In a very moving ceremony, the remains of 20 Namibians, victims of genocide carried out by German troops was handed over by Professor Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl, of the world-famous Charité University Medical Centre, to Ms Esther Moombolah-Gôagoses of the Heritage Council of Namibia. The ceremony was held in the premises of the Charité in Berlin and was witnessed by a packed hall which accommodates several hundred people.
Included here was a delegation from Namibia representing the various ethnic groups of the country. The main victims of the German genocide were the people from the Herero, Nama and Damara and other national groups. They were delegated by their people in conjunction with the Government of Namibia to bring back the remains of their ancestors to be buried on Namibian soil in a dignified manner and humility.
It is estimated that in the period between 1904-1908, troops of the German Empire [Kaiserreich] carried out the first genocide in the 20th century in the then German Colony of South West Africa [Namibia] and removed the limbs and heads of about three thousand [3,000] Herero, Damara and Nama and other groups in order to carry out research for racial purposes. How many others are unaccounted for? Many of these skulls were brought to Germany as trophies, as is done after big game hunting. The US troops followed with their trophies from Vietnam. How many Iraqi people have fallen victim to this barbaric habit?
Is this far-fetched? I should think not. Given the “terrific” performances of the occupying US forces against the local Iraqi people, such acts cannot be ruled out. Time will tell and the truth will out.
In his address, Prof Einhäupl asserted, “With this move we are dealing with an extremely shameful period of German science. It reminds us of the suffering, misery and degradation which the Herero and Nama Volk had to endure during the genocide carried out by the German colonial troops. This was the first display of racism carried out by German Colonialism, and later practised by the National Socialist [Nazis]. As a doctor and scientist it is absolutely painful to realise that medical scientists offered their services in the promotion to this form of racism”.
According to Professor Einhäupl, this was the first time that a scientific institution in Germany has undertaken such a move. The whole project began with a request by the Government of Namibia for the repatriation of the skulls. In accordance with the request of the Namibian Government, all the records for each individual are well documented. In each case general detail about the skulls itself and its primary documentation are followed by the individual results of the historical/ethnological and anthropological/paleopathological investigations.
Investigations are being carried out by the German Research Foundation, which was especially set up for this purpose in 2010. Their work has so far revealed that the 20 skulls examined, nine were from the Herero and eleven Nama. Given this limitation of time it was impossible to do a complete examination. The scientists are convinced that by the year 2012, additional insights obtained in the intervening period, will be made available.
The visit of the Namibian Delegation has been downplayed, in fact almost completely ignored by the German government. They did not even have the decency to pay Cabinet Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport & Culture. Kazenambo Kazenambo a courtesy call or to receive him which is a norm in the world of diplomacy.
In a letter dated 29 September 2011 written by Mr Wolfgang Gehrcke, Member of Parliament of the Links Party in the Bundestag [German Parliament], this fauxpas was brought to the notice of Dr Werner Hoyer, State Minister in the German Foreign Ministry.
Mr Gehrcke also referred to the press release issued by the Foreign Ministry a few days earlier announcing the handing over ceremony.
The contents of the release are very low key and a farce. It states inter alia: The remains of dead [my emphasis – es] people from the Herero, Nama and Damara people that were brought to Germany will be handed over to the delegation to take back to Namibia. Not a single word of regret or apology.
Instead, at the handing over ceremony, the German Government was represented by a functionary from the Foreign Ministry, a lady by the name of Frau Cornelia Pieper, [State Secretary at the German Foreign Ministry]. The farce continued. This was too much for the many people that were present and the lady was heckled with shouts demanding apology immediately and reparation now. She was quickly led out of the hall through a side door and was gone. The sending of this lady was an affront to the delegation and the Namibian people.
It should have been either Chancellor Angela Merkel or her Minister of Foreign Affairs. But both were sitting very pretty in Warsaw attending a meeting of the European Union. But that’s no big deal. Warsaw is a stone’s throw from Berlin. The powerful jets that fly these people around that could be reduced to a child’s throw. Surely one of them should have had the decency to show their solidarity and abhorrence of the dastardly deeds carried out in the name of the German people over a 100 years ago.
Alternatively, Federal President Christian Wulff should have made his appearance at this historic function. No, he preferred to display his “Pepsodent” teeth whilst handing out certificates to people who applied for German citizenship.
The Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero, Chief Kuaima Riruako, in a very emotional speech, labelled the German Authorities racists. At the same time, he praised former Development Minister Frau Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who at a meeting in Windhoek some years ago, had the guts to express her abomination and sorrow for what happened at the beginning of the last century. But the lady concerned was a minister. She doesn’t have the authority. There are two people who can do that – the Chancellor [Prime Minister] or the President. During his reign in the Presidency, Roman Herzog bluntly refused to do anything of that sort. The others just remained quiet. It might not be a bad idea if the German Parliament takes the matter in hand. But that is asking for too much.
Chief Riruako made a comparison of the genocide that was carried out in his country and the same tactics that were used during the Dritte Reich in Germany.
He pointed out the intention of the Germans was to completely wipe out the Herero people. They failed. He, as a Herero, is in Germany to tell the tale. He also mentioned the attempt of Hitler and his thugs to wipe out the Jewish Community.
Over 6 million people were killed by various methods. The concentration camps are a living proof of the dastardly activities that took place within the confines of those walls. The mockery of the camps is that you are greeted at the entrance with a slogan nailed to the wall “Arbeit macht frei” [work liberates]. That slogan is apt. Thousands of prisoners died of exhaustion and their bodies were thrown into the huge ovens that were in operation to get rid of those that were murdered every day.
Chief Riruako accuses the Germans of double standard in their dealing with Namibia and Israel and the Jewish people. Whilst bending backwards to appease Israel with all sorts of assistance, the people of Nambia, even now, 100 years later, are waiting for the German Government to open its mouth and to pay compensation to the survivors of the victims. He told the audience this is racism in all its nakedness. “Is it because we are black and the Israelis are white”? How much of truth lies in this statement which so far has been spoken of in undertones or behind closed doors. It is also a known fact that many non-Germans who were part of the Reich murder machinery – in the uniform of the SS, were compensated and some, who are still living, are receiving monthly pensions from Germany. They were mainly from the three Soviet Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Ukraine is also well represented in this group as well as Hungary, Bulgaria and other countries of the Balkan.
One word will suffice to break the impasse. Why is it so difficult for the German authorities to utter that magic word SORRY? I put this question to Frau Petra Löber, a fellow scribe who was sitting next to me at the ceremony.
She mentioned a statement she read in a book by Prof Alexander Mitscherlich and his wife Margarete who analysed the trial of the Nazi Doctors in 1946. In their work they make a statement which hits the nail right on the head – Germans are incapable of mourning.
Leader of the Linke in the Bundestag, Dr Gregor Gysi sees it like this. He said, “In Germany there must [be] a winner and a loser. Nothing in between”. Therefore it is not surprising that the trials of the Nazis and their cahoots were not accepted, by a large section of the German population. It was branded Sieger Justiz [Justice of the Victor]. That situation has not changed drastically to the present day. Anti-semitism is still very rife, albeit, very quietly. And, fascism is raising its ugly head once again. It is not confined to Germany alone. There are official fascist parties in many countries of Europe.
The fall of the Berlin wall 22 years ago is a huge victory for the Federal Republic of German. This confirms what Gysi said. The victors are really showing their teeth. The losers are wiping their tears. On 3 October, Germany will be celebrating the 21st anniversary of unification.
In law, Germany is united. In fact, there are still two German states existing – East & West. The West lost no time in showing their “poor” cousins who is the boss. The euphoria of the past two decades has evaporated, especially [for] the older generation who are more or less living in poverty.
The biggest obstacle to unification is undoubtedly the machinery that manages the Stasi Files [it was called the Gauck Behörde, followed by Birthler and now Jahn] the documents of the former East German secret police. It is run by former East German anti-Communist dissidents. Very bitter and spiteful people. Not appropriate to manage such documents. They are too involved and partial. Therefore, they cannot be rational.
Quite a number of times this body is equated to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission [TRC] of South Africa. BULLSHIT. How can you dare to place the two on a par? Whereas the TRC sought to reconcile, the Behörde is a witch hunter. It is an absolute replica of the notorious McCarthy Un-American Activities Committee of the 1950s.
On the other hand, the Germans could learn a lot from the TRC. Not that the TRC was a magic body. There are many failings. Taking the time factor into account, this is acceptable. On the other hand, its successes are innumerable. It gave people a chance to come out and tell the truth. Many did and myriads of mysteries were solved. Most pressing were the crimes committed by the authorities and the people who had disappeared. Many mothers, sisters and wives were able to learn for the first [time] the fate of their loved ones and the site of the graves. That was a great relief. At long last these bodies were given a proper burial under true traditional custom.
A very important aspect of the work of the TRC is recorded in a documentary of the various hearings that took place all over the country. At one hearing a black member of the police squad admitted to killing a number of young men and secretly burying their bodies in a bush. This, in the presence of the families of those killed. Jobs were not easy to find so the police force was the place to earn your living. However distasteful, especially the white superiors.
After the hearings, this young policeman sought a meeting with the families of the people he killed. To his surprise, they agreed. That was a very tough get together. And a brave one too. He went on his knees to beg for the mercy and forgiveness from the families. He was scolded. He really got a tongue-lashing.
In the end they all cried. They prayed together and they hugged by each and every person in the gathering. He was forgiven.
These were simple people with big hearts who lived in anxiety not knowing the whereabouts of their loved ones. The revelations of the young policeman removed a huge stone from their hearts. They were very grateful for that.
Although the German Government has made very heavy weather regarding the genocide in Namibia over 100 years ago it is never too late to do so now. The example of the people mentioned above provides a fantastic guideline.