Skip to main content

Germany repatriates Namibian massacre victims' remains

A NAMIBIAN delegation took possession today of the remains of 27 people murdered by the German colonial regime in the early 20th century.

Prior to a handover service in Berlin, German Culture Minister Michelle Muntefering said the event showed that the two countries were “coming to terms with the colonial past” in an atmosphere of “trust.”

But dozens of protesters rallied outside the church holding signs saying: “Repatriation without an official apology?” and “Reparations Now — Nothing About Us Without Us.”

Germany is returning 19 skulls, five intact skeletons and fragments of skin and bone that have been stored in hospitals, museums and universities for decades.

Over 65,000 Herero and more than 10,000 Nama people were slaughtered between 1904 and 1908 when General Lothar von Trotha, governor of German South West Africa, issued an “extermination order” following attempts to resist colonisation.

Gen von Trotha ordered: “Within the German boundaries, every Herero, with or without firearms, with or without cattle, will be shot. I will not accommodate women and children any more.”

The ensuing bloodbath has been called the first genocide of the 20th century, but Germany still refuses to use the term in talks with Namibia, as acknowledging it as such could have legal ramifications for Namibian reparations claims.

Germany is claiming state immunity from an ongoing prosecution over the killings in the US, but the defence does not apply to genocide cases. Ms Muntefering travels to Namibia today for further talks.

Herero and Nama remains were scattered around the world as European scientists keen to promote theories of racial supremacy ordered corpses from the colonial authorities.

A delegation of Herero visited New York’s American Museum of Natural History earlier this year to view the bones of possible relatives murdered at that time and acquired by the museum from Austrian scientist Felix von Luschen.

Mr von Luschen, later a member of the German Society for Racial Hygiene, had ordered skeletons from Namibia in 1906 for his research.

As officials claimed unearthing corpses would upset native sensibilities, concentration camp inmates were killed and Herero women ordered to scrape the flesh off the bones for shipping instead.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 15,099
We need:£ 2,901
4 Days remaining
Donate today