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Dublin: 18°C Wednesday 16 June 2021

Germany returns Namibian skulls a century after colonial genocide

Descendants call for compensation as 20 skulls are returned to Namibia.

Representatives of Namibian tribes at a service in Berlin.
Representatives of Namibian tribes at a service in Berlin.
Image: AP Photo/Michael Sohn/PA Images

THE SKULLS OF 20 Namibians have been returned to the country from Germany, where they were sent for experiments in the early 20th century.

Hundreds of Namibians turned out today to welcome the returned remains. The Namibian government first called for the repatriation of the skulls in 2008.

Namibia’s Prime Minister Nahas Angula said that the skulls bear “testimony to the horrors of colonialism and German cruelty”, but added that Namibia “accepts these mortal remains as a symbolic closure of a tragic chapter”.

However, some are more uneasy with that ‘closure’ and have called for reparations for what has been termed the first genocide of the last century, in which historians say German troops killed and starved around 60,000 of the Herero people in then-German South West Africa (now Namibia) between 1904 and 1907.

The deaths occurred during a rebellion against German rule and were classified as genocide in the UN’s Whitaker Report on Genocide in 1985.

In 2004, Germany apologised to Namibia for the first time for the deaths, but ruled out providing financial compensation to victims’ relatives, saying that international rules on protecting combatants and civilians were not in existence at the time.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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