The Herero Genocide

--Isaac Best--Ryan Gase--

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Causes and Consequences

Africa, believed to be the birthplace of mankind, has also become the continent known for multiple genocides. Western civilization has often treated this area with brutality throughout history, but the massacres widened as the centuries went on. Among the troubles lived peaceful cultures that made lives amidst the sand dunes and traded the precious metals found there. These groups have little water, as these specific groups live in the Namib Desert, where the sand is actually gem dust. This is one of the causes of the Herero genocide, instigated at first by the arrival of colonialism in Africa.

Precious metals attracted settlers, mainly from Germany in this area, and they were welcomed at first because they brought guns and new commodities to the tribes. Moreand more European systems were introduced and the peaceful tribes began to resort to battle to settle their regular differences. South West Africa was officially colonized and a man named Major Theodore Leutwein, part of the German colonization army, began to start conflict between the tribesmen. This, grouped with a cattle-virus epidemic that destroyed the Herero lifestyle and the seizing of the remaining cattle by colonial creditors, led to a rebellion where the Herero attempted to regain their lifestyle.

Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha, a man known for brutality, began to massacre the Herero for this act, driving their warriors into a position where the only escape was into the wastelands of the Kalahari. This led to the genocide, as the few remaining warriors that tried to get back were slaughtered and Lothar decided to exterminate the rest. This decision came under fire and Lothar was taken out of position, but only after the Herero had dwindled from 80,000 to 15,000. The same happened to the Nama, reduced from nearly 20,000 to 9,000. The consequences were the displacement and death of culture of Africa, as well as another reason for the evil persona of Germany.

US Response?

The US did not directly get involved during the genocide, but later came to the area and fought Russian-armed Africans with tribes the US had armed. Now, only fifteen years ago, the Hereros sued German companies in the US courts for the genocide. Other than this, the US and other countries did not actually get involved. The genocide had not been known in most places at the time, asa the Germans had tried to keep it quiet. The US acknowledges that it was a genocide, but Germany, in many places, does not. The United States of America was dealing with its own problems, as tensions were growing in Europe and the US was trying to stay out of it.

Eyewitness Testimony

The following paragraphs contain information collected from eyewitness testimonies regarding the planned extermination of the Herero and Nama tribes of South West Africa. It is summarized, but still specific enough to show the atrocities of the region. The first paragraph is a section of the actual letter sent by the Nama chief Hendrik Witbooi's letter to Major Leutwein of the German colonization army. it describes how the colonists treated the tribes, and was supposed to get sympathy but instead received attack. The second describes how the genocide was uncalled for, citing how the Herero welcomed and accepted the Germans as VIPs, as well as how the Herero never gave up their army, no matter what.

The colonists made laws of the land that were impossible to follow, unbearable, and without the agreement of the chief or any notice. They punished people in Windhoek and would beat people to death for debt. This letter also states it is not just and right to beat people to death for debt. The victims would be stretched on their backs and flogged in a shameful and cruel manner, whether they were male or female. They were thought to be unintelligent people, yet they had never punished people in the cruel and improper way that Germany did. The passage from the letter ends with a simple statement: "No-one can survive such a punishment."

In Herero culture, during holidays, the women would wear high-waist dresses in red and black, the German Empire’s colors, and the men would wear the German volunteers’ uniform. German diplomats were always invited to Herero celebrations. They were treated like VIPs and were often asked to give speeches, resemblant of the keynote speeches of Apple. The peculiar attraction between the Herero and Germans in the area resembles the one in the Natal region of South Africa between the Zulus and British, two other peoples who fought a brutal colonial war. "It's the respect of a soldier for a soldier," said Kuaima Riruako, the chief of the Herero. The Herero army was never given up even during the German period.


Fewer than two thousand Herero escaped, with only one thousand making it across the desert. Seventeen thousand were held in concentration camps, forced to work without food, while the women were brutally assaulted and birthed many half-German children. Few survivors left the country, taking refuge in nearby Botswana, where many of their descendants now live. Eight percent of Namibia's population, where the genocide took place, is Herero, and their numbers continue to regrow. No refugees are known to have taken refuge in the US, at least not direct refugees.

Namibia Genocide and the Second Reich


Genocide can be prevented in many ways, the most obvious being acceptance and communication. These mass murders wouldn't happen if cultures could discuss differences and find ways to avoid future conflict. Another way to avoid genocides specifically like this one would be a reduction in interference in peaceful, less-developed nations, whether this reduction is in imperialism or diplomacy. This genocide happened because of the influx of Germans into the area and their effect on local culture. A final way to avoid and prevent genocide is increased response times when issues happen. Instead of trying to take over warring areas, developed nations need to find ways to resolve these conflicts faster.