In brief

Germany admits 1904-1908 massacre of Herero, Nama peoples was “genocide”

Berlin to create 1.1 billion euro compensation fund · Local organisations, leaders say offer is insufficient

Herero prisoners, 1904.
Herero prisoners, 1904. Author: Unknown author - Ullstein Bilderdienst, Berlin
The German government has openly acknowledged for the first time in history that the massacres committed by German colonial troops from 1904 to 1908 in present-day Namibia constituted genocide. Berlin has announced the creation of a compensation fund of 1.1 billion euros.

In 1904, Namibia was a colony of the German Empire, then known as German South West Africa. That year, the Herero and Nama peoples revolted against colonial authorities. Tens of thousands were killed by the colonial regime, either after battles, driven into the desert where they died of hunger and thirst, or interned in concentration camps.

In an official statement, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas explained that his government would henceforth refer to “the atrocities” of that period “as what they were from today’s perspective: genocide”.

The German authorities began to acknowledge Germany’s responsibility for those massacres in the 1990s. Later, in 2004, they apologised. In 2016 they admitted, albeit indirectly, that colonial troops had committed genocide.

The statement explains that the open admission comes after five years of negotiations between the German and Namibian governments.

The compensation fund will be for “reconstruction and development.” “Genocide-affected communities” will have a “crucial role” in its definition and implementation, the statement continues.

Namibia’s chief negotiator, Zed Ngavirue, has welcomed the agreement. But several Namibian leaders and organisations, as well as Namibia’s opposition parties, regard the compensation fund as insufficient. Some of these voices denounce the fund as not even a fully-fledged “reparation.”