Remembering the Forgotten Genocide of the Herero and Nama

by Angelique Silva, YouthFirst Summer Intern

In 1884, Germany (a minor power in Africa at the time) ruled over south-west Africa. After Germany had taken over, the Herero and Nama grew sick of the colonization and oppression, and in January 1904, decided to start a rebellion. With their revolt, Germany began a massacre targeting the two ethnic groups. This massacre led to what has been called “The 1st genocide of the 20th century.” 

German forces gathered in GSWA to join in the conflict against the Herero people in 1904.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain].

It began when German soldiers herded the Herero and Nama into concentration camps. Many were starved, hung, shot, flogged, or worked to death as slave laborers. A quote from The New York Times states, “Germany dispatched Lothar von Trotha, a military commander….He issued a warning in 1904 that ‘Every Herero, with or without rifles, with or without cattle, will be shot.’ He also warned that he would no longer take in women or children, but ‘drive them back to their people or have them shot.’ The following year, he issued a similar warning to the Nama.” 

With this new policy, the population of each tribe dropped drastically, with the Herero being the most affected. The Herero went from about 80,000 people to 16,000, and the Nama went from 20,000 to 10,000 people. This policy lasted from 1904-1908. 

People are slowly starting to talk more about the genocide. On May 28 2021, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced that they had recognized  the killings of the Herero and the Nama as a genocide. And that they planned to go to Namibia and sign an agreement, including a trust fund of 1.1 billion euros. A quote from The New York Times states, “Some of the groups representing the Herero and Nama agreed to the terms of the deal, others are not willing to accept it and think the German president should not come.” Still, to this day, Germany has not actually released a formal apology… Germany’s refusal to formally apologize has led to an ongoing debate.

Herero in chains. During the colonial period in German South West Africa, now Namibia, the Germans brutally suppressed the indigenous population. (Image source:

As more people learn of the genocide against the Herero and Nama, we are starting to see a major contrast between Germany’s recognition of the Holocaust and the Herero and Nama genocide. For instance, Germany has willingly talked to many groups all over the world affected by the Holocaust, but when it comes to the Herero genocide it’s less frequent. As Ms. Luipert, a descendant of Nama victims, says “Why is Germany now saying, when it comes to the Nama and Herero, we are not willing to talk to a dozen different groups? Is it because we are Black?” After all my research, I too believe that this shouldn’t be the reason Germany isn’t giving their all in fixing and apologizing for what was done to the Herero and Nama all those years ago.

Posted by Admin on August 22, 2023

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