Herero Massacre

Germany’s Colonial History Catches Up

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A general's jacket depicting badges that commemorate the genocide. Source: dpa

A lawsuit against the German government for perpetrating genocide in Namibia while it was colonized in the early 20th century is moving forward. The decision by the judge has the potential to derail ongoing negotiations between Germany and the sitting Namibian government, but those may already have crash and burned. It may now be time for Berlin to pay.

It’s one of the darkest chapters of the German Empire during the colonization period. From 1904 to 1908, German generals in what they called German South West Africa undertook a campaign of racial extermination, driving Herero and Nama people into the desert and letting them die of dehydration and starvation. It’s estimated anywhere from 24,000 to 110,000 people died during what the UN deemed the first holocaust of the 20th century.

In the class action lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Herero and Nama people, the plaintiffs are asking for reparation payments and a voice throughout the negotiations. For Germany’s foreign policy, thought to be on a track for reconciliation, the lawsuit is considered a severe setback.

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