Degrees of evil? The power of the name

Degrees of evil? The power of the name

On 28 May 2021, Germany issued an apology for its slaughter of Herero and Nama peoples in Namibia more than a century ago and officially described the massacre as genocide for the first time (https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/germany-officially-calls-colonial-era-killings-namibia-genocide-2021-05-28/). And as a component of this, it agreed to fund projects worth a billion euros, to be used in ways that would benefit the genocide-affected communities. Namibia’s President Geingob welcomed the “historic” move, although Herero paramount chief Rukoro dismissed it as “an insult” because it did not include direct reparations. Continuing divisions and inequalities between different groups of people in the now-Namibia are at play in these responses, although that Germany has conceded that those events back then were indeed a genocide is a political step forward.

A small sideline to this is that an aspect of those terrible events has been revealed in Whites Writing Whiteness research on the Cecil Rhodes Papers, but perhaps not quite as present readers might expect (https://www.whiteswritingwhiteness.ed.ac.uk/collections/collections-portal/rhodes-papers-collection/). Reports are contained in these of shock and horror on the part of Chartered Company men who were in the German South-West territory (as they called it) about the massacres they had witnessed evidence of. Succinctly, the Germans are described as engaging in a deliberate policy of extermination, and there is appalled horror at this by the Company men.  Degrees of evil perhaps, but that there might well have been differences between the Chartered Company approach and that of the German military is important to remember.

And then there is the power of the name, a name that we researchers read on the page of some of these documents with dread. The administrator in charge of the territory what was happening was a certain Mr Heinrich Goring, father of Hermann Goring the henchman of Adolf Hitler in years to come and architect in chief of the final solution. Yes, a Goring was in charge of the Namibian genocide. The final solution exerted on the Herero and Nama is in a dishonourable lineage, a lineage including the final solution for Jews, Roma and many other peoples deemed less than fully human. What a father, what a son.

There is power in the word genocide; there is also power in the name, the name of evil, the name of Goring.

Last updated:  29 May 2021


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