Ovaherero – Nama – Hottentot
Decimate Annihilate Slaughter Murder
The Herero or Ovaherero – were nomadic herdsman who at the time of European contact, lived in Namibia and Botswana. They comprised several subgroups, which include the Himba, Ovatjimba, Mbanderu or Ovambanderu and the Kwandu. Related groups living in Angola include the Kuvale, Zemba, Hakawona, Tjavikwa, Tjimba and Himba. The Herero are thought to have migrated into present day Namibia during from the seventeenth century. At some point they came into contact and conflict with another pastoral people known as Nama – Hottentot or Khoi Khoi.
The Nama or Namaqua are today the largest group of Khoisan people. Khoisan – ‘KhoiKhoi or KhoeKhoe’, have resided in Southern Africa for 1000’s of years. When colonial settlers arrived in the Cape in 1652, they found the Khoi raising huge herds of Nguni cattle. At that time they referred to the people as Hottentots. By the 19th century, Dutch settlers had already been mixing with the Nama for 200 years, and so many Nama had names of European origin. The Nama had access to guns and as a result, confronted the Herero for the most part of the 19th century through warfare.
The Herero Genocide
During the “Scramble for Africa”, Brittan showed a lack of interest in the predominantly desert area of South West Africa. It was declared a German protectorate in 1884 and named German South West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). German settlers were encouraged to settle on Herero land which caused a great deal of discontent. From the 1890’s – the colonial government gradually deprived the Herero and Nama of their nomadic freedoms and livelihood. A plague known as the Rinderpest decimated Herero and Nama cattle throughout the late 1890’s. German encroachment on the pastoral way of life together with hunger, prompted the Herero uprising in 1904. It was led by Herero Supreme Chief Samual Maharero.
Chief Maharero gave very specific instructions that only farmers, traders and soldiers would be attacked. He explicitly stated that missionaries, Britons and Boers were not to be harmed. In most cases, the Herero warriors followed Maharero’s instructions to the letter – sparing women, children, missionaries and non-Germans. The Herero cut telegraph wires, destroyed railway lines, stole cattle and overran smaller military stations. Initially about 150 Germans were killed, which provoked colonial outrage. The mere fact the ‘savages’ had the audacity to challenge white claims of superiority and lands in ‘their colony’, enhanced racist attitudes which had always been rife amongst the settler population.
The colonial administrator of German Southwest Africa, Theodor Leutwein, was replaced by Lieutenant General Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha, who had instructions to crush the native rebellion – buy fair or foul means. He was chosen for the mission for his ‘earned’ reputation of ruthless brutality towards peoples of other lands. Irrefutable evidence confirms he and his troops laid the foundation of Hitler’s Third Reich German killing machine. A BBC documentary entitled; From Herero To Hitler: Planting the Seeds of a Future Genocide – defines it. Adolf Hitler was 15 years old at this time…
With the use of 1625 modern rifles, 14 machine guns and 30 artillery pieces, General Lothar von Trotha slaughtered the Herero at the battle of Waterberg. In the months that followed, survivors were pushed into the Omaheke desert to die of thirst and starvation. Once beyond the last waterholes, he placed guard posts hundreds of kilometers in length to ensure no Herero would return. Water wells were systematically poisoned. Once in place, he did something unprecedented in European history. He put to paper theVernichtungsbefehl or extermination order. It said; I, the great general of the German troops, send this letter to the Herero people… All Herero’s must leave this land… Any Herero found within the German borders, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall no longer receive any women or children. I will drive them back to their people or have them fired upon. This is my decision for the Herero people.
This death agent from Germany, with instructions from the highest level of German government (Chancellor Bernhard Heinrich Karl Martin von Bülow and German Emperor Wilhelm II – ‘Prince Frederick William Victor Albert’), the Kaisers Army and some of Germanys biggest companies (Deutsche Bank – Terex Corporation (formerly Orenstein-Koppel Co.) – Deutsche Afrika Linie (Woermann Linie), put in motion the first genocide of the 20th century.
It is estimated that up to 2000 pastoralist Herero escaped eastward in small numbers into the Kalahari desert, into what was then the British protectorate of Bechuanaland (Botswana). Included was Samuel Maharero, the Herero leader. His people arrived with little or no cattle and became subservient to the Tswana – Bechwana chieftain of Sekgathôlê a Letsholathêbê.
The Herero who remained in German South West Africa were placed in concentration camps at Luderitz, Okahandja, Swakopmund and Windhoek. (Concentration camps had only been invented a few years prior by the British – who used them as an extermination tactic against the Afrikaner people in South Africa.) The prisoners were mostly women, children and old men ‘sent to die’. Prisoners were used as forced labour. Stronger prisoners were sent to build the town and port of Luderitz, as well as the railway line to Aus. German enterprises in Swakopmund and Windhoek were allowed to ‘rent’ Herero women and children as ‘manpower’ while deaths were permitted on condition each was reported to German authorities.
Part of the so called ‘prisoner work’ was recorded by Dutch historian Jan-Bart Gewald of the University of Cologne. He writes that German troops set up special camps for their troops, so that young Herero women might act as prostitutes. In that prostitutes get paid, these were German rape camps! As a result, children of mixed race were born – leading the way to more German atrocities. The image above is a pornographic photograph of Herero girls taken by German soldiers.
The Nama led by Hendrick Witbooi, had fought with the Germans against the Herero. Regardless, von Trotha turned his murderous attention to him, sending Witbooi, Cornelius Fredericks and other chiefs the following message; The Nama who choose 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? Approximately ten thousand Nama were annihilated during the ensuing battles while 9000 were confined to concentration camps.
Hendrik Witbooi was killed. In September 1906, Cornelius Fredericks and the fighters of Witbooi surrendered and were sent to Shark Island. Death in the camp was meticulously recorded. Solders were tasked with naming the dead and recording numbers. Their records show that of the 1795 Nama prisoners who had arrived, only 763 were alive in April. One thousand thirty two had died. The detailed record shows that of the living, 123 were in such poor health they would soon die. By 1908 when the camps were closed, disease and malnutrition had killed up to 80% of all prisoners who had entered Shark Island – including Namaqua chief Cornelius Fredericks. (Hendrick Witbooi had been killed in battle.)
Shark Island at Luderitz would become the blue print for the death camps of the 20th century. The idea of collecting people from far away locations – shipping them by rail in cattle cars to a remote location beyond the public gaze – then systematically killing them – originated there.
The island is flanked by the vast Namib desert and the ice cold waters of the South Atlantic. (open image above left) The landscape was characterized by solid rock carved into surreal formations by hard ocean winds. Note modern day ships seeking shelter on the protected east side of the islands ocean swells.
Prisoners were intentionally placed on the exposed northwest point of the barren island – infamous for its bitter cold arctic gale force wind. Diseases in the camp were rampant and intentionally left out of control. The unhygienic living quarters, lack of clothing and high concentration of people contributed to disease which rapidly spread. (typhoid) Huddled together and suffering from malnutrition, the prisoners began to die. Statistics show that as many as 80 % of the prisoners sent to this concentration camp never left the island ‘alive’. They did leave the island though…
Forced labour and beatings were common at Shark Island and intended to wear prisoners down. The Cape Town Argus of the 28th September 1905 headlined; “In German S. W. Africa: Further Startling Allegations: Horrible Cruelty”. The article interviewed Percival Griffith. He said; “There are hundreds of them, mostly women and children and a few old men … when they fall they are sjamboked by the soldiers in charge of the gang, with full force, until they get up … On one occasion I saw a woman carrying a child of under a year old slung at her back, and with a heavy sack of grain on her head … she fell. “The corporal sjamboked her for certainly more than four minutes and sjamboked the baby as well … the woman struggled slowly to her feet, and went on with her load. She did not utter a sound the whole time, but the baby cried very hard.”
Incredibly, only a handful of photographs depicting the misery at the Shark Islands death camp are known, regardless of German obsession for detailed records. Notwithstanding, recently the photograph album of Lieutenant von Durling came to light. Like many German officers, Durling took photographs of the “Great Colonial Adventure”. In 1905 he departed German South West Africa from Luderitz Bay. There he used his rank to enter the death camp to take photographs. Statistics confirm that few if any of the prisoners shown with him lived until the camps closure. Over 3000 people were exterminated there.
Fred Cornell, a British diamond prospector wrote of the camp: “Cold – for the nights are often bitterly cold there – hunger, thirst, exposure, disease and madness claimed scores of victims every day, and cartloads of their bodies were every day carted over to the back beach, buried in a few inches of sand at low tide, and as the tide came in the bodies went out, food for the sharks.” What Fred Cornell failed to report were the headless corpses.
Soldiers began to trade in the skulls of dead Herero and Nama people. They sold them to scientists, museums and universities back in Germany who advertized for them. The practice was so widespread that this postcard was made showing soldiers packing skulls – as normal colonial life.
Part of the postcard was reproduced in book form. The text above more or less reads; Herero skulls were packed into boxes by German South-West-Africa troops, to be sent to the pathologic institute in Berlin, so that they might be used for scientific measurements. Herero women removed meat, skin and hair form the skulls using pieces of broken glass. The skulls were from Herero’s killed in action or of those hung.
German troops busy themselves hanging tied and bound male and female natives.
The Shootings – German bullies – three against one…
Felix von Luschan, director of the Ethnology Museum in Berlin, was an ethnologist obsessed with collecting human skulls and skeletons. He drew up guidelines for travelers to German colonies, instructing them how to pack skulls, skeletons and human brains for shipment. This ‘currently respected director’ boasted, you could get a human skeleton for a piece of soap.
One year after the extermination war began, Felix Luschan asked a notorious racist by the name of Lieutenant Ralf Zürn ‘commander of Okahandja’, if he was aware of any way in which the Museum might collect a larger number Herero skulls? The Lieutenant had already supplied him with a skull, wrote back saying this would be possible ‘since in the concentration camps taking and preserving the skulls of Herero prisoners of war will be more readily possible than in the country, where there is always a danger of offending the ritual feelings of the natives’.
This Deutsch Süd-Wes Afrika trading card was made by the German chocolate maker Hartwig & Vogel, Dresden. It specifically named and included a “Hottentot Hut” with “Herero Mother and Child” placed to the front of the “Windhoek Castle”. Compare the scene to the reality of the “Windhoek Castle” with the German concentration death camp shown to the card upper right.
Many ethnic cards were produced by German firms at the time of the genocide. For the most part they depicted the Herero as thieving – murdering aggressors. In the case of Hartwig & Vogel Dresden – the targeted audience was German children who enjoyed collecting them.
Anthropologist Wilhelm Waldeyer received Herero body parts from the concentration camps. They were shipped to Berlin by doctors Dansauer, Jungels, Mayer and Zöllner, then studied by him and his students.
The zoologist Leonard Schultze complained of the difficulty collecting animal specimens in the wild because of the fighting. However, he noted the fighting presented opportunities for ‘physical anthropology’. He said; ‘I could make use of the victims of the war and take parts from fresh native corpses, which made a welcome addition to the study of the living body. Imprisoned Hottentots were often available to me’.
And then there was this evil. Geneticist Eugen Fischer came to German South West Africa on behalf of German universities as soon as the death camps opened. Fischer’s ‘race science’ theories led to the idea of a ‘supreme race’ which not only severely influenced the Second Reich, but also the Third.
He studied and made tests with the heads of 778 Herero and Nama dead prisoners of war. Severed heads were preserved – numbered and labeled as Hottentotte – the German colonial name for the Nama. He used ‘research’ to prove the black race is inferior to the Germanic – Aryan race. By measuring skulls – facial features and eye colors – Fischer and his protégés sought to prove the native races were inferior – and as he put it – animals.
After the camps were closed during 1908 – Fischer continued to conduct field research, studying the offspring of German or Boer fathers who had fathered children by the Nama. The results called for laws to prohibit mixed marriage. His study recommended that while the cross bred descendants of the mixed marriages might be useful for Germany, they should be eradicated after their usefulness ended.
Fischer co-authored ‘The Principles of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene’ with Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz (Menschliche Erblehre und Rassenhygiene). Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that the book inspired him. Fischer also authored ‘The Rehoboth Bastards and the Problem of Miscegenation among Humans – 1913 (Die Rehobother Bastards und das Bastardierungsproblem beim Menschen). His recommendations were followed and by 1912 – interracial marriage was prohibited throughout the German colonies. He joined the Nazi Party shortly after it was established in 1919. Adolf Hitler appointed him rector of the University of Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Berlin, now Humboldt University. It was Fischer who planned the forced sterilizations performed extensively in Nazi Germany. One of his students, ‘Hendrik Verwoerd’, fully implemented apartheid as Prime Minister of South Africa. He also taught SS doctors which included Dr Josef Mengele.
Following WW2 and for reasons unknown to us, this arrogant ‘offence’- accessory to genocide – Nazi murderer was allowed to live out his dreadful life freely, whereupon in 1967 he died at 93. He spent the period after WW II whitewashing his filthy – disgusting place in history and certainly destroyed records.
Unlike Fischer, General Lothar von Trotha was never decorated or rewarded by Hitler, as he died in 1920… He was however decorated by Kaiser Wilhelm II for “Devotion to the Fatherland”.
The concentration camps in Namibia were shut down in 1908, for the most part due what to European public outrage. According to the BBC, three quarters of the Herero people had been killed. (68000) According to the United Nations, more then half of all Nama had been exterminated. (10000) The remaining Herero and Nama people were sold off to German farmers as slaves. Germans finally could feel that Deutsch Sud-West Afrika belonged to them!
After the Herero Namaqua genocide – the Germans rewrote ‘their’ colonies history. A good example of the cover-up can be found in the ‘Windhoek Castle’ card. Everything was polished up – then forgotten. For nearly 100 years only ‘white’ colonial history had been taught in schools.
At the time of writing, no mention whatsoever of the words ‘Herero’ or ‘Nama’ or ‘Namaqua’ or ‘murder” or ‘genocide’ or ‘Namibia’ or ‘South West Africa’ or ‘Deutsch-Südwestafrika’ are found in page searches of Wikipedia for Chancellor Bulow or Kaiser’s Wilhelm II’s – both detailed pages. Likewise, nowhere are found ‘Herero’ or ‘Namaqua’ or ‘Herero – Namaqua Genocide’ on Bulow or Wilhelm’s names. This is unacceptable. Wikipedia history shows that Bernhard von Bulow spent much time defending German ‘foreign policy’ before parliament and constantly defended Wilhelm II’s utterances there. He did this while Chancellor between 1900 and 1909.
Not surprising, Wikipedia does show at the time of the Kaiser’s abdication in 1919, that the ex Emperor referred to the Jew as a parasite – a parasite he felt needed destroyed and exterminated from German soil. He wrote that Jews were a ‘nuisance that humanity must get rid of some way or other. I believe the best would be gas!’ Without question, this was a man of his times. Little doubt his name and Bulow’s should be added as main players behind the Herero – Namaqua genocide!
Over sixty years ago Germany began a process and acceptance and apology for the Holocaust of the second world war. Fifteen years before Hitler joined the Nazi Party, Germany killed 1000’s in the African death camps of the Kaisers army. The fact makes a myth of the post war foundation Germany it was supposedly built on. Make no mistake – the ghosts of the Herero and Nama will not go away. Germanic input made NO dent on 21st century Herero and Nama graves. Today they reflect the foundations of Herero and Nama pastoral culture, a culture that von Trotha – Fischer and the Kaiser himself intended to annihilate.
Germany has refused to pay compensation to the Herero or Nama for land that was exploited and expropriated by German settlers – or for the massacres infliected – or the atrocities committed against their bodies – or for the women who were used for sex, and or the experiments the so called ‘German scientists’ undertook. The Nazis rehearsed their tirades on pastoral Namibians. The German government that followed paid out the Jews. Is it not time for the ‘super race’ to return the skulls of murdered people? People who were once mothers and fathers and children living in a far away land? The skull of Nama Chief Cornelius Fredericks remains in Germany – regardless of how Eugen Fischer may have altered and or destroyed photographic records. Records show that the physical anthropology of the Berlin Anthropological Society is to be found in the cellar and attic of the Berlin Museum of Natural History. The collection consists of over 6000 skulls – dried skin – hair – plaster casts of faces – heads – hands – feet and postcranial skeletons. Both the Medical History Museum at the Charite teaching hospital in Berlin and the Freiburg University in southwestern Germany, have shown their Herero and Nama skulls collections on German TV. Why in this age must the ‘collections’ of old Namibians remain in the cellars and attics?
Descendants of the von Trotha family travelled to Omaruru Namibia at the invitation of Herero Supreme Chief Alfons Maharero in 2007, whose grandfather Samuel Maharero led the Herero uprising in 1904. The von Trotha family publicly apologized for Lothar von Trotha’s brutal cruelty to this people. Wolf-Thilo von Trotha said; “We, the von Trotha family, are deeply ashamed of the terrible events that took place 100 years ago”. Well they should be! So too should be countless generations of von Trotha’s to come… Imagine that one hundred years before their visit, and undisclosed German soldier was reported to have said of the massacres;
“…the death rattle of the dying and the shrieks of the mad…they echo in the sublime stillness of infinity.”