Monday, September 29, 2008

German Death Camp in Namibia

Warning: Some of the information in this blog is shocking and disturbing.

I saw a very powerful Black History presentation on Saturday at the Imperial War Museum. Tony Warner of 100 Black Men of London presented this audio visual history of Black people who had served their countries in the armed forces, including the two World Wars.

If you have ever been to any of Brother Tony’s presentations, you know they are very good. Highly informative. But he doesn’t just hit you with the facts, although he gives loads of factual information. He also puts it into context.

So usually, when we think of Black people coming from the Caribbean in the 1950s, we think of them finding it hard to find anywhere to live, and experiencing racism at work. We have heard this same story many times before. But Brother Tony contextualised it by saying that many of these people had served in the armed forces. He showed a TV discussion where ex-servicemen and women in the studio spoke of their experiences.

They thought they would be welcomed when they came to Britain. I still find it very hard to get my head around this. After all, they had experienced racism in the armed forces and even in the Caribbean. But for some reason, they thought things would be different when they arrived here.

Anyway, it was an excellent presentation, as we have come to expect from Brother Tony. He also showed film of people in Africa fighting for Germany, France and Britain in the two Word Wars. Again, I find it difficult to comprehend why they did so, when they were treated so appallingly by the European powers. I understand that in Kenya, the British told the Kenyan people they were fighting for their own country. So I suppose they expected that, after the war, they would be treated better. See also:

Kenya’s Colonial Past

One thing I did not know was that the first death camp the Germans built was in Africa – in Namibia in the early 20th century, just over 100 years ago. First, the Germans committed a genocide against the Herrera people, wiping out 75% of their population. Then, they built a death camp on a remote island named Shark Island. They shipped the Nama people to Shark Island in cattle cars. In other words, they tried out many of the methods which were later used against the Jews under the Nazi regime.

But these practices were carried out by the German government long before the Nazis came into existence. Hitler was not involved, he came along much later.

Brother Tony showed photographs of Shark Island which showed men, women and children living there in shacks, in slum conditions.

50% of the Nama people were killed at Shark Island. The surviving Nama and Herrera people were sold into slavery to German settlers.

Probably the most disturbing thing for me was that Brother Tony showed photographs of severed heads – on Shark Island, people were decapitated and their heads were studied to try to prove that African people were inferior to Europeans. In point of fact, they sought to prove that African people were animals.

Brother Tony Warner will be a guest on my Success Strategies radio show at some point during October (Black History Month UK), talking about Black British and European history. This will be one of several programmes I will be doing for BHM (African Heritage Month). I hope you will join us. To tune in, visit:

To find out more about his work and his Black history walks, visit:

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