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Documentary Information:100 Years of Silence

Director & Producer: Halfdan Muurholm
Produced by: Turbine Films, 2005

Chapter information:The Kaiser’s holocaust: Germany’s forgotten genocide and the colonial roots of Nazism 

Authors: David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen

Publisher Information: London: Faber and Faber, 2010

Paper will be based on the Herero Genocide.  

Create and a state a thesis explaining why the genocide happening and how the Germans justified their actions. Not a summary

Students are ONLY permitted to use the Chapters provided and/or lecture notes, and the Documentary 100 Years of Silence. 

NO OTHER OUTSIDE SOURCES ARE ALLOWED!!!! You must use BOTH the chapters and the documentary to form support your thesis- it is mandatory

LINK TO DOCUMENTARY: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Orm3de5kygo


Lecture: The Herero Genocide

-Between 1904 and 1908, 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people were exterminated in concentration camps in Namibia, then known as German South West Africa, during German colonial rule.

-In the years following Germany’s annexation of Namibia in 1884, land already settled by indigenous communities was confiscated, livestock plundered and native people subjected to racially motivated violence, rape and murder.

Background to the Genocide

-Namibia is on the South west coast of Africa –it is very dry and has very little rainfall

-the area is rich in other resources though like uranium, tin, copper, gold, silver, and diamonds

-there were several groups that lived in Namibia. The Nama and the Herero were livestock farmers, and they were the two main tribes in the 1840s when the Germans (first missionaries, then settlers, then soldiers) began arriving in South West Africa. -In the 1880s Germany made South West Africa their own colony, and settlers moved in, followed by a military governor who knew little about running a colony and nothing at all about Africa. Major Theodor Leutwein began by playing off the Nama and Herero tribes against each other. More and more white settlers arrived, pushing tribesmen off their cattle-grazing lands with bribes and unreliable deals.

***-fueling German imperialism were ideas surrounding Social Darwinism or the “struggle for existence” and the fight for living space -the taking of indigenous land was seen as part of this struggle and the ascendency of a superior race

*88-Lebensraum-Living space- belief that Germans needed to expand into Greater Germany because they needed more land to prosper and survive –this is all in the 1st chapter you have to use

-Then the Germans find out that there were diamonds and they became very greedy

In the 1890s the Herero people lost a lot of their cattle due to a cattle-virus Rinderpest

-The colonists offered the Herero aid on credit but as a result the farmers amassed large debts, and when they couldn’t pay them off the colonists seized what cattle were left.

-the Germans wanted to settle White German farmers in South West Africa and the Herero and Nama were fearful that they would be forced to leave their land or would be pushed onto un-fertile land

-Herero chiefs tried to resist allowing more land to go to settlers.

-the white settlers were not happy when they did not have the success they hoped for initially in South-West Africa and they let their hatred for the Herero and Nama people be known.

-Leutwein did not have control over the colony and there was violence as settlers and soldiers committed terrible acts of violence against the Herero and Nama –beatings, rapes, murders

-the Herrero and Nama were angry because the settlers who committed these acts were not punished

-the Germans who were in the army in Namibia were often men who had shady pasts and were sent to Africa to try to save their careers so they were pretty terrible men

-In January 1904, the Herero, desperate to regain their livelihoods, and angry over the lack of laws to deal with settlers who committed terrible acts, rebelled. Under their leader Samuel Maherero they began to attack the numerous German outposts. They killed German men, but spared women, children, missionaries, and the English or Boer farmers whose support they didn’t want to lose. -At the same time, the Nama chief, Hendrik Witbooi, wrote a letter to Theodor Leutwein, telling him what the native Africans thought of their invaders, who had taken their land, deprived them of their rights to pasture their animals on it, used up the scanty water supplies, and imposed alien laws and taxes. His hope was that Leutwein would recognize the injustice and do something about it.

-the Herero launched an uprising in Okahandja during which more than 100 Germans were killed.

-The German Emperor replaced Major Leutwein with Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha, who was notorious for his brutality. Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha said, ‘I wipe out rebellious tribes with streams of blood and streams of money. Only following this cleansing can something new emerge’. Von Trotha brought with him to German South West Africa 10,000 heavily-armed men and a plan for war. -Under his command, the German troops slowly surrounded the Herero warriors on three sides. The fourth side offered escape; but only into the Kalahari desert where they would die of thirst. The German soldiers were also ordered to poison the few water-holes there. Others set up guard posts along a 150-mile border: any Herero trying to get back was killed. -On October 2, 1904, von Trotha issued his order to exterminate the Herero from the region. ‘All the Herero must leave the land. If they refuse, then I will force them to do it with the big guns. Any Herero found within German borders, with or without a gun, will be shot. No prisoners will be taken. This is my decision for the Herero people’.

-The Herero were ultimately defeated in a battle at Waterburg and forced into the Kalahari Desert to die of thirst and starvation.

-there were Germans who opposed the Extermination Order- not for humanitarian reasons but for economic and practicality reasons –so eventually the extermination order was revoked (the killings continued though)

-The 13,000 who barely survived, including women and children, were rounded up, banned from owning land or cattle, and placed in concentration camps around the country, where they were beaten and worked to death in squalid conditions.

-they were essentially to be the slaves of German settlers. Many more Herero died in the camps, of overwork, starvation and disease.

-By 1907, in the face of criticism both at home and abroad, von Trotha’s orders had been cancelled and he himself was recalled, but it was too late for the crushed Herero.

-Before the uprising, the tribe numbered 80,000; after it, only 15,000 remained. -During the period of colonization and oppression, many women were used as sex slaves. (This had not been von Trotha’s intention. ‘To receive women and children, most of them ill, is a serious danger to the German troops. And to feed them is an impossibility. I find it appropriate that the nation perishes instead of infecting our soldiers.’)

-In the Herero work camps there were numerous children born to these abused women, and a man called Eugen Fischer, who was interested in genetics, came to the camps to study them; he carried out medical experiments on them as well.

-He decided that each mixed-race child was physically and mentally inferior to its German father (a conclusion for which there was and is no respectable scientific foundation whatever) and wrote a book promoting his ideas: ‘The Principles of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene’. Adolf Hitler read it while he was in prison in 1923, and cited it in his own infamous pursuit of ‘racial purity’. -The Nama suffered at the hands of the colonists too. After the defeat of the Herero the Nama also rebelled, but von Trotha and his troops quickly routed them. On April 22 1905 Lothar von Trotha sent his clear message to the Nama: they should surrender. ‘The Nama who chooses not to surrender and lets himself be seen in the German area will be shot, until all are exterminated. Those who, at the start of the rebellion, committed murder against whites or have commanded that whites be murdered have, by law, forfeited their lives. As for the few not defeated, it will fare with them as it fared with the Herero, who in their blindness also believed that they could make successful war against the powerful German Emperor and the great German people. I ask you, where are the Herero today?’

-During the Nama uprising, half the tribe (over 10,000) were killed; the 9,000 or so left were confined in concentration camps like the notorious one at Shark Island

-After the First World War, South West Africa was placed under the administration of South Africa. South Africa imposed its own system of apartheid (now banned in Namibia by law). In the late 1940s a guerrilla movement called SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization) was founded to fight for independence. In 1968 the United Nations recognized the name Namibia, and the country’s right to independence, but it was another 20 years before South Africa agreed to withdraw and full independence was gained. By then the country was ravaged by war. -Today most of Namibia’s 1.7m people are poor, living in crowded tribal areas while powerful and wealthy ranchers still own millions of acres seized by their predecessors over 100 years ago.

-Some of the descendants of the surviving Herero live in neighboring Botswana, but others remained in their homeland and now make up 8% of Namibia’s population. Many of them are in the political opposition party. Most Herero men work as cattle-handlers on commercial farms. Although as opposition members they don’t get government support, the Herero on their own initiative recently asked Germany to give them compensation for the atrocities the tribe suffered, which the president of Germany recently acknowledged were ‘a burden on the conscience of every German’.

-In fact Namibia gets more aid from Germany than any other country; but most of the money goes to non-Herero majority interests: it’s the governing Ovambo (not reached by early colonists, and modern Namibia’s main tribe) who led the struggle for liberation and, in 1990, independence. The 25,000 or so present-day rich German settlers are among those who deny that there was a genocide, fearing that reparation might mean losing their valuable land.

Why have most of us never heard of this Genocide?

-Despite the continuities that connect the mass slaughter of the Herero and Nama with subsequent genocides in Nazi occupied Europe, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Darfur, the deaths of the early 20th century Namibians are still not officially commemorated during Holocaust Memorial Day along with all the other aforementioned genocides.

-Today, mass graves of Herero genocide victims lie along Namibia’s Swakop River in the city of Swakopmund and in the railway yards in Windhoek, but not a single memorial stands to testify to the colonial horrors endured by the Herero and Nama, whose descendants have received no compensation or their land back.

In the chapters:

How did 19th century racial theories contribute the Herero Genocide?

-Social Darwinism

-idea that Africans were inferior and provide a labor force –idea that they have to teach the indigenous people a “good work ethic.”

100 Years of Silence:

-follows Georgina, a 23 year old Herero woman who has some European features (lighter skin tone and lighter eyes.)

-she has these features because her Great-Grandmother was raped by a German soldier

-she goes on a journey to trace her origins and to confront the horrifying German past.

-while watching the documentary:

What remains of the colonial past and are race relations still strained in Namibia?

Is there much acknowledgment of what happened to the Herero people in terms of monuments and is there recognition from the German side for what they did to the Herero people?

What are the most striking aspects of the documentary?

How does Herero culture live on?

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