Friday, April 24, 2015

The Fallible Pope

 Pope Francis described the Armenian massacre by the Turks as "the first genocide of the 20th century." This was simply factually incorrect. That grim distinction belongs to the genocide that imperial Germany unleashed a decade earlier against the Herero and Nama, two ethnic groups who lived in the former colony of South West Africa, modern Namibia.

The Namibian genocide, prefigured the later horrors. The systematic extermination of around 80 percent of the Herero people and 50 percent of the Nama was the work both of German soldiers and colonial administrators; "banal, desk-bound killers." As they have been portrayed. The most reliable figures estimate 90,000 people were killed.

In the case of the Herero, an official, written order - the extermination order - was issued by the German commander, explicitly condemning the entire people to annihilation. After military attempts to bring this about had been thwarted, the liquidation of the surviving Herero, along with the Nama people, was continued in concentration camps, a term that was used at the time for the archipelago of facilities the Germans built across Namibia. Some of the victims of the Namibian genocide were transported to those camps in cattle trucks and the bodies of some of the victims were subjected to pseudoscientific racial examinations and dissections.

All of this is now well known, fully documented and widely accepted and the Pope should have acknowledged this. Germany's “forgotten genocide”, it seems, still remains forgotten in the Vatican. Crimes such as the Namibian genocide can no longer be ignored, whether by accident or design.

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