No monument to a forgotten genocide
Germany has spent decades grappling with its responsibility for the Holocaust, said Susanne Lenz, but what about its earlier genocide? From 1904 to 1908, Germany carried out a campaign of racial extermination against the Herero and Nama people in Namibia. After confiscating their land, the Germans began shooting these cattle-herding nomads. That was too slow and cumbersome. So German colonial troops drove the tribespeople into the desert, leaving tens of thousands to die of thirst. Those who survived were placed in concentration camps, where more perished of disease or torture. By the end of the campaign, 100,000 Namibians had died at German hands. Some of the same officers who honed their skills in Namibia went on to become top Nazis, overseeing the extermination of Jews. Yet while Berlin has multiple monuments and museums exploring German culpability for the Holocaust, there is just one tiny plaque for the victims in Namibia—and its location should be cause for scandal. Berlin Postcolonial, an advocacy group, added the plaque at the foot of a small stone monument in a military cemetery in southeastern Berlin in 2009. The monument itself, of course, is dedicated to the “heroic dead,” those Germans who perished while carrying out the Namibian genocide. In this, our first national crime, the victims get less recognition than the perpetrators.