Namibian Herero and Nama tribes are suing Germany for reparations after their conflict in 1904 descended into the first genocide of the twentieth century.
As talks between Germany and Namibia (begun in 2015) proceed into what is hoped to be a joint statement of recognition, Herero Paramount Chief Vekuii Rukoro and Nama Chief David Frederick feel their exclusion will necessarily cause any German apology to fall short. Left-wing opposition voiced by Niema Movassat is also pressuring the government in favour of the Namibian tribes.
Rising tensions over unfair treatment of the pastoral tribesmen by German colonialists led to a war in 1904, ultimately resulting in the killing of eighty per cent of Herero and fifty percent of all Nama in Namibia. Lead by General Lothar von Trotha, over 100,000 people died in the conflict with 3000 skulls being sent back for phrenology studies.
Historians now argue that these killings may have been a prologue to the Holocaust. In the book “Le Siecle des Camps”, the authors mentioned that the first imperial commissioner of Deutsche Sud-West Afrika was Dr. Heinrich Goering—the father of Hermann, who set up the first Nazi camps in 1933. Because of the Herero, the word Konzentrationslager first vappeared in German, in 1905. It was also in these African camps that the first German medical experiments were conducted on human beings. Two of Joseph Mengele’s teachers, Theodor Mollison and Eugen Fischer, carried out research on the Herero, the latter in an attempt to prove his theories about the superiority of the white race.
The suit was filed this 5th of January in New York under the Alien Tort Statute of 1789. It was only by July 2015 that German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued political guidelines referring to the killings as a “war crime and genocide”. Earlier that same year the German equivalent of the House of Commons, Bundestag, had unanimously agreed to recognise the Armenian Genocide, leading to Turkey’s recalling of their ambassador to Germany.
Germany’s representative in the deal, Ruprecht Polenz, said that only reparations in the form of community development are being discussed, not direct compensations. “The expectations of the negotiations were fraught with such perspectives from the start”, he told German newspaper Deutsche Welle. “The fact is that after World War II, Germany only paid personal reparations to individuals who personally suffered in the concentration camps or were forced to do slave labor.”