German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

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Attrition
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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Ger

Post by Attrition » 12 Jan 2013 15:07

Divide-and-rule by exacerbating local conflicts? How egalitarian.

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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Ger

Post by David Thompson » 12 Jan 2013 17:31

Attrition - Keep your posts on topic with sourced information, please. Our readers aren't interested in repartee posts.

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WalterS
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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

Post by WalterS » 15 Jan 2016 17:08

A recent book, The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide, by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen (2010), addresses this thread’s subject.

According to the authors some of the origins of the murderous ideology of Nazism can be traced indirectly to the German colonial experience of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in German Southwest Africa (Namibia today). The Herero and Namaqua uprisings of 1904 turned into a war of extermination by the Germans against these native tribes.

General von Trotha, who commanded the German troops in GSWA, launched a campaign of extermination against the Hereros by first driving them into the barren desert in the eastern part of the colony, and then denying them any access to water holes. In his proclamation of 3 October, 1904 von Trotha states:
“…Every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I will no longer accept women and children. I will drive them back to their people or I will let them be shot at. These are my words to the Herero people.”

Trotha gave orders that captured Herero males were to be executed, while women and children were to be driven into the desert where their death from starvation and thirst was to be certain.

The “Extermination Order,” as von Trotha’s proclamation has come to be known as, was an explicit, written declaration of intent to commit genocide.

Although von Trotha met with some resistance to his policies from the civilian government, both in GSWA and in Germany, he had the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II. For a time, Wilhelm resisted pleas from his Chancellor, von Bulow, to issue an order rescinding von Trotha’s “Extermination Order.” Eventually the Kaiser caved and rescinded the order, but not before thousands of Herero had been killed.

The Kaiser, with Bulow’s concurrence, did authorize the establishment of Konzentrationslager along the model established by the British in the Boer War. Von Bulow comforted himself by saying that the surrendering Herero would be “put under guard and required to work.”

Although von Trotha’s troops continued to murder Herero wherever they found them, thousands more, facing mass starvation caused by the German policy of driving them into an arid desert, surrendered to any German official they could find. The camps began to fill up.

According to the authors the Germans established five main camps which quickly became over crowded. Smaller camps were also set up. Food was deliberately withheld and exchanged for work. Sanitation and permanent shelters were non-existent. Workers were beaten by overseers.

Most of the records of the camps were destroyed in 1915, but some remain. According to the authors the records for one of the larger camps, Swakopmund, show that 40% of prisoners died within the first four months of captivity and any prisoner who entered the camp was likely to be dead within ten months.

One of the more infamous camps, established in 1905, was at Shark Island just off the coast of the main harbor at Luderitz. It became known as the Island of Death. Estimates of the mortality rate at Shark Island are as high as 74%. In another eerie foreshadowing of the Nazi era, medical experiments were conducted on the prisoner population. UCLA Professor Benjamin Madley argues that it would be more accurate to describe Shark Island not as a concentration camp or work camp, but as an extermination camp or death camp. ("From Africa to Auschwitz: How German South West Africa Incubated Ideas and Methods Adopted and Developed by the Nazis in Eastern Europe", 2005)

According to the authors both the local colonial authorities in GSWA and the government in Berlin knew what was happening in the camps and did nothing about it. By the late 1800’s belief in the concept of Social Darwinism and the German concept of “Race Hygiene” was widespread. The Herero and Namaqua were considered inferior peoples who were occupying land that the Germans needed to expand their colony. Sound familiar?

Although the authors of The Kaiser’s Holocaust point out the similar natures of the genocide against the Herrero people and the Nazi genocides committed during World War Two, they also state that there is no direct causal thread linking the two. Rather
“……both can be seen as aspects of a larger phenomenon: the emergence from Europe of a terrible strain of racial colonialism that viewed human history through the prism of a distorted form of Social Darwinism, and regarded the earth as a racial battlefield on which the ‘weak’ were destined to be vanquished.”
P.361

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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

Post by David Thompson » 15 Jan 2016 22:28

For readers interested in the Herero and Namaqua uprisings of 1904, see also the discussion at:

Germany committed the first act of genocide against blacks
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=121698

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Attrition
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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

Post by Attrition » 16 Jan 2016 01:48

Black people or Africans, surely?

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Tanzania
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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

Post by Tanzania » 18 Jan 2016 18:33

.

Gents, some of you gave a good sample for today's racism, with your constant attacks onto Germans, if black or white.
Your constant desperate search for German atrocities long time before the Nazis arrived, could already described as manic.

Regards Holger Kotthaus

.
“Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. . . . All History was a
palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary” – G. ORWELL 1984

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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

Post by michael mills » 19 Jan 2016 01:15

A recent book, The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide, by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen (2010), addresses this thread’s subject.
This book has already been discussed ad nauseam on this Forum. It is a highly prejudiced work, essentially a work of political propaganda rather than of impartial historiography, and is full of distortions.

In the first place, Von Trotha did not drive the Herero into the Omaheke desert. Rather, his aim was to surround the Herero insurgents encamped on the Waterberg and capture them. For that purpose he was constructing a very large kraal to hold the warriors that he anticipated capturing.

However, he simply did not have enough troops to completely surround the Waterberg, with the result that nearly all the Herero were able to escape to the east through the large gap in the German lines and then scatter in all directions, some across the Omaheke to British Bechuanaland, some to the north to the land of the Ovambo, which was not under effective German control, the greatest number to remote mountainous areas within German Southwest Africa.

Later, Von Trotha claimed that the gap in the German lines was part of his strategy for pushing the Ovambo to the east, out of German Southwest Africa. However, that was merely an excuse to conceal the failure of his real strategy.

Nor did the Germans deny the Herero access to waterholes. The German forces were pursuing the escaping Herero, which meant that it was impossible for them to deny the escapees access to water holes, since the latter would obviously get to those water holes before the pursuing Germans.

The pursuing Germans did find large numbers of dead cattle around water holes, but those cattle had most likely been poisoned by a particular plant that produces poisonous sprouts in the early spring, the time when the retreating Herero were driving their cattle across the Omaheke.

Von Trotha did not issue an "extermination order". Rather, he made a proclamation to a group of Herero that had been overtaken and captured by the pursuing German forces, a proclamation that was then written down in the Herero language and given to the captives, who were then released with instructions to convey its message to the rest of their people.

The proclamation stated that the Herero people, through their revolt against German rule, had forfeited their right to live in German Southwest Africa, and were ordered to leave German territory immediately. It included a warning that any Herero who returned to German territory would be shot on sight.

In fact, the proclamation was not implemented, since the German intention was not to exterminate the Herero or to expel them from German territory, but rather to confiscate their land and turn them into a cheap labour force to work on German-owned farms, ie the same policy as pursued by other colonial powers in Africa. Considerable numbers of Herero escapees were captured and imprisoned in concentration camps, from where they were distributed to German farmers as labourers, and also used as labour for a railway construction project.

However, large numbers of the Herero who escaped from the Waterberg, perhaps the majority, were never recaptured and remained inside the territory claimed by Germany, living "wild" in remote areas, and subsisting by stealing cattle from other groups such as the Rehobother Basters.

As for the concentration camps, the death rate in them during the summer of 1904-05 was very high, but the crucial point is that it was totally unexpected. Once the German Government became aware of the mass mortality, it ordered the release of the imprisoned Herero.

Shark Island was a detention camp for captured Nama, who had risen in revolt after the suppression of the Herero uprising. Their health was already bad before they were taken into captivity, since they were ravaged by a number of endemic diseases including venereal disease, so the high death rate among them on Shark Island was inevitable. Again, once the scale of the mortality was realised, the prisoners were moved away from Shark Island to holding centres in areas with a drier climate.

The claim that medical experiments were carried out on imprisoned Herero and Nama is also without foundation. What is true is that remains of prisoners who had died in the camps were exhumed and used for anthropological studies, which was a very common practice in European colonies, eg in Australia.

In summary, there is no hard evidence of any German intent to exterminate the Herero and Nama peoples. What can be demonstrated is a policy of the colonial administration in German Southwest Africa to deprive the Herero of their grazing lands and turn them into a rural proletariat, a source of cheap labour for German farmers. In that respect, German colonial policy did not differ from that of the British in South Africa, or of other European colonial powers. The Herero uprising was suppressed with great severity, but again that was no different from British suppression of various native uprisings, such as that of the Ndebele in Rhodesia.

The concept of a German genocide of the Herero people had its origin in British propaganda published during and after the First World War, which had the purpose of justifying the seizure of German colonies in Africa, on the basis that German rule over the indigenous peoples was incomparably more inhumane than British rule.

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Re: German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany

Post by Dimitrii » 19 Jan 2016 21:31

Very insightful, Mr. Mills! Thanks for setting the record straight, as usual.

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