The Herero genocide: German unity, settlers, soldiers, and ideas

TitleThe Herero genocide: German unity, settlers, soldiers, and ideas
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsJ.B. Gewald
EditorM. Bechhaus-Gerst, and R. Klein-Arendt
Secondary TitleDie (koloniale) Begegnung : AfrikanerInnen in Deutschland (1880-1945), Deutsche in Afrika (1880-1918)
Pagination109 - 127
Date Published2003///
PublisherPeter Lang
Place PublishedFrankfurt am Main [etc.]
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsAfrica, colonialism, genocide, Germany, Herero, Herero revolt, Namibia

Between 1904 and 1908 imperial German troops committed genocide in German South West Africa, present-day Namibia. African survivors of the war were cruelly treated, placed in camps and put to work as forced labourers. This paper addresses the question of why German soldiers and settlers committed these atrocities. It argues that they were never directly ordered to commit such atrocities; instead, a social space was created in the central and southern Namibia of 1904-1908 in which the atrocities were deemed acceptable. In Germany, the concept of a German Empire with colonies developed to such an extent that it came to be seen as a necessity, a 'natural' destiny of Germany. However, the reality of the colony did not reflect the idealized image of German settlers and soldiers. In addition, events in China had indicated to German soldiers that the transgression of the limits of correct behaviour in a war situation was legitimated by the highest authority, the Kaiser. These factors, combined with the dreadful circumstances in which German volunteers found themselves in Namibia, contributed to the crimes committed. Bibliogr., notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]

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