologise to Namibia.

The extermination of up to 100,000 Herero and some 10,000 of the Nama people by German colonial troops is widely regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century and a precursor to the Holocaust.

Tens of thousands of Herero and Nama were driven into the desert to die of starvation and dehydration. Others were sent to concentration camps where they died of disease and abuse.

Many victims were beheaded and their skulls sent to Germany for scientific experiments. But while Germany has been clear in its admission of guilt for the Holocaust, its response to the Herero genocide has been equivocal until now. A former German development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, described the massacres as "genocide" on a trip to Namibia in 2004, but her remarks were not adopted as government policy.

Foreign ministry guidelines started referring to the killings as a "genocide" a year ago, but only this week has the government confirmed in a written answer to a parliamentary question that this is now official policy.

"The federal government has been pursuing a dialogue with Namibia on this very painful history of the colonial era since 2012," said Sawsan Chebli, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry.

"We seek a common policy statement on the following elements: a common language on the historical events and a German apology and its acceptance by Namibia."

However, the government made clear it would not pay any reparations to Namibia, but would contribute development aid to the country instead.

Cem Oezdemir, an MP with Germany's opposition Green Party, describing the government decision as "long overdue" and said he would now press for the Bundestag parliament to vote on the Herero genocide.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, had accused the German parliament of hypocrisy for last month recognising the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman troops as genocide, but not the killing of the Herero by Germans.

The genocide in Namibia began as an operation to suppress a revolt against German colonial rule by the Herero and Nama. But systematic killings continued long after the uprising had been put down.

In 1904, General Lotha von Trotha, commander of German forces, wrote of his policy on the Herero: "I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated, or, if this is not possible by tactical measures, expelled from the country."

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