There’s a lesson in German genocide

Some historians believe that the horrific genocide carried out against Namibians by the German colonial army during the early years of the 20th century may well have been the inspiration for Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution”, the Holocaust visited upon the Jews of Europe.

Last week, the German government finally acknowledged the scale of the horror in Namibia when an estimated 60 000 members of the Herero people and a further 10 000 Namas were killed following an “extermination” order issued by German military commander General Lothar von Trotha.

Many Namibians have rejected the German government’s concession that the slaughter was a genocide and its offer to pay R18.2 billion over the next 30 years in “development aid” to the country.

Some of the criticism centres around the fact that the German government refuses to call the money “reparations” – which is what it is, in reality.

The massacre in Namibia and the Holocaust are a reminder of the potential humankind still has for incomprehensible cruelty and violence, as well as underlining that people do not forget events like these.

That is something we need to take on board in South Africa, where we are still coming to terms with another crime against humanity – apartheid.

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