History Club Lecture Series

History Club hosted Dr. Shan Sappleton for a lecture on the topic of the Herero and Namaqua genocide during the Second Reich. Sappleton began the lecture by explaining exactly what genocide is, then related the events in Namibia between 1904-1908 back to those defining traits.

Sappleton went into depth about how and why the Herero and Namaqua genocide began. The modern-day country of Namibia was colonized by Germany around the same time the rest of Europe was seizing land in and around Africa. As with many of the other newly founded colonies, the tribes in Namibia, namely the Herero and Namaqua, were resistant to the colonial rule.

This resistance caused a German general by the name of Lothar von Trotha to retaliate in a brutal manner, pushing a large number of Herero and Nama people into the Namib desert, which caused many to perish due to starvation and dehydration. Those that survived the desert were put in concentration camps, not dissimilar to those camps used by the Nazi Party when Hitler came to power.

Along with the concentration camps, medical experiments and measurements were conducted. This was again something that was eventually used by the Nazi Party to suggest that their Aryan race was medically and scientifically superior.

According to the definition of genocide, Sappleton made the argument that these attempts to exterminate these groups of people is absolutely an attempt at genocide. However, until recently, the German government has refused to acknowledge it as such.

In 2015, Norbert Lammert, the president of the German parliament, described the events in Namibia as Voelkermord, translated to English meaning “the murder of a people.” This is a breakthrough in the argument, as a prominent leader of Germany has finally stated that it was an attempt to exterminate a people. However, no such statement has ever come from the current Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel.

To the descendants of the Herero and Namaqua people that were executed and tortured by members of the German government, it is unacceptable that the leader of the German government has not yet apologized or paid reparations to the Herero and Namaqua people.

The German government has begun, as of 2011, to send the remains that were used in medical experiments back to Namibia. Additionally, the German government has sent millions in development funds to the government of Namibia, although there is some debate as to whether that money has ever gone to directly help the Herero and Namaqua people.

In 2016, the German government stated that they would not release an official apology to the Herero and Namaqua for the genocide, but the tribes are still attempting to right those wrongs. In 2017, the Herero and Namaqua tribes filed a lawsuit against the German government in U.S. courts, though as of August 2018, the only reparations they have seen have been those remains the German government has returned.