Namibia: The Original Holocaust

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We started off our programme for 2012 with a presentation titledNamibia: The Original Holocaust’, on Monday 9th January 2012 at the PCS Headquarters in Clapham Junction.

January is the month where the world comes together for Holocaust Memorial Day for the victims of the Jewish Holocaust. Contrary to popular belief, the Jewish genocide is not the first genocide of the 20th century. The Genocide of the Herero and Nama people by the Germans is considered to be the first genocide in the 20th century.

But where is our memorial?

Where are our events to commemorate the Nama and Herero people?

I decided to give a presentation this month as my way of tribute to the survivors and victims of the forgotten genocide, the genocide of the Herero and Nama people. Over a hundred years ago the German army – many of whom were inspired by racial theories that were to form the bedrock of later Nazi racial thinking, exterminated 75% of the Herero, and 50% of the Nama from 1904 until 1907 in so called German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia), during the Scramble for Africa. Over 100, 000 Africans died during this period.

In the presentation, I spoke about the arrival of the Germans in the 1800s where they started to use divide and rule tactics to clear the Nama and Herero people off their land in the pursuit to exploit the land of their resources such as Uranium, Tin, Tungsten, Copper, Diamonds, Gold, Silver, Lithium and Natural Gas.

It was Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha on October 2nd 1904, who issued his order to exterminate the Herero from the region declaring:

“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.”

As with the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, rape was used as a weapon of war. After the genocide of the Herero, the Nama people were next in line. On April 22 1905, 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.”

During the Nama uprising, half the group (over 10,000) were killed; the 9,000 or so left were confined in concentration camps.

Those who survived, mainly women and children were sent to the concentration camps like those on Shark Island to be worked to death or be subjected to medical experiments by Eugen Fischer. He conducted medical experiments using children of Herero people and mixed race children of Herero women and German men as test subjects to feed his obsession with racial purity. They forced the women to harvest the skulls of the fallen so they could be sent to museums, universities and anthropological collections in Germany. Only a handful of the skulls have been returned to Namibia.

The genocide of the Nama and Herero people has been written out of history. It is up to us to teach others about what happened and to keep this memory alive.

Further reading

  • Firpo W.Carr, “Germany’s Black Holocaust 1890-1945: The Untold Truth! Details Never Revealed Before, Scholar Technological Institute of Research, Inc, 2003. Go to
  • Casper W. Erichsen, “The angel of death has descended violently among them: Concentration camps and prisoners-of-war in Namibia, 1904-08”, University of Leiden African Studies Centre, Leiden, 2005.

By Charmaine Simpson


About blackhistorystudies

Black History Studies is a social enterprise company which operates in the interest of the community by offering courses and events in Adult Education. We aim to empower the African and Caribbean community and enable them to develop self knowledge and identity through Black History and Culture. Black History Studies aim to provide a wide range of courses and activities which will provide people with the opportunity to pursue their interest in Black History and Black Studies. We also aim to provide high quality courses and activities that can be accessed by all within the community. Our mission is to inform, inspire and empower people through Black History and Black Studies by educating the community to educate themselves thereby creating a self-sustaining learning circle. Black History Studies is dedicated to providing you with a high quality and professional service and can offer services such as: - Bespoke services for Secondary Schools - Black History and Black Studies Presentations - Black History Course for Families - 5 week short courses on Black History - Beginners and Advanced Black Studies Courses - Weekend courses on Black History and Black Studies - Museum Tours - Film Screenings - Black History Studies Presentations for hire
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