Drawing parallels

2011-01-05 00:00

IS there a connection between the genocide perpetrated on the Herero and Nama people of South West Africa (Namibia) by the German colonial regime a century ago, and the Holocaust inflicted upon the Jews, Slavs and Roma of eastern Europe of the 1940s by the Nazis? There is no direct causal link, but Olusoga and Erichsen document influences and para­llels in this well­-written book. In a sense, the one was a dress rehearsal for the other.

Both were driven by similar ideology based on an obsession with space (Lebens­raum) for an exploding population. This was coupled with an anti-modernist suspicion of urbanisation and a reverence for the soil. Both can be seen as an attempt to recreate a vanished rural (volkisch) past. The ruthless seizure of other people’s land was justified by scientific theories of racial supremacy.

In Namibia both the military and the civilian administration supported by the settler community were complicit in a war of extermination and displacement continued by cleansing patrols. Those who survived were rounded up and interned in concentration camps designed for forced labour, such as Shark Island at Lüderitz. And scientists, attempting to prove their race-based theories, worked on the remains of the exterminated. This was a chilling intimation of events to come. Some colonial bureaucrats and soldiers did indeed join the Freikorps and then the Nazis. They exploited resentment about lost colonies to the extent of constructing a largely fictitious role for Hermann Göring’s father.

A comprehensive report on the genocide was written by Thomas O’Reilly in 1918 on behalf of the South African government and published as a blue book, but copies were withdrawn and destroyed in the 1920s in the interests of settler unity. Evidence of the extermination is still being yielded by the desert sands.

This is an impressive piece of research marred by the lack of the map listed on the contents page; and some sweeping, unqualified generalisations about the history of colonisation. Not all of it was of geno­cidal intent, nor effect.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.