Herero and Nama Genocide
Between 1904-1907, German military forces, called Schutztruppe, committed a genocide against indigenous people in their colony of German Southwest Africa (present-day Namibia; hereafter, GSWA). The intent of these killings—which occurred through battle; through starvation and thirst in the Omaheke Desert; and through forced labor, malnutrition, sexual violence, medical experiments and disease in concentration camps—was to rid the colony of people viewed as expendable and thus gain access to their land.
This genocide, the first of the twentieth century, was a prelude to the Holocaust in both the ideology of racial hierarchy that justified the genocide and in the methods employed. Such linkage between the two genocides has been termed the “continuity thesis.” Historians estimate that approximately 80,000 indigenous people were killed in the genocide. While these numbers are difficult to confirm, this figure represents about 80% of the Herero people and 50% of the Nama people.
Now, more than a hundred years after the genocide, the government of Namibia is seeking reparations from Germany for land stolen and lives lost. A significant portion of the most arable land in Namibia is still owned by descendants of the German settlers. Germany has not formally apologized for the genocide but is engaged in bilateral discussions as to when and if it will do so. To date, Germany has steadfastly refused to consider payment of reparations.
The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to materials about the Herero and Nama genocide that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.
Conrad, Sebastian. German Colonialism: A Short History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. (JV 2017 .C6613 2012) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A concise history of German colonialism covering the short duration of Germany’s imperialism from 1884-1919. Critiques the “continuity thesis,” discusses German colonial memory, and contains fifty-two illustrations.
Kuss, Susanne. German Colonial Wars and the Context of Military Violence. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017. (DD 104 .K8713 2017). [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Focuses on the military perspective of the Schutztruppe in GSWA, East Africa, and China. After describing the wars in each of these locations, the text covers a wide range of issues: soldiers’ motivations, weapons, ideology, environment, disease, press coverage, and the legacy of colonial wars. The section on disease contains detailed information on sexual violence against indigenous women.
Langbehn, Volker and Mohammad Salama, editors. German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. (DT 34.5 .G46 2011) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A collection of fifteen essays by renowned scholars addressing issues such as German philosophers Nietzsche and Arendt on imperialism; the “continuity thesis;” the role of missionaries; German imperialism in Eastern Europe during WWII; and postcolonial politics.
Lemarchand, René. Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. (HV 6322.7 .F67 2011) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
The chapter by Dominik J. Schaller in this collection opens with mention of Raphel Lemkin, who wrote two unpublished manuscripts about German rule in Africa, with a focus on the 1904-1907 genocide. Schaller details the socioeconomic and political circumstances leading to war, the radicalization of German warfare, the ideology of the perpetrators, colonial amnesia after the genocide, and the efforts of the surviving victims to rebuild their society and identity after the departure of the German colonizers in 1915.
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. (DT 450.435 .M35 2001) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Analyzes the Rwandan genocide in terms of the ideology of racial hierarchy and compares genocide in Rwanda with the genocide in GSWA.
Perraudin, Michael and Jürgen Zimmerer, editors. German Colonialism and National Identity. New York: Routledge, 2011. (JV 2017 .G47 2011) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Includes twenty-two essays on varying topics, about one third of which relate to GSWA in whole or in part. Essays arranged chronologically from pre-colonial era to empire to decolonization to memory and legacy.
Stapleton, Timothy. A History of Genocide in Africa. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, ABC-CLIO, 2017. (DT 30.5 .S74 2017) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Focuses primarily on the history of German colonization in Africa, the loss of their colonies after WWI, the Nazi embrace of the colonial cause, and the recognition of this genocide as the first genocide of the 20th century. Also provided are details about the debate over reparations, repatriation of human skulls sent to Germany for “scientific” study, and Germany’s lack of an official apology for the genocide. Contains one chapter on Namibia and the German genocide committed there.
Steinmetz, George. The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. (JV 2017 .S74 2007) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A study of precolonial images of Africa, based on ethnographies and missionaries’ reports which influenced German colonizers’ attitudes and behaviors toward indigenous people.
Totten, Samuel, and William S. Parsons. Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts. New York: Routledge, 2009. (HV 6322.7 .C46 2009) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Includes a concise history of the Herero and Nama genocide, ample statistics, the impact of the genocide on the victims, a historiography of the genocide since 1907, and several eye-witness statements excerpted from the British Blue Book (see Silvester and Gewald below).
Wildenthal, Lora. German Women for Empire, 1884-1945. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2001. (HQ 1623 .W55 2001) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
While African women were routinely sexually exploited, whipped, and raped by the Schutztruppe and male settlers in GSWA, German women were idealized as a civilizing source and symbol of racial purity. Using fiction, travelogues, period press reports, records of women’s colonial societies, and correspondence, Wildenthal traces the history of German women’s roles in the colonies as nurses, settlers, writers, and arbiters of sexual mores.
Bachmann, Klaus. Genocidal Empires: German Colonialism in Africa and the Third Reich. Berlin: Peter Lang, 2018. (DT 34.5 .B33 2018) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Interprets several issues central to the German treatment of the indigenous people in their colony: Was it a genocide? What really happened at the Battle of Waterberg? What were the motives and results of von Trotha’s “extermination order”? What is the validity of the “continuity thesis”? These questions are debated in terms of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, current law regarding crimes against humanity, and international criminal law.
Baer, Elizabeth. The Genocidal Gaze: From German Southwest Africa to the Third Reich. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2017; University of Namibia Press, 2018. (PN 3503 .B24 2017) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Explores the threads of shared ideology in the Herero and Nama genocide and the Nazi Holocaust: concepts such as racial hierarchies, lebensraum (living space), rassenschande (racial shame), and endlösung (final solution). Also notes the use of shared methodologies--concentration camps, death camps, intentional starvation, rape, indiscriminate killing of women and children. The first book to examine literary texts and an art installation that demonstrate the “continuity thesis.”
Bartrop, Paul R., editor. Encountering Genocide: Personal Accounts from Victims, Perpetrators, and Witnesses. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2014. (HV 6322.7 .E525 2014) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Contains excerpts from three documents relating to the Herero and Nama genocide: the novel Peter Moor’s Journey to Southwest Africa by Gustav Frenssen; from the speeches of Lothar von Trotha, German general who issued the extermination order; and from two eyewitnesses of the genocide, taken from the British Blue Book. Each excerpt is introduced and followed by commentary and questions suitable for use in a classroom
Bemporad, Elissa, and Joyce Warren, editors. Women and Genocide: Survivors, Victims, Perpetrators. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018. (HV 6322.7 .W644 2018) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Contains the only article by an American academic on the widespread sexual violence and harrowing fate of the indigenous women under German rule: see Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, “Women and the Herero Genocide.”
Bley, Helmut. Namibia under German Rule, 1894-1914. Windhoek: Namibia Scientific Society, 1996. (DT 1603 .B5413 1996) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
One of the earliest accounts of the Herero and Nama genocide, originally published in 1971 under the title South-West Africa under German Rule. Comprehensive history of German colonialism in Namibia, beginning with the arrival of Theodor Leutwein in 1894. Includes maps and 28 illustrations and photos, and a historiography of the genocide since the 1971 edition.
Drechsler, Horst. “Let Us Die Fighting”: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama against German Imperialism (1884-1915). London: Zed Press, 1980. (HF 481 .D7413 1986) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Drechsler gained access to German colonial files that had been closed since the early 20th century and then taken by the Soviets at the end of WWII and later returned to the German Democratic Republic. This is the first text by a German to make use of those files to analyze what happened in GSWA.
Gewald, Jan-Bart. Herero Heroes: A Socio-Political History of the Herero in Namibia, 1890-1923. Oxford: James Currey, 1999. (DT 1558 .H47 G47 1999) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Presents the most comprehensive account of German colonization and genocide from the perspective of the Herero people. Includes information on relationships with German missionaries, Herero efforts to rebuild their society in the aftermath of the devastating genocide, and a detailed listing of archival sources in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Germany. Contains 8 maps and 22 photographs.
Krüger, Gesine. Kriegsbewältigung und Geschichtsbewusstsein: Realität, Deutung und Verarbeitung des deutschen Kolonialkriegs in Namibia 1904 bis 1907. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999. (DT 1618 .K78 1999) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Includes broad information on indigenous women and GSWA, not only the sexual violence they experienced, at the hands of both Schutztruppe and civilians, and its damaging effects, but also the agency of Herero women in various situations, including their support of men during battle
Olusoga, David and Casper E. Erichsen. The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism. London: Faber and Faber, 2010. (DT 1603 .O48 2010) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A history of German colonization, of the Herero and Nama people, and of the genocide. Detailed depictions of the leaders of the Schutztruppe, of the Herero and the Nama, particularly of the Nama leader Hendrik Witbooi. Olugusa and Erichsen were early proponents of the “continuity thesis.”
Sarkin-Hughes, Jeremy. Germany's Genocide of the Herero: Kaiser Wilhelm II, His General, His Settlers, His Soldiers. Rochester, NY: James Currey, 2011. (DT 1614 .S27 2011) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Addresses political and military aspects of the genocide, and the role of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Contains information on German treatment of indigenous women. Concludes that events in GSWA in 1904 served as a training ground for the German state’s conduct in Western Europe from 1938-1945. Includes many black and white photos.
Silvester, Jeremy and Jan-Bart Gewald. Words Cannot Be Found: German Colonial Rule in Namibia: An Annotated Reprint of the 1918 Blue Book. Leiden: Brill, 2003. (DT 1603 .S68 2003) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Originally compiled by the British in 1918, and known as the Blue Book, this contemporary edition contains primary source documents, photographs, interviews, and eye-witness accounts from people on the ground during the 1904-1907 genocide.
Timm, Uwe. Morenga. New York: New Directions Press, 2003. (PT 2682 .I39 M613 2003) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
A novel by a contemporary German author which depicts the GSWA war and genocide; highly critical of the treatment of the Herero and Nama by the German military. The title refers to Jacob Morenga, son of a Herero mother and a Nama father, and a much respected leader during the GSWA war.
Zimmerer, Jürgen and Joachim Zeller. Genocide in German South-West Africa: The Colonial War of 1904-1908 and its Aftermath. Monmouth, Wales: Merlin Press, 2008. (DT 1618 .V6513 2008) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
One of the earliest collections of essays on the genocide and ground-breaking in its use of the term “genocide.” Topics include detailed descriptions of concentration camps, the plight of African women, representation of the indigenous people in fiction and popular press, and the colonial culture of remembrance.
Kössler, Reinhart. Namibia and Germany: Negotiating the Past. Windhoek, Namibia: University of Namibia, 2015. (DT 1603 .K67 2015) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Chronicles Germany’s trajectory from late coloniser to postcolonial nation to postcolonial amnesia. The bulk of the text is devoted to the relationship between Germany and Namibia after 1990, when Namibia gained its independence. Discusses issues such as traumatic and contested memory in Namibia, monuments and memorials, re-establishment of communal identities, reparations, and repatriation of human skulls.
Sarkin-Hughes, Jeremy. Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century: The Socio-legal Context of Claims under International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in Namibia, 1904-1908. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2009. (KZ 1065 .A84 H47 2009) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Argues for the legitimacy of the Herero claim for reparations. Sets these claims in historical, international, and legal context, and outlines the ongoing impact of the genocide on the Herero people today.
Muurholm, Halfdan and Casper W. Erichsen. One Hundred Years of Silence. New York: Filmakers Library, 2006. (DVD 0726) [Find in a library near you (external link)]
Documentary film about the near extermination of the Herero people of Namibia by German colonial soldiers in the first years of the 20th century. This history is told through the story of a young present-day Herero woman whose great-grandmother was raped by a German soldier, resulting in her light skin and eyes. Filmed in Namibia where many such mixed-race people live today, often carrying a stigma and unaware of who their German forebear was.