UC Santa Barbara  > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133P Homepage > 133P Student Research Papers Index page > Student paper

Starving Herero Family, 1905

Analysis of an Apology:
A Critical Look at Genocide in Southwest Africa and Its Effects on the Herero/Nama People

Research paper by:
Sasha Romanowsky
June 9, 2009

for Prof. Marcuse's UCSB Hist 133P course
Proseminar on Modern German History
UC Santa Barbara, Spring 2009

About the Author
Research Paper
and Links
Plagiarism Warning
& Links

About Sasha Romanowsky

I am a senior history major with a love for various historical time periods and a specific interest in World War II. I have been interested in the Holocaust since I was young, and my interest in the subject grew after I visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles in the eighth grade. After taking a class on the Holocaust with Professor Marcuse last year, my interest in German history grew even more.
(Sasha's 2008 review of Richard Overy, Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945)

Research Paper (back to top )


In 2004, Ministers from the German government traveled to Namibia to take part in the 100-year commemoration of the suppression of the Herero uprising. It took a century for the German government to publicly acknowledge what had happened in Germany’s Southwest African colony in the early 20th century. The atrocities of World War II, and the German violence towards the Jewish populations, are known throughout most of the world, yet the German attacks on the indigenous people of Southwest Africa during their colonial rule remain largely unknown. For years, especially after Namibians gained independence in 1990, descendants of the Herero people pressured the German government to apologize and give reparations for the suffering their people experienced as a result of the Herero genocide.

For years, demands for reparations, land redistribution and reconciliation fell on deaf ears. According to Dr. Friedrich Freddy Omo Kustaa, the German government frequently claimed, “compensation is unnecessary because they [Germany] already have a foreign aid package of recompense for Namibia”[1] and “apologies open up old wounds.”[2] As recently as 2004, a Namibian newspaper quoted Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Namibia, Wolfgang Massing as saying, “Reparations to the Ovaherero would open up a Pandora’s box.”[3] Nevertheless, on August 14, 2004, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul gave an apology for German behavior in the colony of Southwest Africa. The problem with this apology was that she never once said “sorry.”

The speech that Wieczorek-Zeul gave on the 100th anniversary of the Herero uprising was definitely monumental and significant, but it lacked real solidarity. In this paper, I focus on a critical analysis of the speech, and try to figure out what message the Minister actually gave. The speech itself is made up of five parts. The first section of the speech, “Acknowledging the atrocities of 1904,” provides a brief look at the events of those years. I have chosen a few crucial phrases from her speech to give a more extensive and inclusive look at the atrocities of 1904 and beyond. The following section, titled “Respect for the fight for freedom,” makes reference to the “brave men and women…who suffered.”[4] The section mostly continues the themes from the previous section, with a slightly more thorough explanation of the reasons for the Herero uprising.

From the second section onward, the speech has a high level of ambiguity, and Wieczorek-Zeul lacks clarity in most of her historical references and promises for the future. Perhaps the most crucial part of the speech is the “Plea to forgive.” This portion of the speech is often referred to as the apology, although no explicit confession can be seen. I focus extensively on this section, unpacking the Minister’s words and looking into the dual meanings of some of her statements. Following this segment, I address the “Shared Vision of Freedom and Justice” section of the speech. In terms of “freedom and justice” I focus on the Hereros’ fight for these during the colonial period, with emphasis placed on the 1904 period, and the reaction that Germany had to these battles. The Minister ended her speech with a section about Germany’s “Commitment to Support and Assist.” As with the previous four sections, I critically assess the statements made, specifically in regard to the relationship between current day Namibia and Germany.

Before analyzing the speech, this paper puts the apology into a historical context. In order to do so, I give readers a detailed account of the German/Herero fighting and describe how that eventually led to genocide. Further, I give a brief look at Germany’s reaction to the genocide as it occurred in 1904. The issue of reparations will be discussed in terms of assessing the reasons for and against them, but I cannot delve deeper into the issue of whether or not they are deserved, because that is a separate issue, one that I am not qualified to answer. Instead, the main focus of the paper puts the speech into a historical continuum in order to answer why the “apology” came when it did, and explain the Namibian reactions that came as a result. Last, the paper looks to discover how successful Germany has been from 2004-2008 in living up to Minister Wieczorek-Zeul’s promises of “commitment and assistance.”


For the historical aspect of the paper, a series of books has been used to give an overview of what happened in Southwest Africa in the years of German colonialism. The primary books for this portion of the paper include: Southwest Africa 1880—1894: The Establishment of German Authority in Southwest Africa by J.H. Esterhuyse (1968), Southwest Africa under German Rule 1894—1914 by Helmut Bley (1971) Let us Die Fighting: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama Against German Imperialism 1884—1915 by Horst Drechsler (1981) and Namibia: The Violent Heritage by David Soggot (1986). These books, though older, provide a solid description of the German relations to the indigenous people of Southwest Africa when the Germans first settled. Moreover, almost every later book that includes a discussion of Namibia quotes these books, so they are still the core sources. Nevertheless, I have taken great care to make sure that I recognize what sort of biases the authors might have, seeing as how they are all from Western cultures, not from Africa.

The majority of the other sources come from newspaper articles, online archives, and the German Embassy website. The newspaper articles come from two different Namibian papers, New Era and The Namibian. Articles from these papers provide information on how the Namibian people felt about Germany prior to 2004, and how they responded to the August speech. It also includes editorials and opinion articles that give readers a chance to see immediate reactions from people who were not part of the newspaper staff. The Germany Embassy website provides demographic information on the country of Namibia and also has some articles that address issues in foreign relations. The script of Minister Wieczorek-Zeul’s speech comes from the Embassy website, and is available in German and English. The text of the German-Namibian “Special Initiative,” a document outlining the financial aid programs that Germany participated in, serves as a crucial point of reference for assessing post-2004 relations. Finally, several documents written by members of the Ovaherero Genocide Association serve as examples of how descendants of the Herero victims feel towards Germany and the reparations issue.

Although many primary source documents exist from the colonial period, distance and language barriers prevent me from including them in my research. However, some documents, such as the “Extermination Order” from Gen. Lothar von Trotha, are referenced at length in the books I used as secondary sources. As such, I quote the well-known primary sources as I read them in translated secondary sources.

Acquisition of Southwest Africa

On December 4, 1899, nearly a decade after Germany acquired territory in current day Namibia, Rosa Luxemburg questioned the need for German colonies in her piece, “Brauchen Wir Kolonien?” [Does Germany need colonies?] It seems most likely that a main driving force for acquiring territories would be the desire to expand trade, yet Luxemburg strongly argued against this. Instead, she claimed that the German protectorates in Africa played “miniscule” roles compared to Germany’s other colonies throughout the world.[5] What then, would motivate the Germans to claim Southwest Africa, a very arid area? Perhaps they were driven by the opportunity for military expansion, desired more water port entries into Africa, wanted to catch up with British expansionism, or maybe they simply wanted more land for Germans outside of Germany. Whatever the true motivations were, Southwest Africa officially became a colony on March 1, 1893 at the announcement of Chancellor von Caprivi.[6]

Chief Hendrik Witbooi

Chief Hendrik Witbooi
Photo Coutesy of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

 For a colonizing power, Germany did not initially exert much effort in the Southwest Africa territory. No “war of conquest” came about, state involvement was minimal, and no large body of troops was sent.[7] For these reasons, the transition of Southwest Africa into a German colony took place in a relatively peaceful and passive way. According to Horst Dreschler, the early period of colonization from 1884-1892 included continual struggles between the native tribes, Herero and Nama, but not between the tribes and the newly settled Germans.[8] At this point, Germany had yet to gain a solid foothold in the area, and the native tribes could carry on their normal everyday lives, including their own internal battles between tribes.

German-African Relations Pre-1904

While the first few years of the German command over Southwest Africa witnessed a certain amount of passivity, this began to change once more Germans began to venture into the territory. Even before Germany came to possess the territory, German missionaries resided in the land and developed close relations with some of the tribes. In fact, German Lutheran missionaries educated Hendrik Witbooi, the leader of the Nama tribe that would later fight the Germans. As a result, the missionaries, and later the Germans became intertwined in tribal wars and rivalries.[9] Importantly, the native tribes in the territory exhibited clear signs of developed civilizations. Too often Western societies falsely perceive Africa as a “dark continent” with little development before European settlement. According to J.H. Esterhuyse, Kamaherero, leader of the Herero tribe in 1876, asked the Cape Government (British) to, “Send someone to rule us, and be head of our country.”[10] Without the original source this cannot be checked, yet this author is suspicious that this sentence may have been taken out of context, if not falsified. Regardless, since the Nama and Herero had set areas of land on which they lived, German desires to settle these lands would definitely cause conflicts.

Starting in 1893[11] conflict between the Herero and Nama tribes slowly began to involve Germans as well. In 1885, German chancellor Bismarck sent Dr. Heinrich Goering to establish peace with the natives in the form of “protection treaties.”[12] Essentially these treaties offered German protection to one tribe against another rival tribe. The sincerity of these protection treaties comes into question when one looks at how many different treaties the Germans formed with various tribes. Surely they could not “protect” all of them in a just and righteous manner. After some time, even the tribes became aware of the crooked nature of the German protection treaties.

By the late 1890s, the German government had stepped up its involvement in Southwest Africa. Dr. Goering had called upon the government to establish a military  presence to safeguard the business interests of the German Colonial Company for South West Africa.[13] When Germany first obtained the land it was skeptical about spending a large sum of money in the seemingly barren land, but by 1889 the German government heeded Goering’s warning and Bismarck sent Captain Curt von Francois to protect the land.[14] Sending an official to govern the area signaled the interest of the German government to protect what it considered German land. Unfortunately, von Francois proved an ineffective leader, and he failed to stop the native battles. Instead, the Herero and the Nama under Chief Hendrik Witbooi signed a peace treaty that aimed to halt tribal fighting in light of the new German threat.[15]

Captain von François not only failed to stop the battles, he launched his own campaign against the tribes, a clear deviation from the peaceful atmosphere that Germany sought. Naively thinking that he could easily defeat the Nama, von Francois launched a “surprise war,”[16] in 1894, but he faced embarrassment and defeat at the hands of Chief Witbooi, an experienced military man. The military capabilities of the tribes should not be underestimated; by this time modern guns had circulated[17] in the territory, which led to sophisticated forms of fighting. In 1894, the German government, unhappy with von Francois’ behavior and upset with his inability to quash the fighting, appointed Theodor Leutwein as his replacement.[18] From this time forward, the relations between the Germans and the natives would take drastic steps away from peace and towards more prolonged and violent fighting.

Treaties and Land Issues: Ownership and Dispossession

Even in an arid landscape, with little opportunity for agricultural advancement, disputes over land dominated the relationships between the inhabitants of Southwest Africa. Prior to the German arrival, the Nama and the Herero had fought over land, and the coming of the Germans added another party to the land dispute. Unjust treaties that clearly favored the Germans over the Africans characterize the way in which Germany acquired the territory in Southwest Africa. For example, in August 1883, just a year before the Germans officially claimed the territory, Adolf Luderitz struck a land deal with the Bethanie people who resided in the southern area near the Cape Colony. In this deal, the Bethanie people agreed to sell “20 geographical miles” of land.[19] The deceitful nature of this trade was evidenced by the fact that the Bethanie people did not know that a “geographical mile” was not equivalent to an “English mile,” in fact, it is six times larger.[20] Through this kind of deceptive trading, the German colonizers obtained large amounts of land under seemingly legal pretenses. Ironically, the land purchased by Luderitz did not hold significant value at that time.

Despite the fraudulent nature of the majority of the land treaties in the 1880s, the treaties of the 1890s dealt instead with promises of protection. As mentioned previously, the Herero and the Nama tribes continually fought over several issues, including land ownership and cattle. Playing off of their vulnerabilities, the Germans aimed to create protection treaties with all the tribes in order to offer protection against other tribes. The catch with these deals was that they put “intolerable restrictions” on the tribes, which included limiting the right to wage war and the right to raid cattle.[21] Without these two rights, the power of the tribes dwindled under the rising authority of the Germans. Most significantly, the ownership of cattle served as the chief form of private ownership for the Herero and Nama people.[22] The issue of land and cattle ownership would arise again after the Herero/Nama uprising in 1904.

Uprising and Genocide 1904-1907

The events of 1904 resulted from a culmination of ten years worth of tensions between the Herero, Nama, and Germans, in addition to the longstanding fighting between the tribes prior to German intervention. Ironically, when Captain von Francois came to Southwest Africa in June 1889, the German government advised against fighting with the Africans, and specifically mentioned keeping peace with the Herero.[23] By the time Leutwein replaced von Francois in 1894, the damage had been done—fighting with the Herero and Nama had begun. Whatever reservations the Herero and the Nama had towards the Germans were confirmed in the unprovoked war that von Francois launched. According to von Francois, “virtually everyone…was convinced that the Herero needed to be taught a lesson.”[24] In order to teach this “lesson” German troops set out for Southwest Africa, despite the initial plan of a peaceful existence in the territory based on a small budget.

Against this backdrop, the Herero and Nama chiefs, Samuel Maherero and Hendrik Witbooi, finally joined forces against the Germans. Previously, the Herero had signed a protection treaty with the Germans, which allegedly protected them from the Nama, who did not sign any treaties. As von Francois’s violence towards the Herero continued, Witbooi instigated a peaceful negotiation with Maherero in order to join forces, and it finally became a reality in November 1892.[25] The union of these two chiefs might have had a significant impact on the Germans, had things gone the way that Chief Maherero planned. [This paper was published on a UCSB website.]

By 1904, the displacement of tribal people, combined with the German seizure of cattle, finally led Samuel Maherero to launch an uprising against the German colonists. Due to their partnership established at the 1892 treaty, Maherero urged Witbooi to join the uprising by sending him a famous letter that stated,

Rather let us die together and not die as a result of ill-treatment, imprisonment, or all the other ways…Make haste that we may storm Windhuk—then we shall have enough ammunition. I am furthermore not fighting alone, we are all fighting together. [26]

This portion of the letter shows how passionately Maherero felt about fighting against what had turned into German oppression and exploitation of his people. Unfortunately, Witbooi did not receive the letter because Maherero’s messenger allegedly turned it over to Leutwein instead.[27] This betrayal dealt Maherero a fateful blow. In the following months, Leutwein could not put down the revolt, and the Germans appointed General Lothar von Trotha to replace him and suppress the revolt.[28]

General von Trotha replaced Leutwein because of his military prestige and his hard-line approach to war, both of which contributed to the horribly brutal outcome of the Herero uprising. Shortly after coming to Southwest Africa, von Trotha placed the territory under martial law on June 11, 1904, giving him even more power.[29] By the time von Trotha arrived and took over, the Herero had already retreated to Waterberg after several intense battles against Leutwein’s forces.[30] At this point, von Trotha probably could have ended the fighting quickly and efficiently, with minimal bloodshed. Instead, he chose a path that led to what became a bloody and torturous annihilation against the Herero people. Most famously, on October 2, 1904 von Trotha issued his “extermination note” which denied all rights to the Herero, labeled them all as outcasts, and denied protection even to women and children. It remains unclear whether this order came from von Trotha himself, or whether it was passed to him from a superior official in Germany. Regardless, what happened to the Herero people as a result cannot be ignored.

Starving Herero People after the Uprising

No doubt the actions of the Herero against the Germans were violent, but nothing justified the reaction from von Trotha that led to the deaths of thousands of Herero. By the time that von Trotha issued his extermination order, the Herero had for the most part retreated to Waterberg, where the Herero met their horrible fate. General von Trotha and his troops surrounded the Herero from all sides except one; the one side they left unmanned led the Herero people straight into the Omaheke desert.[31] In the desert, thousands of people died of starvation and dehydration, and some of those who did reach water died of poisoning, as the Germans had poisoned several water wells.[32] Most likely the Herero would have surrendered rather than face their death, but they did not have this choice. Von Trotha issued the extermination order after the Waterberg fighting in which the Germans had already clearly won. Those who did survive faced life in prisoner of war camps such as the one located on Shark Island.[33] In the camps, prisoners were forced into hard labor and all abuses towards them went virtually uncontested.[34]

By the end of the fighting the Germans had decimated the Herero population. Furthermore, the Nama suffered serious losses as well, including the death of Chief Witbooi in 1905. Altogether, an estimated 80% of the Herero population had been killed and approximately 50% of the Nama.[35] In addition to the massive loss of lives, a significant portion of Herero and Nama cattle had been killed or seized as well.[36] To punish the Herero and the Nama for uprising, the German colonial government forbade them from owning land and cattle,[37] the two main pillars of their crushed civilization. According to Helmet Bley, at this time the Germans successfully turned Southwest Africa into a German colony. The Germans took complete control of the area and turned it into a tightly controlled colony. Interestingly, on November 11, 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II praised the Germans’ behavior in the colony stating, “I warmly thank the troops…who defended our territories with heroic courage.”

[38] The combination of land misappropriation, property dispossession, and serious human rights abuses formed the foundation for the Herero people’s calls for reparations in the century that followed.

Namibian requests leading up to 2004

For years, the Herero request for reparations had gone unnoticed. At the very least, the Herero people felt they deserved an apology for the German atrocities in 1904. In early 2004, Arnold Tjihuiko, chairman of the Herero Committee for memorial festivities put it simply when he stated, “We want the Germans to say ‘we’re sorry!’”[39] Some, like South African Professor of Law Shadrack Gutto felt that admitting guilt did not “logically mean you have to pay…an apology acknowledges wrongdoing even if you don’t pay a cent.”[40] Still other felt that monetary compensations were not only deserved, they were necessary to make up for the German brutality and the takeover of Herero land.

In the fourteen years between Namibian independence in 1990, and the century commemoration of the genocide, the issue of reparations was an ever-present issue. In 2001, using the Alien Tort Claims Act, a group of Herero brought a lawsuit demanding two billion dollars in damages against the German Imperial Government, Deutsch Bank, and Woermann Line whom they accused of participating in the genocide and crimes against humanity.[41] This lawsuit served as a point of contention with the German government who refused to move forward until the Herero Peoples’ Reparation Corporation dropped the pending lawsuit.[42] Unfortunately, the Herero did not have the support of the Namibian government in this demand for reparations, most likely because at this point, the two governments enjoyed a friendly relationship, and the lawsuit would only complicate things. As such, the demands for reparations came primarily from the lower levels of society, not the state or national levels of government.

Despite the setbacks, several groups of people such as the Herero Peoples’ Reparation Corporation and the Ovaherero Genocide Association continued to pressure the German and Namibian governments to act. Festus Muinjo, a Namibian, stated, “The Herero issue will not stop, it will continue ad infinitum.”[43] Namibians continually pushed for “resolution, restitution, and reconciliation”[44] to make up for not only the loss of life, but the loss of property as well. As of 2004, German descendants owned and controlled approximately 65% of the arable commercial land in Namibia. To put that percentage in perspective, one should realize that only 6% of the population is white.[45] Furthermore, though Namibia has been independent from Germany for almost 90 years, German companies make up a significant portion of the companies operating in Namibia. Due to this unequal distribution of agricultural and monetary wealth, it is no wonder that the Herero continually fought for compensation.

German reasons against reparations

Naturally, the German government was not receptive to the Herero requests for monetary compensation and land redistribution. First, the events that the Herero requested compensation for happened 100 years ago, making it extremely difficult to apply modern day legal arguments to the issue. In 2004 the German Ambassador to Namibia, Wolfgang Massing, claimed that the pending law suit "will lead nowhere … we should move forward together and find projects to … heal the wounds."[46] Massing’s statement reflected the larger overall argument of the German government, that reparations would not only be implausible, the German government “simply did not see the need for specific financial compensation.”[47]

In response to the requests for monetary compensation, the German government denied the need for compensation based on the amount of development aid that they have provided to Namibia over the years. In a letter to the New Era editor published on August 19, 2004, Ambassador Massing explicitly stated, “for the German government, the Government of Namibia is the only partner for any negotiations with regard to development assistance.”[48] Not only did Germany take an opposition stance against reparations, it refused to have open dialogue with anybody except Namibian government officials, an unfortunate event for the Herero given the government’s previous lack of support. Overall, the German government remained adamantly opposed to repaying the Herero people. Two German political parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, claimed that reparations would negatively affect German citizens and cost them billions in tax dollars.[49] Furthermore, the fact that Namibia already received approximately US $14 million a year from Germany deterred many German officials from wanting to give reparations to the Herero.

The “Big Change:” 2004 Apology[50]

On August 16, 2004, amidst a plethora of memorial celebrations and cultural events commemorating the Herero and Nama ancestry, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul gave her celebrated “apology” speech. Although there had been open dialogue between the two governments, this speech and the presumed apology came as quite a shock for Namibian citizens. During the speech, a member of the crowd allegedly yelled “apology!” in order to get the Minister to actually say the word, although whether or not Wieczorek-Zeul responded is unknown.[51] What was most shocking about the apology was the fact that it came in the midst of the reparations debate and the pending 2001 lawsuit. Unfortunately, as monumental as this speech appeared, for many Herero and Nama descendants, it was not enough.

A look into the ambiguous and noncommittal nature of the speech makes one question the sincerity of the statements made by Wieczorek-Zeul. According to feminist writer Julia Penelope, “Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us.”[52] This quote, and other linguistic research by Penelope in her book Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Likes of the Father’s Tongues, allows one to critically examine rhetoric that politicians use in speeches, documents, and other important declarations. An in-depth analysis of rhetoric is essential to understand Wieczorek-Zeul’s speech, especially in reference to what Penelope calls “missing” or “passive” agents. Penelope calls these omissions, “dummy it” meaning that the listener has to interpret what the speaker said since the speaker suppressed important information.[53] In the case of the apology speech, Wieczorek-Zeul frequently made passive claims in order to admit atrocities, without concretely taking ownership of the crimes.

Acknowledging the Atrocities of 1904

The first section of the speech began with the Minister admitting that she was “painfully aware of the atrocities committed” by the Germans in Southwest Africa, and she then referenced the Herero revolt and the subsequent “war of extermination” instigated by General von Trotha.[54] She further referenced how the survivors of the battle of Waterberg “were forced” into the desert, and “were interned” in camps.[55] Although Wieczorek-Zeul mentioned these events, her lack of detail and her use of the passive voice in the presentation of events leave one somewhat in the dark about the extent of the brutality that the Germans carried out against the natives. She made no specific mention of the death figures of these camps, in which Germans forced over eight thousand captives to perform harsh labor building German railway lines.[56] Nor did she comment on the fact that after the German parliament rescinded the extermination order, the concentration camps continued and were not abolished until 1908[57] The speech made no mention of the fact that the “hard labor” continued after the uprising and after the concentration camps closed.


 The frequent use of passive voice in the Minister’s speech allowed her to admit atrocities without actually saying that Germans committed them. By using passive voice with no “active agent” (i.e.: someone doing the work) the sentence put the focus on the victim.[58] For example, the sentence “the survivors were forced into the Omaheke desert” lacks a clear indication of who forced them into the desert, and as a result, the focus is on what happened the victims (Herero/Nama), not who inflicted this upon them (Germans). The speech gave the perceived notion of a true acceptance of what happened in 1904, but in reality its passive voice deceived listeners into thinking this.

Respect for the fight for freedom

The second portion of the speech addresses the Herero and Nama people who fought against the Germans and suggests that the Minister had great pride in her political party for standing up for what happened to the Herero/Nama people. Immediately after commending the Herero/Nama fighters, Wieczorek-Zeul shifted her focus to the SPD, her own political party, and commended August Bebel, then chairman of the party, for condemning the oppression and honoring the fight for liberation.[59] True, Bebel did question the behavior of Germans in Southwest Africa, yet there is a difference between questioning something, and actively trying to stop it from continuing. Furthermore, to say that Bebel “respected the fight for freedom” is somewhat of an exaggeration. The SPD did oppose colonial policy, yet when given the chance in 1904, the party did not oppose sending reinforcements to put down the uprising.[60]

Plea to forgive

What many Namibians refer to as the “alleged apology” appeared in the “Plea to Forgive” section of the speech. This section, the longest section of the speech, is arguably the most important. First, the Minister started by claiming, “the atrocities committed at that time would today be termed genocide—and nowadays a General von Trotha would be prosecuted and convicted.”[61] According to Article II section (a) of the Geneva Genocide Convention of December 9, 1948, genocide is defined as, “killing members of a group” and under section (c) “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”[62] Based on this United Nations definition, the Minister was correct in stating that the acts in Southwest Africa were genocide. In the words of Herero chief Clemens Kapuuo, “there is little difference between the extermination order of General von Trotha and the extermination of the Jews by Adolf Hitler.”[63] The question to consider is whether or not von Trotha issued the extermination order on his own, or if the German government endorsed and/or encouraged it. If the comparison to Hitler’s extermination of the Jews is accurate, then one can say that the German government, not just von Trotha, is in fact guilty. In fact, von Trotha’s descendants visited Namibia in 2004 and gave a statement that corroborated this, insisting that von Trotha had acted on the orders of the German state.[64]

In the second controversial statement in this portion of the speech, Wieczorek-Zeul made reference to the Christian Lord’s Prayer, and pleaded with the Namibians to “forgive [us] our trespasses.”[65] Though this reference to the Lord’s Prayer makes sense considering Namibia’s large Lutheran population, the fact that the early missionaries played a prominent and controversial role in the early history of the period makes this a risky statement to make. Moreover, a member of the Ovaherero Genocide Association noted in early 2004,

Given its background, one would expect the Lutheran Church to be careful not to be seen as a partner in Germany’s refusal to acknowledge the Ovaherero genocide and pay reparations …the appropriate role of the church is to provide spiritual and moral support, and not to enter into negotiations with Germany on behalf of the Ovaherero. [66]

Finally, whether the Minister intentionally chose those words or not, the statement “forgive us our trespasses” includes a dual meaning in reference to moral offenses, and actual trespassing on an individual’s land, which the Germans did extensively in the colonial period. The Herero, as a result of German colonialism, lost their land, its natural wealth, and other forms of properties. In addition to the sheer loss of life, this loss of property also made up a large portion of the reason why the Herero/Nama people demand financial compensation. It should be noted as well, that despite the arid climate and lack of arable land, Namibia’s natural resources include: diamonds, copper, uranium, gold, lead, tungsten, zinc, and many other minerals that are highly valuable in today’s society. Clearly, the land that the Germans seized from the natives has great worth. According to the German Embassy website, Germany feels that Namibia offers a secure place for investment, especially in the mineral sector. Yet the German government still refuses to allow a redistribution of land to provide disadvantaged Herero with their own land.

Shared vision of freedom and justice

The second to last section of the speech, which addresses freedom and justice, ties in to the land issue and the plea to forgive, and makes one wonder what “freedom and justice” the Minister actually meant to refer to. In a bold statement, the Minister declared that Germany foresaw a “vision that you and we share of a more just, peaceful and humane world” that “rejects the overcoming chauvinist power politics.”[67] Still, like the previous parts of the speech, this too lacked specificity. How could Wieczorek-Zeul claim to “reject power politics” when her own German Ambassador Wolfgang Massing refused to talk with any non-governmental representatives? Furthermore, the German Embassy itself recognizes that only inhabitants of European descent and a “new” black middle class can maintain a European standard of living in Namibia.[68] Again, how does this represent justice? Sadly, the damage done by the German colonial government still has lasting effects on the natives.

Committed to support and assist

Minister Wieczorek-Zeul ended the commemoration speech by making reference to Germany’s commitment to support and assist Namibia. However, only a very small portion of this section even addressed Namibia. The first paragraph outlined Germany’s achievements in becoming a “multicultural” country and “a committed member of the United Nations.”[69] These German achievements do virtually nothing for the Namibian people. Rather than specifically addressing how Germany exhibits “commitment” to Namibia, the Minister continued using highly ambiguous language. She spoke of a “special historic responsibility towards Namibia,” and that Germany wishes “to continue our close partnership at all levels.”[70] The problem here lies in the fact that the Namibians, specifically the Herero, demand “reparations and reconciliation,”[71] which does not necessarily require a “close partnership” between the countries—it requires monetary compensation in their eyes. In closing, the Minister made a point to affirm Germany’s dedication to helping with Namibian “challenges of development” and “land reform” in particular.[72] Again, one can see no solid explanation of how Germany will undertake this task, like other statements, it appears like an empty promise.

(continued below)

German Beach house in Namibia

poor dwellings in Windhoek

German Beach house in Namibia

Poorest area of Windhoek, Namibia’s capital.

German actions post 2004

In 2006, Germany and Namibia joined together in a “Financial Cooperation between the Governments of Namibia and Germany: Special Initiative” which sought to bring development aid to areas with “historic ties” to Germany.[73] Sadly for the Herero/Nama people, the Special Initiative explicitly states that the Germans did not enter into the negotiation to serve as reparation, and furthermore, “all land requisition and resettlement projects must be excluded from funding.”[74] These guidelines are nothing short of a slap in the face to the Herero/Nama people. After the outwardly historic apology speech by the Minister, this Special Initiative retracted from the promises the Minister laid out. This proves that the vagueness and ambiguities of the 2004 speech provided no concrete promises to the Herero/Nama people, and instead served as a politically motivated statement.

Despite the large amount of money Germany has given to Namibia, the Herero/Nama people largely remain unsatisfied. In 2005, when Germany pledged to give $160 million for a “reconciliation program,” several members of the Ovaherero Genocide Association protested what they saw as a “complete lack of respect” and a “disappointment.”[75] Not only did the government fail to consult the Herero/Nama people, these people felt that the amount proposed by Germany was “a criminal insult and grossly insensitive.”[76] Minister Wieczorek-Zeul claimed in 2004 that she was in Namibia to listen to the people, but just one year later, Herero and Nama people still did not have a say in what was going on between Germany and Namibia. From the beginning, the victims have demanded to have a part in the discussions with Germany, and they have been ignored in this request.

Why not us?

To the present day, Germany continually cites the large amount of developmental aid when questioned about Herero/Nama reparations. The amount of money Germany has given to Namibia should not be underestimated nor discredited, but in light of the Herero/Nama demands it does not suffice. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, no country in Africa receives more aid than Namibia.[77] The amount of aid has been estimated somewhere around $620 million, although that money has been given to the government, not any Herero/Nama people specifically for reparations. Since 65% of the land is owned by white, European descendants, most money that Germany gives to Namibia will go back into the hands of the wealthy landowners, not the disenfranchised populations.

The question of reparations remains a difficult one to answer, and it would be futile to try and decide whether or not Germany owes the Herero/Nama people reparations. Nevertheless, one must look at other formal apologies across history in order to realize why the Herero people so diligently push for reparations. On August 10, 1988 United States President Ronald Reagan and the US Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that issued an apology to the Japanese Americans whom the United States interned during World War II. [78] In this Act, the US government unequivocally issued not only an apology, but also a promise for reparations to Japanese-Americans who suffered as a result of internment. More recently, on February 13, 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave an apology on behalf of the government to the aborigines of Australia. In this speech, Rudd specifically used the word “apology” several times, and made reference to explicit things that the government apologizes for. These examples leave the Herero wondering, “why not us?”

While the governments of Germany and Namibia continue to enjoy a friendly relationship, the issues of genocide, reparations, and recognition still haunt the Herero and Nama populations today. The apology speech given in 2004 came at a time when the German government and Namibian government were on friendly terms, and had certain political implications, rather than fully apologetic ones. As such, the German government was able to give an apology speech to the Herero people, without actually following up with anything concrete. The development aide that Germany gives to Namibia most likely flows back into the hands of those who need it least—the landowners. The Herero continue to be underrepresented, as they make up only 7% of the population of Namibia today, [79] and the Herero still have not received any form of compensation for the genocide or misappropriation of land. Reparations for descendants of the genocide victims may never come, and justice may never be served for what happened, but that does not mean they should discontinue fighting.

Notes (back to top )

[1] Friedrich Freddy Omo Kustaa. “Germany’s Genocide in Namibia: The Case of the Herero and Nama People 1904—1907”  Ovaherero Genocide Association USA. ovahererogenocideassociationusa.org/images/Documentpdfs/HereroGenocideBibliography.pdf .

[2] Ibid, 7.

[3] Kuvee Kangueehi. “Forget Reparations, Says Massing.” NewEra.com.August 18, 2004. www.newera.com/na/artice.php?db=oldarchive&articles   (Accessed April 25, 2009).

[4] Wieczorek-Zeul, Heidemarie“Speech at the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the suppression of the Herero uprising, Okakarara, Namibia, 14 August 2004,” Trans Mattias Hanson. Germany, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Windhoek. http://www.windhuk.diplo.de/Vertretung/windhuk/en/03/Bilaterale__Beziehungen/
. (Accessed April 16, 2009). Pg. 2.

[5] Luxemburg, Rosa. “Brauchen Wir Kolonien?” Leipziger Volkszeitung, December 4, 1899. Translated from http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_doclist.cfm?sub_id=129&section_id=11

[6] Bley, Helmut.  South-West Africa under German rule, 1894-1914. (Northwestern University Press, 1971). Pg. 3.

[7] Ibid, 3. 

[8] Dreschler, 6

[9] Bley, pg. xxiv.

[10] Esterhuyse, J.H. South West Africa, 1880-1894: The establishment of German authority in South West Africa. (C. Struik, 1968). Pg. 17.

[11] This is an approximate date, used by Dreschler and a few others to signify the year that relations changed in the area.

[12] Soggot, David. Namibia the Violent Heritage, (Rex Collins, 1986). Pg.3.

[13] Ibid, 3.

[14] Ibid, 4.  

[15] Bley, 3.

[16] Ibid, 4.

[17] It would be interesting and worth investigating to see who supplied the tribesmen with modern weapons, but that is not necessarily pertinent to this particular paper.

[18] Bley, 5.

[19] Drescher, 23.

[20] Ibid, 23.

[21] Bley, 6.

[22] Dreschler 18.

[23] Dreshler, 42.

[24] Ibid, 44.

[25] Ibid, 55.

[26] Report on the Natives of SWA and their treatment by Germans” in Soggot, pg. 8. Actual letter not in my possession.

[27] Ibid, 8.

[28] Ibid, 9.

[29] Hull, Isabel.  Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. (Cornell University Press, 2006). Pg.25.

[30] Ibid, 27.

[31] Bridgman, Job. The Revolt of the Hereros.(University Of California Press, 1981). Pg.122

[32] Ibid, 127.

[33] Ibid, 151.

[34] Gewald, 62.

[35] Soggot, 11.

[36] Bridgman, 151.

[37] Gewald, 63.

[38] The Kaiser on Southwest Africa: Reichstag Speech by Wilhelm II” (November 28, 1905). Trans. Adam Blauhut. In Die Reden Kaiser Wilhelms II [The Speeches of Kaiser Wilhelm II], edited by Johannes Penzler. 4 vols. Leipzig, n.d., volume 3, p. 289. http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=788.

[39] A Painful Reminder of German Colonialism” dw-world.de.August 11, 2004. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,1294643,00.html (accessed April 25, 2009).

[40] Utaara Hoveka. “Academic Urges Germany to Apologize” newera.com. July 30, 2005. Newera.com.na/article.php?db=old archives. (Accessed April 25, 2009).

[41]   Herero V Deutsche Afrika-Linien GMBLT & Company. 01cv1868. (2004).

[42] ”Germany Urges Herero to Drop Lawsuit.” Dw-world.de. April 25, 2009. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,1287663,00.html (accessed April 25, 2009).

[43] Ibid. 

[44] Katuuo, Kustaa, Kamatuka, and Orondi, “Address to the German Government” Ovaherero Genocide Association USA. http://ovahererogenocideassociationusa.org/documents.html .  

[45] Unam to Host Biggest Genocide Conference Yet.” Newera.com. August 11, 2004. Newera.com.na/article.php?db=oldarchives. (Accessed April 26, 2009).

[46] ”Germany Urges Herero to Drop Lawsuit” August 5, 2004.

[47] Wozny, Peter. “Remembering the Herero Rebellion.” dw-world.de. January 11, 2004. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,1084266,00.html . (Accessed April 25, 2009).

[48] Massing, Wolfgang. “Massing now Shocked and Puzzled.” Newera.com. August 19, 2004. Newera.com.na/article.php?db=oldarchives. (Accessed April 25, 2009).

[49] German Opposition Slams Apology.” Newera.com.August 19, 2004. www.newera.com.na/article.php . (Accessed April 25, 2009).

[50] See appendix A  for full text of speech in German and appendix B for an English translation.

[51] Matundu-Tjiparuro, Kae. “Presumed Apology.” Newera.com.August 16, 2004. www.newera.com.na/article.php . (Accessed April 25, 2009).

[52] Penelope, Julia. “The Agents Within” in Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Lies of the Fathers' Tongues (New York: Pergamon Press, 1990.)  pg. 138.

[53] Ibid, 144.

[54] ”Speech at the Commemorations of the 100th Anniversary of the Suppression of the Herero.” Pg. 1. 

[55] Ibid 2.

[56] Dreschler, 207.

[57] Gewald, Jan-Bard. “Imperial Germany and the Herero of Southern Africa: Genocide and the Quest for Recompense” in Adam Jones, Genocide, War Crimes and the West: History and Complicity.(Zed Books, 2004). Pg. 62.

[58] Penelope, 49

[59] Speech at the Commemorations of the 100th Anniversary of the Suppression of the Herero Uprising” 1.

[60] Bley, 57.

[61] Speech, 3.

[62] United Nations General Assembly. “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” December 9, 1948. http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html . (Accessed May 18, 2009).

[63] Gewald, 69.

[64] Hamata, Max. “Von Trotha Family Backs Herero Compensation.” Newera.com. September 9, 2004. Newera.com.na/article.php?db=oldarchives. (Accessed April 25, 2009). This should be taken with a grain of salt though, considering that the statement came from the von Trotha family. Obviously they would not want to admit that the extermination was solely von Trotha’s doing. 

[65]   “Speech at the Commemorations of the 100th Anniversary of the Suppression of the Herero uprising” 2.

[66] Address to the German Government” 4.

[67]  “Speech at the Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Suppression of the Herero” 3.

[68] The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Namibia: Situation and Cooperation.” http://www.bmz.de/en/countries/partnercountries/namibia .

[69]   “Speech at the Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Suppression of the Herero Uprising” 4.

[70] Ibid, 4.

[71] Address to the German Government” Ovaherero Genocide Association USA.

[72] Speech, 5.

[73] Consulting Services for a Design and Feasibility—Study ‘The Special Initiative.’” The Republic of Namibia, www.npc.gov.na/tenders . (Accessed April 30, 2009).

[74] Ibid.  

[75] Statement by the Herero Genocide Committee in the USA in Response to Germany’s Proposed 160 Million Payment over a period of 10 years for the reconciliation program.” Namibian.com. May 23, 2005. www.namibian.com.na/news/full-story/archives/2005 . (Accessed May 3, 2009). [searched July 1, 2009, found only: "German offer lacks respect: US group], June 15, 2005: http://www.namibian.com.na/index.php?id=28&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=16383&no_cache=1.

[76] Ibid. 

[77] The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Namibia: Situation and Cooperation.” http://www.bmz.de/en/countries/partnercountries/namibia .

[78] United States Congress. Civil Liberties Act of 1988. August 10, 1988. http://www.civics-online.org/library/formatted/texts/civilact1988.html . (Accessed April 29, 2009).

[79] The CIA Factbook. “Namibia.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wa.html . Furthermore, the German government continues to be one of the largest exporters of Namibian minerals, and one suspects that this lucrative business is dictating foreign policy behind the scenes.

Bibliography and Links (back to top )(links last checked x/09)

  • Bley, Helmut. South-West Africa under German Rule, 1894-1914. (Northwestern University Press, 1971).
    Although this is an older source, I used it extensively in my research, as I found it to be one of the most thorough. Furthermore, it is cited in almost every piece on Namibia/Southwest Africa written since 1971. Bley goes into great depth describing not only the 1904 conflict, but previous and subsequent conflicts as well. I found it very helpful for assessing the reasons for the Herero uprising, and the German behavior towards the Herero. A must read for anybody researching this topic!
  • Bridgman, Jon. The Revolt of the Hereros. (University Of California Press, 1981).
    I used this book because it cites many of the other authors that I used in my paper. (Bley, Dreschler, etc). I found that it followed along very similar lines as those two books, although it was more recent.
  • "Consulting Services for a Design and Feasibility—Study ‘The Special Initiative.’" The Republic of Namibia, www.npc.gov.na/tenders
    This is a copy of the “Special Initiative” between Germany and Namibia. In it, many of the development aid programs are laid out. It was a very helpful document.
  • Cooper, Allan D. Allies in Apartheid: Western Capitalism in Occupied Namibia. (Palgrave Macmillan, 1988).
    This book is crucial for readers who wish to get an understanding of how the Western world operates in Africa. It articulates the problems that Africa faces due to the competition over ownership of Africa’s mineral wealth. Since I focused mostly on the Herero and Nama tribes, this book did not help too much with that issue, but it did help in assessing Germany’s post 2004 interests in Namibia.
  • Deutsche Welle Site:
    This is a German based online news source. It has a good selection of archives that can be easily browsed. The website it available in German and English which was very helpful. The one negative thing about this site is that many of the articles do not have authors listed, and instead just say “Staff Writer.” However, much of what I found in these articles was confirmed through reading other sources, proving Deutsche Welle to be legitimate.
    “Remembering the Herero Rebellion” January 11, 2004.
    “Germany Urges Herero to Drop Lawsuit” August 5, 2004.
    “Undoing Germany’s Colonial Amnesia” September 15, 2004.
  • Dreschler, Horst. Let us Die Fighting: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama against German Imperialism (1884-1915). Translated ed. (Bernd Zöllner, 1980).
    Like the book by Helmut Bley, this book appears repeatedly throughout studies of German Southwest Africa. This book is extremely useful to supplement the Bley book and adds another in-depth analysis of the Herero/Nama/German conflict. The title is also important because it is a quote from a letter from Samuel Maherero to Hendrik Witbooi.
  • Elkins, Caroline and Pedersen, Susan. Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century: Projects, Practices, Legacies. (Routledge, 2005).
    This book was important because it provides a more recent look at Namibia which the other secondary sources I used could not. The last chapter of the book focuses exclusively on Namibia and its current German/Namibia issues. It also provides picture of German monuments within Namibia, which I found interesting. Elkins and Pedersen show how German heritage is still very prevalent in Namibia, and illustrate this by showing pictures of German war memorials, bumper stickers, and beer ads.
  • Esterhuyse, J. H. South West Africa, 1880-1894: The Establishment of German Authority in South West Africa. (C. Struik, 1968).
    This book looks at Southwest Africa before German arrival, and shortly thereafter. It was helpful in trying to place the later events of 1904 into perspective because it describes the native society before German settlement. It also provides insight into German officials thought processes in regards to the colonies.
  • Henderson, W.O. Studies in German Colonial History. (Routledge, 1962).
    This book was useful for learning about German colonies in general, as opposed to some of the other books I used which focus solely on the Nama/Herero uprisings. It discusses economic factors in the colonies, as well as trade issues. It also provides readers with some tables, graphs, and books in the appendix that was incredibly helpful.
  • Herero V Deutsche Afrika-Linien GMBLT & Company. 1868. (2004).
    This is a copy of the legal documents regarding the Herero case against the various German companies, as well as the imperial government. It is written in very dense legal terminology so it would be difficult for somebody with no legal knowledge to interpret. However, it was helpful for me mostly because it gave a specific date for the case being dropped.
  • Hull, Isabel V. Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany. (Cornell University Press, 2006).
    Another more recent publication, this book analyzes Germany’s military culture from 1870-1918. It shows just how brutal the German colonial government was in Southwest Africa by highlighting the different tactics used to suppress the uprising. This book differs from the others because it does not try to tell the story of the uprising; it focuses more on assessing the Germans' violent tactics.
  • Jones, Adam. Genocide, War Crimes and the West: History and Complicity. (Zed Books, 2004).
    This is a compilation of several different works on various genocides in the twentieth century. For my particular research, the article "Imperial Germany and the Herero of Southern Africa: Genocide and the Quest for Recompense" by Jan-Bart Gewald, was most relevant. The article gives a brief recap of the history between the Herero and the Germans in Namibia, and then addresses more up to date issues such as Namibian independence, and UN treaties. Since it was written in 2001, the apology had not yet happened, and thus the article does not help in assessing that aspect of the relationship. However, it is very helpful for giving a short synopsis and analysis on pre-2001 relationships.
  • “The Kaiser on Southwest Africa: Reichstag Speech by Wilhelm II” (November 28, 1905). Trans. Adam Blauhut. In Die Reden Kaiser Wilhelms II [The Speeches of Kaiser Wilhelm II], edited by Johannes Penzler. 4 vols. Leipzig, n.d., volume 3, p. 289. http://germanhistorydocs.ghdi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=788
    This is an excerpt from a speech that Kaiser Wilhelm II gave to the Reichstag in 1905. He made the speech after the 1904 uprising had started in the colony. The speech commends the German colonizers and troops and the Kaiser gives his approval for their actions. This speech was helpful for seeing how the German government responded immediately after the uprising broke out. The website in general is very helpful for people interested in any period of German history but who cannot read German. It offers a wide variety of translated documents and images and maps as well.
  • Luxemburg, Rosa. “Brauchen Wir Kolonien?” Leipziger Volkszeitung, December 4, 1899. Translated from http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_doclist.cfm?sub_id=129&section_id=11
    See above review, this article came from the same site.
  • New Era Newspaper Website (articles ordered chronologically)[2013: www.newera.com.na]:
    This online newspaper archive was absolutely essential for gaining a look at the events of 2004 from the Namibian point of view. The newspaper provides detailed coverage of the German visit to Namibia, and the requests of the Namibian people for reparations. The archive also gave access to letters to the editor, which came in handy for providing a point of view from a non-staff person. Even the German Foreign Minister Wolfgang Massing wrote to the newspaper during 2004 in response to the paper’s articles about Germany. Overall the newspaper provided a large chunk of the research for analyzing the Namibian feelings during 2004 and beyond.  
    • 1. Utaara Hoveka, “Academic Urges Germany to Apologize,” New Era.com, July 30th, 2004 .
    • 2. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “Bundestag Resolution a ‘Slap in the Face’” August, 6 2004.
    • 3. Uapi Ngava, “German Government at Genocide Commemoration” August 9, 2004
    • 4. Uapi Ngava, “German Minister Sure to Attend Remembrance” August 10, 2004
    • 5. Wolfgang Massing, “Story Puzzles Ambassador” August 10, 2004
    • 6. Staff Writer, “Unam to Host Biggest Genocide Conference Yet” August 11, 2004
    • 7. Staff Writer, “A Make or Break for Visit for German Minister” August 13, 2004
    • 8. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “Minister Blames Von Trotha” August 16, 2004
    • 9. Kuvee Kangueehi, “Forget Reparations, Says Massing” August 18, 2004
    • 10. Wolfgang Massing, “Massing Now Shocked and Puzzled” August 19, 2004
    • 11. Staff Writer, “German Opposition Slams Apology” August 19, 2004
    • 12. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “Ovaherero Genocide—the Legal Perspective” August 19, 2004
    • 13. Emma Kakololo, “No Closure Yet—Riruako” August 20, 2004
    • 14. Staff Writer, “Germany’s Apology—An Analysis” August 20, 2004
    • 15. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “The Genocide-is German Aid Enough Reparation?” August 23, 2004
    • 16. Staff Writer, “Restoration Lies in the Past” August 24, 2004
    • 17. Max Hamata, “Von Trotha Family Backs Herero Compensation” September 9, 2004
    • 18. Mukelabai Mumbuna, “Academics Dissect Herero Genocide” September 16, 2004
    • 19. Mburumba Kerina, “Open Letter to Herr Von Trotha” September 17, 2004
    • 20. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “Hundreds Mark Extermination Order” November 2, 2004
    • 21. Catherine Sasman, “Genocide Money Controversy” November 8, 2004
    • 22. Kuvee Kangueehi, “Reservations about Meeting Von Trothas” November 11, 2004
    • 23. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “Politics out of Ovaherero Genocide, says Bishop” January 5, 2005
    • 24. Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro, “ Genocide: Germany’s Chorus” July 26, 2004
    • 25. Staff Writer, “Namibia: MPs Want German Commitment” July 11, 1007
    • 26. Staff Writer, “Namibia, Germany Sign MOU” November 9, 2007
  • Ovaherero Genocide Association USA website
    This is a website created by Herero people living in the United States and working to bring the genocide issue to the public eye. The website was crucial for obtaining documents related to the 2004 apology. The website has several documents and historical images posted for viewers to browse. It was a very crucial part of my research to be able to read through all the current political position papers written by the Herero themselves.
    • Friedrich Freddy Omo Kustaa. “Germany’s Genocide in Namibia: The Case of the Herero and Nama People 1904-1907”
    • Friedrich Freddy Omo Kustaa. “ The Misinformation of Anti-Reparations Theorists”
    • Friedrich Kustaa, Vepuka Katuuo, Ngondi Kamatuka, Ehungi Orondi. “The German Government”
    • “Resolve of the All Ovaherero Conference Held at Okakarara from 4-5 March 2006”
    • “Joint Position Paper from the Nama and the Ovaherero People on the Issue of Genocide and Reparation”
    • Vekuii Rukoro. “The Policies, Strategies, Actions and Omissions of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany—One Years after the Ohamakari ‘Apology.’”
    • “Joint Statement by the Ovaherero and Nama people to the German Authorities on the Formal Apology to the Aborigines by the Australian Government on 5 March 2008.”
  • Penelope, Julia. “The Agents Within” in Speaking Freely: Unlearning the Lies of the Fathers' Tongues (New York: Pergamon Press, 1990.)
    This is an article out of Penelope’s book on Feminist theory. Although I did not research anything specifically female for my paper, the book came in handy for reading up on rhetoric and how it is used to perceive people. It was especially helpful for understanding how passive voice can affect speech.
  • Poewe, Karla O. The Namibian Herero: A History of the Psychosocial Disintegration and Survival. (Edwin Mellen Press, 1985).
    This book looks at the Herero/German relations from a psychological point of view rather than a historical one, and the difference is very evident. Although Poewe acknowledges the atrocities of the genocide, Poewe seems very apologetic towards the German colonial government. For example, she analyzes Lother von Trotha’s extermination order in a completely different light from most other scholars by saying that it was not meant to be literal, but dealt instead with psychological warfare. It was helpful to see another point of view on this issue, but it did not really add anything to my overall argument/analysis.
  • Schnee, Dr. Heinrich. German Colonization Past and Future - The Truth about the German Colonies. (Joseph Press, 2007).
    Heinrich Schnee served as the Governor of German East Africa from 1912-1918. In this translated edition of his book, Schnee gives an in-depth discussion of the German colonies in Africa. The book is crucial for getting a German perspective on colonialism, although he did not serve in Southwest Africa. The book was written after Germany lost her colonies after World War I, so the book has a definite tone of bitterness and resentment. Moreover, Schnee constantly denies German wrongdoings in Africa by pointing the finger at Britain. The book was very useful for my research since it provides a first hand perspective from a German officer.
  • Soggot, David. Namibia the Violent Heritage. (Rex Collins, 1986).
    In this book, Soggot covers the history of Namibia from German colonialism to 1985. I specifically used the section entitled, Pax Germanica, which addresses the Herero and Nama uprisings, though not extensively. Instead, it specifically focuses on how violence was used in Southwest Africa during this time. It was an interesting read, but did not add anything completely new to my research. Instead, it merely corroborated what I had read in other books.
  • Wieczorek-Zeul, Heidemarie. “Speech at the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the suppression of the Herero uprising, Okakarara, Namibia, 14 August 2004,” Trans Mattias Hanson. Germany, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Windhoek. http://www.windhuk.diplo.de/Vertretung/windhuk/en/03/BilateraleBeziehungen/seiteRedeOkakahandja.html . (Accessed April 16, 2009).
    This is the full text of the apology speech, which can be found on the Germany Embassy website. It is available in German and in English, and was one of the main documents in my research.
  • The CIA Factbook. “Namibia.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wa.html . (Accessed May 7, 2009).
    Through the CIA website, I was able to get all of the current facts about Namibia.
  • United States Congress. Civil Liberties Act of 1988. August 10, 1988. http://www.civics- online.org/library/formatted/texts/civilact1988.html. (Accessed April 29, 2009).
    This is a copy of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which the United States Congress passed in order to apologize and give reparations to the Japanese Americans who were interned during World War II. This website was used to make a reference to other apologies in history.
  • United Nations General Assembly. “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” December 9, 1948. http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html .
    This is a copy of the Articles produced at the Geneva Conference after World War II. The articles I used specifically address the issue of what constitutes genocide, and I used that in my argument for calling the Herero uprising Genocide. I accessed this particular document through the Human Rights Watch website, thought it can be found on a number of other websites as well. It was crucial to see the actual legal definition of genocide.

Appendix (back to top )

Heidemarie Wieczork-Zeul
Bundesministerin für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung

Rede von bei den Gedenkfeierlichkeiten der Herero-Aufstände am 14. August 2004, Okakarara, Namibia

Autorisierte Versionen: Deutsch und Englisch

Es ist für mich eine Ehre, heute an Ihren Gedenkfeierlichkeiten teilnehmen zu dürfen.

Ich danke Ihnen dafür, dass ich als deutsche Ministerin für wirtschaftliche Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit , als Vertreterin der Deutschen Bundesregierung und des Deutschen Bundestages hier zu Ihnen sprechen darf. Ich bin aber auch hier, um Ihnen zuzuhören.

Gedenken an die Gräueltaten von 1904

Es gilt für mich an diesem Tage, die Gewalttaten der deutschen Kolonialmacht in Erinnerung zu rufen, die sie an Ihren Vorfahren beging, insbesondere gegenüber den Herero und den Nama.

Ich bin mir der Gräueltaten schmerzlich bewusst: Die deutschen Kolonialherren hatten Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts die Bevölkerung von ihrem Land vertrieben. Als sich die Herero, als sich Ihre Vorfahren dagegen wehrten, führten die Truppen des General von Trotha gegen sie und die Nama einen Vernichtungskrieg. In seinem berüchtigten Schießbefehl hatte General von Trotha befohlen, jeden Herero zu erschießen – auch Frauen und Kinder nicht zu schonen.

Die Schlacht am Waterberg 1904 endete damit, dass die Überlebenden in die Omaheke-Wüste getrieben, ihnen jeder Zugang zu Wasserstellen verwehrt wurde und sie verhungern und verdursten mussten.

In der Folge der Aufstände wurden überlebende Herero, Nama und Damara in Lagern gefangen gehalten und zu Zwangsarbeit gezwungen, deren Brutalität viele nicht überlebten.

Anerkennung des Freiheitskampfes

Wir würdigen die mutigen Männer und Frauen insbesondere der Herero und Nama, die gekämpft und gelitten haben, damit ihre Kinder und Kindeskinder in Freiheit leben.

Ich gedenke mit Hochachtung Ihrer Vorfahren, die im Kampf gegen ihre deutschen Unterdrücker gestorben sind.

Bereits 1904 gab es auch in Deutschland Gegner dieses Unterdrückungskrieges. Einer dieser Kritiker war der damalige Vorsitzende der Partei, der ich angehöre, August Bebel. Er hat die Unterdrückung der Herero im Deutschen Reichstag auf das Schärfste kritisiert und ihren Aufstand als gerechten Befreiungskampf gewürdigt. Darauf bin ich heute stolz.

Bitte um Vergebung

Vor hundert Jahren wurden die Unterdrücker – verblendet von kolonialem Wahn – in deutschem Namen zu Sendboten von Gewalt, Diskriminierung, Rassismus und Vernichtung.

Die damaligen Gräueltaten waren das, was heute als Völkermord bezeichnet würde – für den ein General von Trotha heutzutage vor Gericht gebracht und verurteilt würde.

Wir Deutschen bekennen uns zu unserer historisch-politischen, moralisch-ethischen Verantwortung und zu der Schuld, die Deutsche damals auf sich geladen haben. Ich bitte Sie im Sinne des gemeinsamen „Vater unser“ um Vergebung unserer Schuld.

Ohne bewusste Erinnerung, ohne tiefe Trauer kann es keine Versöhnung geben.

Versöhnung braucht Erinnerung.

Des Gedenkjahr 2004 sollte auch ein Jahr der Versöhnung werden.

Wir ehren heute die Toten. Wer sich nicht erinnert, wird blind für die Gegenwart. Mit dem Erinnern sollten wir Kraft für Gegenwart und Zukunft gewinnen.

Gemeinsame Vision von Freiheit und Gerechtigkeit

Die Grundlage von Namibias Unabhängigkeit – das ist die Entschlossenheit, die Tapferkeit der Menschen in Namibia und die Vision auch Ihrer Vorfahren. 14 Jahre Unabhängigkeit sind für die Menschen in Namibia ein Grund, stolz zu sein.

Ihre und unsere Vision einer gerechteren, friedlichen und menschlicheren Welt gründet auf der Zurückweisung und Überwindung chauvinistischer Machtpolitik und jeder Form der Apartheid. Wir teilen die Vision der Menschen, die für Freiheit und Würde oder gegen jedwede Diskriminierung gekämpft haben. Eine Vision der Freiheit, des Rechts, des gegenseitigen Respekts und der Achtung der Menschenrechte. Das Volk Namibias hat sich mit der Unabhängigkeit die Chance erkämpft, diese Vision zu verwirklichen. Ich bin froh und stolz, dass es für diesen Unabhängigkeitskampf und darüber hinaus vielfältigste Unterstützung auch aus unserem Lande gab.

Verpflichtung zu Beistand und Hilfe

Deutschland hat die bittere Lektionen der Geschichte gelernt: Wir sind ein weltoffenes Land, das inzwischen in vielerlei Hinsicht multikulturell ist. Wir haben die deutsche Wiedervereinigung auf friedlichem Wege erreicht und freuen uns, einer erweiterten Europäischen Union anzugehören. Wir sind engagiertes Mitglied der Vereinten Nationen und setzen uns weltweit für Frieden, die Achtung der Menschenrechte, Entwicklung und Armutsbekämpfung ein. Wir leisten der Bevölkerung Afrikas kontinuierliche Hilfe und unterstützen die NEPAD-Initiative intensiv.

Wir bekennen uns zu unserer besonderen historischen Verantwortung gegenüber Namibia und wollen die enge Partnerschaft auf allen Ebenen fortsetzen. Nach vorne schauend will und wird Deutschland Namibia weiter dabei unterstützen, die Entwicklungsherausforderungen anzugehen, das gilt vor allem für die Unterstützung bei der notwendigen Landreform.

Ich wünsche mir und uns allen sehr, dass auch dieses Kulturzentrum in Okakarara ein Ort für Gespräche und Austausch über Vergangenheit und Zukunft zwischen Deutschen und Namibiern sein wird. Ich wünsche mir, dass wir aus der mit diesem Ort verbundenen traurigen Vergangenheit Kraft für eine positive Zukunft in Frieden und Freundschaft schöpfen.

„In einer Zeit der gesichtslosen Globalisierung“, so hat es Bischof Dr. Kameeta in einem Interview ausgedrückt, „müssen wir klar und deutlich von der Hoffnung für die Welt sprechen und bewusst machen, dass das Überleben dieser Welt und unseres Planeten nicht heißen kann, die gesamte Arbeit in wenigen Händen und in nur wenigen Ländern zu konzentrieren, sondern, dass es darum geht, die Ressourcen in der ganzen Welt zu teilen und Sorge dafür zu tragen, dass die Weltbevölkerung gleichermaßen an diesen Ressourcen beteiligt wird“.

In diesem Geist der Hoffnung gilt unsere gemeinsame Verpflichtung einer gerechteren Welt, besseren Lebensverhältnissen hier und überall auf der Welt.

Ich danke Ihnen.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul
Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development

Speech at the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the suppression of the Herero uprising, Okakarara, Namibia,
14 August 2004

Authorised Versions: German and English

It is an honour to have been invited to take part in your commemorations here today.

I would like to thank you for giving me, as the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and as a representative of the German government and the German parliament, this opportunity to speak to you. Yet I am also here to listen to you.

Acknowledging the atrocities of 1904

Today, I want to acknowledge the violence inflicted by the German colonial powers on your ancestors, particularly the Herero and the Nama.

I am painfully aware of the atrocities committed: in the late 19th century, the German colonial powers drove the people from their land. When the Herero, when your ancestors, resisted, General von Trotha's troops embarked on a war of extermination against them and the Nama. In his infamous order General Trotha commanded that every Herero be shot – with no mercy shown even to women and children.

After the battle of Waterberg in 1904, the survivors were forced into the Omaheke desert, where they were denied any access to water sources and were left to die of thirst and starvation.

Following the uprisings, the surviving Herero, Nama and Damara were interned in camps and put to forced labour of such brutality that many did not survive.

Respect for the fight for freedom

We pay tribute to those brave women and men, particularly from the Herero and the Nama, who fought and suffered so that their children and their children's children could live in freedom.

I remember with great respect your ancestors who died fighting against their German oppressors.

Even at that time, back in 1904, there were also Germans who opposed and spoke out against this war of oppression. One of them was August Bebel, the chairman of the same political party of which I am a member. In the German parliament, Bebel condemned the oppression of the Herero in the strongest terms and honoured their uprising as a just struggle for liberation. I am proud of that today.

Plea to forgive

A century ago, the oppressors – blinded by colonialist fervour – became agents of violence, discrimination, racism and annihilation in Germany's name.

The atrocities committed at that time would today be termed genocide – and nowadays a General von Trotha would be prosecuted and convicted.

We Germans accept our historical and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time. And so, in the words of the Lord's Prayer that we share, I ask you to forgive us our trespasses.

Without a conscious process of remembering, without sorrow, there can be no reconciliation

Remembrance is the key to reconciliation.

2004 is a year of commemorations but it should also be a year of reconciliation.

Today, we honour the dead. Those who fail to remember the past become blind to the present.

By remembering the past, we should gain strength for the present and the future.

A shared vision of freedom and justice

Namibia's independence grew out of the determination and courage of the people of Namibia and the vision you share with your ancestors. The people of Namibia have every reason to be proud of these fourteen years of independence.

The vision that you and we share of a more just, peaceful and more humane world is based on rejecting the overcoming chauvinist power politics and all forms of apartheid. We share the vision of those who fought for freedom and dignity or against discrimination of any kind: a vision of freedom, justice, mutual respect and human rights. By gaining independence, the people of Namibia have won the chance to realise that vision. I am pleased and proud that a great deal of support was also forthcoming from my own country for this struggle for independence and beyond.

Committed to support and assist

Germany has learned the bitter lessons of history: We are a country that is open to the world and has in many ways become multicultural. We have achieved German reunification in a peaceful manner and enjoy being part of the enlarged European Union. We are a committed member of the United Nations, working for world-wide peace, human rights, development and poverty reduction. We provide sustained assistance to the people of Africa and strongly support the NEPAD initiative.

Accepting our special historical responsibility towards Namibia, we wish to continue our close partnership at all levels. Germany is looking to the future and wishes to help Namibia tackle the challenges of development. This applies in particular to assistance for the necessary process of land reform.


I hope very much for all of us that this cultural centre in Okakarara will be a place for Germans and Namibians to talk and exchange views on our past and on our future. From the unhappy past that this place has witnessed, let us draw the strength to create a bright future in peace and friendship.

As Bishop Kameeta said in an interview, at a time of faceless globalisation we must tell people loud and clear that there is hope for the world and make people aware that this world and our planet cannot survive by concentrating all the work in a few hands and a few countries but by sharing resources across the whole world and ensuring that the world population has equal access to these resources.

And so, in that spirit of hope, we share a commitment to a fairer world, to better living conditions here and in all parts of our world.

Thank you

Plagiarism Warning & Links (back to top )

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 7/3/09; last updated: 7/5/09
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