Namibia to reclaim Herero skulls

2011-09-25 21:48

Windhoek - A Namibian delegation left for Germany Sunday to reclaim about 20 human skulls used by colonial-era scientists who sought to prove the racial superiority of whites over blacks.

Namibia's Herero ethnic group, incensed by German settlers stealing their land, cattle and women, launched an uprising against their colonial rulers in January 1904.

Around 300 skulls were taken from the Herero and ethnic Nama who died in German-run prison camps over the four-year conflict, according to some estimates. Many are still stored at the Medical History Museum at the Charite teaching hospital in Berlin.

"We are finally bringing our ancestors and heroes back home," Herero Chief Kuiama Riruako told AFP before departing for the airport.

"We will perform traditional rites as we arrive on German soil on Monday morning and when we receive the skulls," he said.

In 2008, Namibia's former ambassador to Germany, Peter Katjavivi, said getting the skulls back was "a question of regaining our dignity" for the southern African nation.

Namibia's embassy in Berlin plans to hold a memorial on Thursday, led by the head of the Church of Namibia, Bishop Zephania Kameeta. The official handover is set for Friday at the Charite hospital.

"For us it means the return of our relatives, grandmothers and great-grandfathers," Ida Hoffmann, a member of a technical committee preparing the trip, said.


Also in the delegation is Chief Alfons Maharero, a direct descendant of Samuel Maharero, the Herero chief who led the 1904 uprising.

The delegation plans to bring the skulls back home on October 4, and hold a memorial in Windhoek the following day.

In the days after launching their uprising 107 years ago, Herero warriors massacred about 200 German civilians and were quickly met with a ruthless response from the German forces.

General Lothar von Trotha, who was under the direct command of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Berlin, later issued a notorious "extermination order".

The figures for the total Herero population alive at the time range from 50 000 to 80 000.

It is estimated that tens of thousands were butchered, with only some 15 000 surviving when the campaign ended in 1907. Many historians called the killings the first genocide of the 20th century.

  • Mzungu - 2011-09-26 08:53


  • Barry M - 2011-09-26 09:46

    They are only bones - what is all the fuss after all these years? I just don't get it!

      CTScientist - 2011-09-26 12:14

      It is a heritage issue.. seems pretty clear to me why it would be so important.

  • Badballie - 2011-09-26 11:21

    why add the "20 human skulls used by colonial-era scientists who sought to prove the racial superiority of whites over blacks" comment at all unless you re looking to start a heated debate on their scientific findings and the conclusions that can be drawn from the findings, don't you think there is enough problems in the world already without bringing up facts which prove major differences between the white and black races, and yes they are different races.

      CTScientist - 2011-09-26 12:15

      They're not different races. Scientific interpretation has moved on from that colonial and outdated view. This was probably the point of the quote you highlighted. :P

  • KarooOstrich - 2011-09-26 11:40

    Let them be! Let them have their traditions, they're not harming anybody else. At least they seem to have a government with it's head screwed on the right way. A government that is not at forefront of corruption + theft like ours.

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