100 years after Germany gave up its colonial rule in Southwest Africa, there have been fresh calls for the German government to admit that genocide was committed against the Hereros and Nama in what is now Namibia, reports.
Representatives of six German NGOs and a Namibian politician personally handed in a petition to the residence of Germany’s president, Joachim Gauck, calling for the German government to admit culpability for genocide in an early 20th century war in Germany’s former colony of Southwest Africa, today’s Namibia. While the German president did not receive the group, the president of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, expressed agreement with them that the acts amounted to genocide.
“Just as the Turkish government carries responsibility for the way in which it deals with the genocide against the Armenians, we are also responsible for addressing this history [with Namibia],” Lammert wrote in an opinion piece published on Wednesday in the German newspaper “Die Zeit.”
NGOs responded cautiously to the news and reiterated their demands in the face of what appears to be a change in government policy.
“We are asking that the government recognize the colonial war against the Nama and Herero as genocide,” Christian Kopp of NGO Berlin Postkolonial told DW. “We are also demanding an apology from the highest levels of government – the president, the chancellor’s office, ideally the Bundestag, as well as the return of all human remains.”
The human remains issue has become highly emotive. During the war, which took place from 1904-1908, German eugenics researchers requested that colonial troops collect and send to Berlin skulls and other human remains of several thousand of the 80,000 vanquished Nama and Herero peoples. Some of the remains were used in research while others were sold as collectors’ items throughout Europe.