The German recognition of the genocide in Namibia
In June, Germany officially recognized the genocide against the Herero and Nama people of 1904-1908, acknowledging the responsibility of the German colonial authorities in Namibia and offering a reparation of 1,1 billion euros. Nama and Herero people were deliberately targeted under German colonization, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths (estimates go as far as 80% of the Herero and Nama minorities), confiscation of land and livestock, and inhumane treatment.
In this episode, we talk with Professor Reinhart Kößler and Mrs. Ida Hoffmann to understand what triggered the German recognition of the genocide, how it has been received by various actors concerned, and whether and how these questions are relevant for the expanding field of transitional justice. While the UN officially recognized this genocide already back in 1985, Germany only lately started using this language. As Professor Kößler argues, ‘the German official language really skirted around that word genocide for a very long time when it came to Namibia and the German past as a colonial power in general. They even went to great length to avoid talking about genocide.’
Justice is still a long way ahead, insists Mrs. Hoffmann. ‘This is not justice because all of the sudden, the two governments are talking now today. The majority of the Nama people are not there, the traditional leaders. The Herero traditional leaders are not there. With whom they are talking? There is no way where our government can just together with the German government come in and decide on how much will be paid. Acknowledgment is what we want, the round table with that acknowledgment.’
Ida Hoffman is a longtime defender of the recognition of the genocide in Namibia, an advocate for reparations and committeed to the rights of the descendants of the victims of the Namibian genocide. She was Chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee (NTLA).
Reinhart Kößler is Professor in Sociology and director of the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute in Freiburg. He is a German sociologist with long research experience concerning Namibia and particularly Namibian-German memory politics.