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‘Book of condolence in the memory of victims of German genocide in Namibia, 1904-1908’ – extracts

To mark the occasion of the restitution by the Berlin Charité Hospital of the first 20 mortal remains of Namibian victims of the German genocide, the German NGO Coalition presented the Namibian delegation with a Book of Condolences, in which people from all over the world commemorated the dead. The book is still online and open for condolence messages. In the following, we have put together a representative selection of these messages.

Picture Credit: John Macdougall / AFP - Getty Images.
Members of the Namibian delegation kneeling in front of the Charite University Hospital in Berlin on Sept. 30.

In memory of all the people who had to suffer and to die! 
The least we can do is remember the victims and respect their descendants. Now politics must live up to its historical responsibility!
Patrick Siegele
5 August 2011

Why does the commemoration of German colonial history on German television mainly reproduce shallow colonial stereotypes of Africans in Namibia? Why must we fight to remember the victims while memories of the perpetrators are so easily kept alive? There is still much to do.
Dr Gesine Drews-Sylla
5 August 2011

These crimes by my people are unimaginably brutal. What did we do to ourselves to be capable of such atrocities? It’s a hidden wound that pulsates.
I am silent and I hope.
Sara Birschel
6 August 2011

The restitution of the mortal remains was long overdue. When will the Federal Republic of Germany at last officially acknowledge the fact that crimes were committed by Germans in colonial times? When will payments be made to the victims’ descendants?
Dr. Jürgen Martini
15 August 2011

Fellow Namibians, 

It is with the greatest admiration that I give my utmost respect to the victims of the Vernichtungsbefehl for their courage and tenacity against the German brutality, which took place between 1904-1908. I pay homage to all the victims of the German Nation's act of crimes against humanity in Namibia. 

Our struggle against colonialism in Namibia started with the Battle of Otjunda, Sturmfeld, in 1896 and concluded with the independence of Namibia on March 21, 1990. Many lives were lost and untold sacrifices were exacted from the Namibians between the years of 1896 and 1989. 

Although the United Nations has recognised the Ovaherero genocide, the community of nations has chosen to ignore the Ovaherero genocide in clear effort of appeasing Germany. 

The Ovaherero ‘shoah’, known as Otjitiro Otjindjandja in the Otjiherero language, should never, ever be forgotten. We, their offspring, owe it to those who perished, and we have the moral obligation to prevent this from happening. 

The extermination order, known as the Vernichtungsbefehl in German, specifically targeted the Ovaherero people. This action resulted in 81% of the Ovaherero, and 50% of the Nama people being wiped out. 

The memories of the Otjitiro Otjindjandja must be kept alive for future generations by building a museum in Namibia in which the skulls will be displayed. I applaud the nations of Israel, Rwanda, Armenia, Cambodia, and others, for their fortitude in building museums for the remembrance of the ‘shoah’ and genocide perpetrated against their people. 

We should not allow the skulls to be returned to Orumbo Rua Katjombondi, Swakopmund, known as Otjozondjii, for burial. The act of burying the skulls in Swakopmund will be the highest insult inflicted upon the Ovaherero people as this is the place where the Germans murdered our people. 

Our great grandmothers were forced to clean their husbands' and their children's skulls in the concentration camps of Swakopmund and at Shark Island, located on the coast of Luderitzbucht, before they were shipped to Germany. 

The German Nation must take full responsibility for its actions. There is no escaping and denying this. It is the only moral high ground to take. The Germans must ask their government to do the right thing, and negotiate with the aggrieved people of Namibia in good faith, and refrain from chicanery. 

Reparations must be front and centre in the negotiations. The afflicted community must be compensated for the robberies of their land and wealth they suffered. It is also morally the right thing to do for Germany to build a monument on the German soil dedicated to the Otjitiro Otjindjandja. This will forever remind future German generations of the heinous acts committed by their nation in order to avoid similar acts from being committed in the future. 

After having been subjected to the so-called scientific research in Germany, as the Germans were searching for justification of their Aryan nation superiority fallacy, we say, Brave Warriors, it's time to depart from the bondage and insults you have suffered in Germany for over one hundred years. 

You must now return home to your Land of the Brave, the land that we call ‘ehirakovakovere rozombua zakuzema’ in the Otjiherero language.

You will forever be in our hearts and minds. You will never be forgotten. You did not die in vain, and we anxiously await your arrival! 

Ngondi A. Kamatuka, PhD 
Lawrence, KS, USA 
16 August 2011

It is difficult to find fitting and comforting words, these anyway would not be able to alleviate the deep sadness we feel concerning the loss and the brutalities which occurred during the war of annihilation against the Herero, Nama and Damara. 
All we can do is empathise and keep those who passed away in our thoughts. Moreover, we should never stop demanding that Germany expresses its historical responsibility for the genocide in no uncertain terms. 
Yet today we do feel gratification concerning this important step that has been taken in the direction of justice. May those who have passed away rest in peace in Namibia. 
In remembrance, 
The Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD-Bund) e.V.
(Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland)
Management Committee: Hadija Haruna, Jonas Berhe, Sharon Otoo and Tahir Della
19 August 2011 

An important contribution to the reconstruction of our history. Traumatic experiences are carried over from generation to generation. In that sense, let us all work and heal together.
Maureen Maisha Eggers
22 August 2011 

It is in our troubles that we find unity. 
The Herero nation, whether we are Mbanderu, Herero, Himba, we stand united in this regard. 
It is this unity that fuels our accession to greater heights. We were wounded but now we stand tall and proud as a nation healed and free. 
Peace be with us! 
23 August 2011

Our connection to this genocide is more than personal, it places us within a lifeline that extends before and beyond us, it has held us together as a community, as a tribe, as a nation. 
With mixed feelings I say, finally our ancestors are coming home ... vee kusuva mohange! 
23 August 2011

To all German-speaking Namibians: it is about time you identify with the victims or else we are left with no option than to conclude that your silence is a clear sign that you endorse or agree with the attitude of the German government. 
Kuyaraara Katjepunda
23 August 2011

If one young person hears about your struggles and begins to learn, if one old person begins to think about the way they were raised, and if everybody begins to see the work still needed in the world and attempts to change it bit by bit, then you have not been forgotten. Rest in Peace. 
Lena Koelmel
7 September 2011

Our thoughts are with those twenty witnesses of the German genocide in Namibia from 1904 to 1908 who were kept, tortured and dehumanised.

We mourn for them as for the other countless victims of the German genocide and for all people – be it in Africa, Asia, Australia or America – who lost their life in a just struggle against colonial conquest, unscrupulous exploitation and racist degradation by white Europeans. 

We ask the German government to acknowledge Germany’s historical responsibility for colonialism that should be seen as a crime against humanity, and to enter into a constructive dialogue with the people not only of Namibia but of all former German colonies concerning symbolic and material reparations. 

We ask Germany’s Head of State to express his deepest regrets for the unspeakable acts of barbarism, committed by a nation whose members still dare to look down on others as ‘uncivilised’. 

We ask Germany’s museums and collections to make possible the repatriation of all other human remains that were deported, kept in bondage and abused. 

May these freedom fighters safely return home and at last rest in peace! 
Berlin Postkolonial e.V. 
Management Committee: Mboro Mnyaka Sururu, Corry Szantho von Radnoth, Marie Biloa Onana, Christian Kopp
19 August 2011 

In Remembrance 
of our Ancestors, 
in loving Respect 
for the Pain of our People 
in Namibia 
in Germany 
and in the global Diaspora, 
in Hope 
for a better future 
we return to the Past 
to create 
a common Memorial 
to strive on 
in Knowledge 
Rest in Peace.
AFROTAK TV cyberNomads – Black German Culture Media Education Archive
20 September 2011 

We remember and honour the thousands of victims of the German genocide from 1904 to 1908. Namibia under German colonial rule was characterised by exploitation, conquest and dispossession. The singular colonial crime of genocide must be accepted as a crime against humanity. 
Therefore, we demand from the German government an apology, acknowledgement as well as symbolic and material reparations. The necessary step for reconciliation and equal dialogue with Namibia is to assume responsibility for the past. 
SODI highlights the importance of the delegation’s duty to bring home the bones of twenty victims to their ancestors and we wish them a safe journey. 
Solidaritätsdienst-international e.V. (SODI)
21 September 2011 

AfricAvenir commemorates the deceased of the German genocide in Namibia from 1904 to 1908 during which tens of thousands of Namibians fell victim to colonial powers in their merciless war of destruction. 
We are left horrified and speechless by this crime against humanity. Our deepest sympathy is with the families and descendants of the bereaved and victims of this dreadful history. May the repatriation of these remains help them to finally find rest and peace and contribute to a long-term reconciliation process. 
We regard this act of the Charité Berlin as a sign of recognition of injustice and as a first step and indication of its wishes to come to terms with the past and to reappraise German-Namibian history.
We demand that Germany unmistakably admits its historical responsibility for the genocide, pays material compensation and implements immaterial reparations.
As fellow human beings and friends, we hereby support the Namibian delegation in their fight for justice. 
AfricAvenir Berlin Section 
21 September 2011 

What happened many moons back will remain in our memory. We acknowledge what the German government is doing in Namibia, but still it is not enough to silence us. We DEMAND the honourable German government repair the damage they caused this poor tribe. We lost lives, dignity and land, not to mention livestock. Otjisuta tjombindu jetu tjipi!!
Ehrenfried Kovahonge Shange Muraranganda
22 September 2011 

One can forgive, but one cannot forget and for one to forgive the other should come and ask to be forgiven...! 
The atrocities committed in 1904 against the Ovaherero people must not be forgotten and are unjustifiable! 
Let these bad memories be always remembered as it is part of our being and our common history. Let us be united for now and for generations to come. 
Stanley Kapuire
22 September 2011

How much longer is the world going to turn a blind eye to these atrocities committed against our people? How much longer is the German government going to ignore our plight and the subsequent reparations we are entitled to? In the face of this overwhelming evidence now is the time for Merkel to seriously apologise to the Namibian people! It is time to initiate efforts to negotiate the terms of reparation as the mortal remains of our ancestors assume their undignified repatriation to the land they gave their lives for! 
We shall not bury the remains and afford you the luxury of forgetting your part in this massacre! We shall not give up our call for a formal apology and suitable reparation! Although we would appreciate any help towards concluding this painful part of our history, we resolve to fight this battle by all means and will not wait for assistance from anyone! This is our fight and we will fight it! 
Clement Kaukuetu
22 September 2011

In memory of the victims of colonial violence – in particular the victims of a violent and racist scientific practice.
Larissa Förster
24 September 2011

The return of the human remains by the Charité is for us, the descendants, an important moral act. There is hope for a dialogue to reappraise our common history and to act responsibly to heal the wounds of history for a peaceful future. 
Rest in Peace. 
Christine Voigts (Namibia/Berlin-Charité), Duduzile Voigts-Mchunu, Biko Voigts-Mchunu
26 September 2011

With burning shame 
I pray to the ancient German goddess of justice 
guardian of our ancestors 
Guide us in our behaviour 
Change our attitude towards 
begging for forgiveness 
Guide us towards the transformation 
of these structures of utmost cruelty and warfare 
into a society of sustainable justice and peace 
Giving in to the claims for reparation 
Giving what needs to be done 
to restore respect and dignity 
for the common future of our children 
for our coming generations 
to live in harmony one day. 
May this long awaited return be blessed! 
May the future of your grandchildren be happy! 
Ivalu Hildmann
27 September 2011

I feel bad when I hear that story because I just wish that Namibian children could live like me. 
Lewis Otoo, 9 years old
27 September 2011 

The German government has started to pay off its debts. I am sorry for what happened to people in the past, and I wish that other former colonial countries of the Western world would also do the same. 
Tyrell Otoo, 12 years old
27 September 2011 

My children and I talked about what happened this morning – why are there skulls of Africans in a German hospital? The stories I told them are shameful and inhumane. It is almost impossible to imagine that a so-called civilised nation could carry out these acts of atrocity. Yet these crimes, and many more against humanity, have taken place time and again. It is important never to forget, to keep the memory of the resistance fighters alive and to keep pressuring the German government to finally recognise its responsibility: apologise deeply to the people of Namibia, pay reparations in recognition of the suffering of the Herero, Nama and Damara. 
Sharon Otoo, 38 years old
27 September 2011 

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