Germany Begins to Apologize for a Different Genocide

Historians think slaughter in Africa was the first genocide of 20th century
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2017 5:00 AM CDT
Updated Aug 19, 2017 6:45 AM CDT
Germany Begins to Apologize for a Different Genocide
This 1981 photo shows women of the Herero tribe in Windhoek.   (AP Photo/JJ,file)

In 1907, Germans cut the head off a man in Africa and sent it, with hundreds of others, to Germany as part of research to establish white superiority. The man, Cornelius Fredericks, was a legendary Nama fighter who'd led a rebellion against occupying German forces in Namibia, and he was killed at a concentration camp on Shark Island—along with thousands of others. Historians call it the first genocide of the 20th century, one that claimed at least 60,000 and wiped or forced out 80% of the Herero and 50% of the Nama, reports the Wall Street Journal. Now, Namibia wants official recognition of genocide, a formal apology, and reparations. After a year of negotiating, Berlin says it will agree to the first two and even pay some compensation, but the details are still being ironed out.

Meanwhile, the world watches "very closely," says Germany's ambassador to Namibia. Nations such as Belgium, France, and Britain have expressed sorrow or regret over colonial abuses, assassinations, and slave trades, but have not formally apologized or offered reparations. President Obama also fell short of apologizing when he visited Hiroshima last year to pay homage to the victims of the atomic bomb. Japan, for its part, apologized and paid $9 million in 2015 to surviving South Korean "comfort women" who were enslaved by the Japanese military. How Germany handles its slaughter of Africans more than 100 years ago could set an example to other governments facing similarly dark pasts. Click for the full story, in which Germany says it admits to genocide in a "historical" context, not a legal one, because it didn't exist as an international crime at the time. (Read more genocide stories.)

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