Betweenthe years of 1904 and 1907, during the German colonial war, Germany expandedtheir empire throughout China, Africa and the Pacific. Even though theyexpanded to all these places, the place with the most issues like genocide andmass killings was Africa, specifically Southwest Africa. Germany destroyedNamibia, which is a small country in Southwest Africa, and they are stillsuffering the consequences of it. The German colonial war is significant toboth Namibia and Germany to this day because even though it happened over 100years ago, there are still issues between them about the war with monuments andtheir governments. General Lothar von Trotha, a Germanmilitary commander, was the leader of this historic event which is now known asfirst genocide of the 20th century.
Trotha was sent to what’s nowknown as Namibia, to command German settlers to push the Herero people out oftheir land. Herero people are people who reside in Namibia, Botswana andAngola. German soldiers came in huge numbers and “began attacks against theHerero and proceeded with slaughtering them and pushing them towards the desertof Omaheke which is inland of Namibia” (Baltzois). This first started on October2nd, 1904 when he issued an order to exterminate the Herero fromtheir land.
A famous quote by him was “All theHerero must leave the land. If they refuse, then I will force them to do itwith the big guns. Any Herero found within German borders, with or without agun, will be shot.
No prisoners will be taken. This is my decision for theHerero people” (The Genocide). The Germans started by taking the Herero’s cattle,so they would have no way of making a living, or no food available to them.This promised many Herero people “a slow death from starvation, thirst anddisease” (The Genocide). If Herero people wouldn’t cooperate with the Germans,they were sent to labor camps to be slaves to the settlers from Germany. Trotha’sthought process was “Herero man to be executed on the spot, while the women andchildren to be led to the desert to die slowly” (Baltzois).
Since the Germanskilled so many Hereros it was considered a genocide. In the article TheGenocide it said, “Before the uprising, the tribe numbered 80,000; after it,only 15,000 remained.” It wasn’t until recently, that Germany would acknowledgethe genocide and take actions to fix it. After Namibia got their country backmany years after the genocide, there is a little town called Swakpomund, that wasestablished by the Germans and still stands today.
It is located on the coastof Namibia facing the Atlantic Ocean. Swakpomund is the center of Germanspeaking in all of Namibia and has a lot of well-preserved buildings andartifacts from the German Colonial war. They also have a lot of streets and hotels named after German figures,to keep a little bit of the country’s history, and appeal to the many Germantourists they get. This city is significant to the war because, even thoughNamibia and Germany are just now coming to terms with the genocide, Namibia is stillallowing a city of Germans to live there. They are also allowing for things tobe named after some German people and keeping up monuments from the war.
Namibia is allowing a lot of German tourists to come visit every year, eventhough things aren’t solved between them. Germany finally has come out and said,”German officials say they are ready to acknowledge the genocide formally,issue and apology and offer compensation” (Onishi). This is significant becauseit’s been over 100 years, and Germany is just now drawing their attention toit, and Namibia probably never thought that would happen. Germany is alsowilling to offer compensation to those who lost family members from the war. Hopefully,they can get on good terms, and have peace with one another. A pressing issue in the news latelysurrounding Namibia and Germany a monument out front of the State House, which servesas the president’s summer house in Namibia. It is called the Marine Denkmal andwas erected in 1908.
This monument commemorates who fought in the war againstNamibia. The statue was described as, “The statue, depicting a German marineholding a rifle in his hands and standing guard over a dying comrade, has stoodundisturbed for decades in the most prominent spot in Swakopmund” (Onishi). But,”a few months ago protesters spilled red paint over the monument” (Onishi).There has been talk about whether to remove it and give it to the Germans, orto keep it. One argument to keep it is that it’s a tourist attraction. TheHerero people think that people from the around the world come to Namibia tosee the monument. Another argument to keep it is that Germans who live inNamibia go to the statue to commemorate the deaths of the troops that fought inthat war. Namibia also doesn’t want to remove it since it’s a big part of theirhistory.
The war was really what shaped their country. Laidlaw Peringanda is anactivist who wants to remove the statue and he said “The open glorification ofsoldiers responsible for the massacres of his Herero ancestors had irritatedhim for years (Onishi). The Namibia government also thinks that it brings backa bad past for the country, and it can be hard to look at it and think aboutthe past for the country.
This monument is significant to the war because themonument still stands there today. It has so much meaning behind it because itwas such a big part of not only Namibia’s history, but German history too. Eventhough Germany annihilated Namibia, they are on the path to work things out,and possibly become allies. I think it says a lot that Namibia is willing toput everything behind them, especially when it’s been over 100 years forGermany to do something. I also think that it is a tourist attraction forGermans, because they are taught about the war in school, so to be able to gosee it, would be really cool for them. I think the fact that it still stands ispowerful because Namibia is able to put their differences aside, and letGerman’s live there, and speak the language of their choice.
After everything horrible thatGermany has done to Namibia, it only makes sense for them to finally addressit, even though it’s taken over 100 years. Trotha was relentless in taking overtheir land and would do anything to win. The fact that Namibia is willing tohave a dominantly German speaking city, shows that they are willing to let goof the issue and put aside their differences. Hopefully, the statue in front ofthe state house will stay, because it is such a big part of both countrieshistory’s and always will be.
It’s about time that Germany addresses the issueand offers compensation to the Herero people who have lost a love one becauseof this tragedy.