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The Herero Demand for Reparations From Germany: The Hundred Year Old Legacy of a Colonial War in the Politics of Modern Namibia

Harring, Sidney L.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) In Max du Plessis and Stephen Pete, ed., Repairing the Past? International Perspectives on Reparations for Gross Human Rights Abuses. Oxford, UK: Intersentia. Pp. 437-450.

“The Herero, a Namibian tribe of about 120,000 have persisted in a reparations claim against Germany that dates back at least to 1946, when Paramount Chief Frederick Mahareto tried to place claims against Germany before the newly formed United Nations. The legal basis of this action, as well as its timinig, was tied directly to the widespread genocides committed by Germany against various peoples during World War Two. German genocide against their people in the Herero War of 1904-1905 opened the twentieth century’s wave of genocides. The idea that Germany could occupy land, in Africa or Europe, forcibly relocate vast populations in doing so, justify these actions on racial grounds, and kill whole populations whether they resisted or not, was not simply the result of Nazi ideology. This kind of thinking had a precursor in German South West Africa, now Namibia, just after the turn of the century. If the Herero were not at present regorously pursuing reparations claims against Germany, the Herero War would be relegated to the status of an obsure historical footnote, with 60,000 nameless dead. Instead, the legacy of this war follows modern Germany with a clear message; genocide is never forgotten. The purpose of reparations is symbolic as well as financial. It matters both that Germany acknowledges these past wrongs, as well as compensates its victims.” (abstract)


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