The Causes and Consequences of the Herero War (1904-1907)

The Hereros were people living in what is now the independent nation of Namibia. Herero chiefs were independent, presiding over a decentralized tribal government, with extended families and their cattle herds spread over hundreds of miles. Germany first arrived in Africa in 1884, using the private land claims of a businessman, Adolf Luderitz, as the legal basis for establishing a protectorate over a vast desert hinterland, making South West Africa its first African colony. The first German treaties did not concern the Herero because they lived well-inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

Chief Kamaherero negotiated a worthless agreement of protection with the British, who were unwilling to live up to its terms. However, the Herero negotiated Schutzvertrage (treaties of protection) in Okahandja and Omaruru in October 1885. In 1904, however, Namibia had been transformed into a German colony: Deutsch-Sudwestafrika, i. e. , German Southwest Africa. The German colonialism was brutal, and so it came to the rebellion in 1904, in which the Herero tribe, led by Samuel Maharero, rebelled against their German colonial ruler because of the dissatisfaction with the expansion of the German folk and their colonialism.

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Samuel Maharero was an important Herero warrior and cattle raider to the Herero tribe, as he planned a revolt with the other chiefs against the German colonial authorities and white German settlers in the country. As a result, on January 12, 1904 the uprising in Okhandja began and the Herero people successfully killed several German farmer families. Maharero succeeded in leading some of his people to the British Bechuanaland Protectorate (today Botswana). He remained leader of the exiled Herero, and became an important vassal of Sekgathole a Letsholathebe, a chief in northern Bechuanaland.

Samuel Maharero died there in 1923, but is still remembered as one of nine national heroes of Namibia which were identified at the inauguration of the country’s Heroes’ Acre near Windhoek. The Herero Genocide took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia), during the scramble for Africa. What distinguishes the Herero War, and makes it an act of genocide, was a clearly announced military policy to destroy the Herero nation by killing all its members. The rebellion quickly spread throughout the whole Herero region and Damaraland.

They managed to kill 123 white men, destroy rail tracks, telephone connections, and German buildings and farmer facilities. When in August the German protection troops engaged, German general Lothar von Trotha gave out the order of eradication, and they defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg with their advanced armory. As a punishment, the Herero were droven into the desert of Omaheke, with barely any water sources that were made unreachable and according to some sources systematically poisoned by the German colonial army.

Most of the Herero died there of thirst. In October, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans, only to suffer a similar fate. In total, at least 60,000 of the 80,000 Herero people, which was about 80% of the entire population, had died, mostly of starvation or thirst, because the Herero who fled the violence were prevented from returning from the Namib Desert, as any Herero returning to ‘German’ territory would be shot on sight even if unarmed. Analysis of primary and secondary sources Primary Sources: If we rebel, we will be annihilated in battle since our people are practically unarmed and without ammunition, but the cruelty and injustice of the Germans have driven us to despair and our leaders and our people both feel that death has lost its terrors because of the conditions under which we now live,” wrote the Herero chief, Samuel Maherero, in 1904, on the eve of the Herero uprising against German colonial rule.

On the 104th anniversary of the rebellion this month, Anna Rosenberg traces native resistance to German rule in South West Africa (now Namibia). – Samuel Maharero in Namibia: ‘Let’s Die Fighting Rather Than Die of Maltreatment’ * This quote is an excerpt of a book, in which Samuel Maharero (leader of the Herero tribe) expresses his frustration by writing it down before the rebellion in 1904. In that period of time he was still working on his plans on the rebellion, and he was becoming more and more frustration about the maltreatment of his people and the Germans making his country their territory. The conditions the Herero were living in were so bad that he had already taken dying into consideration either way. It seems that he is not afraid of dying.

He knew that his people didn’t have armory as advanced as the Germans did and that their chances for victory were very slim, but he took the risk because in his opinion it was worth it to die fighting a hopeless case than to die from maltreatment. He feared that the Germans would rot out the Herero and make Namibia entirely theirs, and he sees no other way to avoid fighting. “I was present when the Herero were defeated in a battle in the vicinity of Waterberg. After the battle all men, women, and children who fell into German hands, wounded or otherwise, were mercilessly put to death.

Then the Germans set off in pursuit of the rest, and all those found by the wayside and in the Sandveld [Omaheke desert] were shot down and bayoneted to death. The mass of the Herero men were unarmed and thus unable to offer resistance. They were just trying to get away with their cattle. ” – Jan Cloete * This is a quote by Jan Cloete, who witnessed the atrocities committed by the German troops, as he was acting as a guide for the Germans, and deposed that statement in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterberg, August 11-12, 1904.

It describes how the pursuing German forces prevented groups of Herero from breaking from the main body of the fleeing force, and how they pushed them further into the desert. As exhausted Hereros fell to the ground, unable to go on, German soldiers received the orders to kill every single one of them: men, women, and children. Cloete describes how innocent the Hereros intentions were and how gruesomely the Germans slaughtered them. Although he acted as a guide for the Germans, he seems to despise the way they treat the Hereros and feels sympathy.

The way maltreatment of the Herero by the Germans made the Hereros hatred towards the Germans increase which caused further acts of rebellion against the Germans. * The author of this picture is unknown. It shows a few of the survivors who got out of the desert alive, a day after they arrived to their homes in 1905. It is clear that they are starving by the way their ribs are sticking out of their bodies and most probably wouldn’t have been able to survive any more days.

These are the types of poor conditions the Herero had to undergo because of the Germans. The Germans isolated them into the parts of the desert without water or food sources, and the only ones that came out alive was this little group. This sort of maltreatment led to more hatred towards the inhumane actions of the Germans and caused further attacks of rebellion. * Secondary sources: “In a policy of genocide, German soldiers and settlers sought out, shot, beat, hung, starved and raped Herero men, women and children.

By the end of 1904 the war had spread to southern Namibia. Here it also overwhelmed the Nama inhabitants of GSWA. When it finally ended, no fewer than 80% of the Herero and at least 50% of the Nama had lost their lives. 4 Most of the Herero who remained, primarily women and children, survived in concentration camps as forced labourers employed on state, military and civilian projects. 5 In short, the war and its aftermath were characterized by acts of excessive violence and cruelty on the part of German soldiers and settlers.

Indiscriminate shootings, hangings and beatings were the order of the day. The diaries, letters and photographs of contemporaries are littered with references to these events. Missionary Elger, working in the settlement of Karibib along the railway line to Windhoek, reported in his diary that all he heard was ‘aufraumen aufhangen niederknallen bis auf den letzten Mann, Kein Pardon’ (clean-up hang-up shoot-down till the last man, no pardon). ” – Jan-Bart Gewald in Herero genocide in the twentieth Century: Politics and memory This excerpt from a book shows how the Herero were once again treated: They were sought out, shot, beat, hung, starved and raped. This happened in 1904 after the defeats of the Herero. Jan Bart describes about the maltreatment the Herero had to undergo and the abuse they had to witness as part of their daily lives. The only survivors were hired as forced laborers in concentration camps, and the rest was killed without hesitation. Of course, this is more evidence as to how the Herero were treated and what the cause to their rebellion was.

The Causes and Consequences of the Herero Wars. There were many causes as well as consequences from the war, and up until today, the Herero people are struggling with these consequences since the German tribes have left. In 1904, during the scramble of Africa, many European countries came to the holy land to claim the land as theirs. It was quite desired, because the land of Africa was very fertile and many agricultural goods could be produced. One of the main reasons the German people came to Africa was to take over the land, produce goods on it, and export these back to their home country.

They used the Africans as slaves who had to work hard in return for nothing. Under the German colonial rule, the Herero people were used as slave laborers, and their lands were taken over by the Germans and given to colonists, who were encouraged to settle on land taken from the Herero people, which caused a great deal of resentment. The main cause of the war was the maltreatment that the Herero had to undergo when the German tribes, led by general Lothar, entered Africa and took over the land of the Herero people.

They destroyed their houses and took everything that the Herero people owned which they saw as useful. The Germans used the Herero as a cheap working force and made them their slaves. They paid them very low wages, didn’t give them any food and let them starve. The Germans raped many of the Herero women and unnecessarily killed them, their men, and children. They sought them out, shot them, beat them, and hung them. These things did not happen uncommonly and usually went unpunished. As for their herds of cattle; the Germans either killed or seized them.

This was fatal for the Herero because their cattle was the key to survival for many of them. In total, about 24,000 Herero people died within the two years. In January 1904 the rebellion against the German colonial rule happened, but the Herero were driven into the desert of Omaheke, which was their death sentence. Many of them starved to death or died of thirst in the desert and all were prevented from returning back to the land that had once been theirs. To make their lives even harder, the Germans mixed poison into the few existing water sources, hoping to rot out the entire Herero population.

General Trotha’s goal was to kill the resistance of the Herero people and therefore he stated his comment very openly to the public: “I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated, or, if this was not possible by tactical measures, have to be expelled from the country… This will be possible if the water-holes from Grootfontein to Gobabis are occupied. The constant movement of our troops will enable us to find the small groups of nation who have moved backwards and destroy them gradually. ” There were many consequences as well.

The few survivors, who were mostly women and children, were eventually put in concentration camps, such as the one on Shark Island. The German authorities gave each Herero a number and recorded every death, whether in the camps or from forced labor. The German have been said to rent Hereros, in order to use their manpower. The deaths of the killed laborers were permitted and they were reported to the German authorities. Because of malnutrition, disease and forced labor work about an estimated of 50–80% of the entire Herero population were killed by 1908, when the camps closed.

German scientists like Eugen Fischer came to the concentration camps to test medical experiments on the race. They used the Herero children, men, and prisoners as test subjects. These medical tests included sterilization, injection of smallpox, typhus as well as tuberculosis. In conclusion, Fisher found out that “inferior races” claiming that “whoever thinks thoroughly the notion of race, can not arrive at a different conclusion“. We say that Africa is the land on which the first human species emerged.

Due to that statement, another consequence that was led by the German anthropologists was that they stole skeletons and bodies from African graveyards and took them to Europe for research or sale. Even until today many of the skeletons and bodies haven’t been returned back to Africa. Historians also see a connection between the Herero wars and the holocaust in World War II. It is argued that the Herero genocide set a precedent in Imperial Germany to be later followed by Nazi Germany’s establishment of concentration camps. The istorians argue that the German experience in South West Africa was a precursor to the Nazi colonialism and genocide, which happened three decades later. Apparently, personal connections, literature, and public debates served as conduits for the genocidal ideas and methods from the colony to Germany. It is also argued that the Herero Genocide was an inspiration for Hitler in his war against the Jews. Eugen Fischer’s medical experiments can be seen as a testing ground for later medical procedures used during the Nazi Holocaust.

Fischer later became chancellor of the University of Berlin, where he taught medicine to Nazi physicians. One of his prominent students was Josef Mengele, the doctor who performed genetic experiments on Jewish children later in concentration camps. Franz Ritter von Epp, who was later responsible for the liquidation of all Bavarian Jews and Roma as governor of Bavaria, took part in the Herero genocide as well. There also seem to be similarities between the aims of the General and the Nazi. In both cases there was a Social Darwinist notion of “cleansing” after which “something new” would “emerge”.

Conclusion After the concentration camps, all of the surviving Herero people were distributed as laborers for the German colonists and from that time on, every Herero man or women over the age of seven were forced to wear a metal disc on which their labor registration number was written. In 1908 the German colonial fully re-establish its authority over the territory. The German troops got engaged in conflict. Many others German soldiers were used for upkeep and administration. The German lost approximately 676 soldiers due to them being killed in the war, going missing or dying from disease.

When the First World War started off in 1915, the German troops got engaged and the German colony was taken over and occupied in the South-West Africa Campaign by the Union of South Africa, who was acting on the behalf of the British Imperial Government. The land of South Africa also received a League of Nations Mandate over their land in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles. In 1985, the United Nations’ Whitaker Report classified the aftermath as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama people of South-West Africa, and therefore one of the earliest attempts at genocide in the 20th century.

The German government recognized and apologized for the events in 2004 and ruled out financial compensation for the victims’ descendants. 1998 the German President visited Namibia and met the Herero leaders. He was welcomed by Chief Munjuku Nguvauva, who demanded a public apology and compensation. The German President apologized but kept the apology very short, pointing out that special reparations will not be financed. In 2001 the Hereros filed a lawsuit, where they demanded the reparations from the German government and the Deutsche Bank, which financed the German government and companies in Southern Africa.

On the 100th anniversary in 2001 the Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation of Germany, officially apologized and expressed grief with those words: “We Germans accept our historical and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time. ” In October 2007 the von Trotha family travelled to Omaruru by invitation of the royal Herero chiefs and they apologized publicly for the actions of their relative. They said: “ We, the von Trotha family, are deeply ashamed of the terrible events that took place 100 years ago. Human rights were grossly abused that time. ” ” Ultimately, the German government did not return any of the money. Many of the Herero still live in poverty and work on land which is owned by white people.

Sources: * http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Herero_and_Namaqua_Genocide * http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Samuel_Maharero * http://namib. info/namibia/uk/history/herero_nama_rising/index. php * http://smileyandwest. ning. com/profiles/blogs/herero-and-namaqua-genocide * http://hererowars. com/history_who_are_the_hereros. tml * http://enotes. com/herero-reference/herero Primary sources: * http://theredphoenix. files. wordpress. com/2011/11/herero_genocide1. jpeg * http://www. google. com/url? sa=t&rct=j&q=primary%20sources%20herero&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CFMQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffaculty. kirkwood. edu%2Fryost%2Fhist201%2FHolocaust%2Fnamibiaquotes. docx&ei=2pC-UOPDC_L74QT0_oDAAQ&usg=AFQjCNFYM4CXAxroDED9GDqGNFAnRpigZQ Secondary sources: * https://openaccess. leidenuniv. nl/bitstream/handle/1887/4845/asc-1293873-014. pdf? sequence=1

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The Causes and Consequences of the Herero War (1904-1907). (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from