Germany’s Genocide of the Herero

Posted on April 20, 2011. Filed under: Events |

Lots of exciting events coming up!  Yesterday I posted the invitation to a Dialogue hosted by the SA Reconciliation Barometer on 4 May on Employment Equity: Ticking Boxes or True Transformation?

Then, on 5 May the IJR hosts a discussion with Professor Jeremy Sarkin on his new book, Germany’s Genocide of the Herero: Kaiser Wilhelm II, His General, His Settlers, His Soldiers. The book is available in Southern Africa through Juta/UCT Press (published elsewhere by James Currey, an imprint of Boydell).

The discussion takes place from 14h40 to 16h00 – come visit us in Wynberg and see where the magic happens! (click here for our location) Please RSVP to Paulos Eshetu on peshetu -at- or on (021) 763-7128.

About Professor Sarkin

In addition to being an IJR Board Member, Professor Sarkin is Chairperson-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. He is an attorney of the High Court of South Africa and the State of New York, and holds degrees from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Harvard Law School. From 2008-2009, he was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Hofstra University, New York, and is an Extraordinary Professor at the University of South Africa (UNISA).

About the book (from UCT Press):

‘In 1904, the indigenous Herero people of German South West Africa (now Namibia) rebelled against their German occupiers. In the following four years, the German army retaliated, killing between 60,000 and 100,000 Herero people, one of the worst atrocities ever.  The history of the Herero genocide bears not only on transitional justice issues throughout Africa, but also on legal issues elsewhere in the world where reparations for colonial injustices have been called for.

‘This book explores the events within the context of German South West Africa (GSWA) as the only German colony where settlement was actually attempted. The study contends that the genocide was not the work of one rogue general or the practices of the military, but that it was inexorably propelled by Germany’s national goals at the time. The book will argue that the Herero genocide was linked to Germany’s late entry into the colonial race, which led it to acquire multiple colonies all over the world frenetically within a very short period, using any means available, including ruthlessness.’

‘The seminal influence of the German view of race, racial identity and racial superiority on the unfolding events cannot be overlooked. This book shows how the Germans, in their attempts to confirm their belief that their race was superior, were preoccupied with race identification and the origins of races. It also examines the Kaiser’s role. This study recounts the reasons why the Kaiser likely issued the order and why proof of this has not emerged before now. The book reveals his history of violence and the ordering of brutal actions, even against his own citizens.’

‘Questions relating to human rights are very much in the news, yet genocides in Africa are understudied,  especially those that occurred during colonial times. The history of the Herero genocide has been examined by very few writers and almost no-one in Africa. Sarkin’s book deals with the issues from an entirely different point of view and proposes new understandings from an alternative position. It provides a lot of new information not previously dealt with in the little literature there is on the subject.’


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This book in available in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe from University of Cape Town Press/Juta. In the rest of the world, the publisher is James Currey, an imprint of Boydell & Brewer.

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