A Namibian delegation on August 29 took ownership of the remains of 27 nationalists whose bones were taken by German colonial forces over a century back for unscientific racial trials.
At a church ritual in Berlin, two craniums in glass boxes together with a coffin boasting of a Namibian flag were located facing the altar prior to the handover.
The homecoming of the dead remains is a aide memoire of Germany’s brief past as a colonial influence in Africa that comprised the bloody control of a Herero and Nama rebellion between 1904 and 1908, which resulted in tens of thousands deaths.
German Lutheran Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber told the fully packed church, “We intend to do something today we should have done many years ago, namely to give back mortal human remains of people who became the first victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.”
Germany is giving back 19 skulls, 5 full carcasses and bone and skin portions, which were kept in hospitals, depositories and universities for many years.
During the early 20th century, German researchers attempted to show the “racial advantage” of white Europeans over Black Africans by, for example, examining the facial characteristics of the heads, well prior to Nazi-era researchers carried out related experiments on Jews and others.
During his lecture, Lutheran Bishop Ernst Gamxamub from Namibia state, “These skulls tell the story of brutal, godless colonial past and its consecutive suppression of the Namibian people. They say, ‘Never again!”.
It was the third time Germany has returned human remains to Namibia. In 2011, 20 skulls were handed over from Berlin’s Charite Hospital. In 2014, both Charite and the University of Freiburg gave back 32 skulls and skeletons.
In the year 2004, then-Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul visited Namibia and offered Germany’s first admission of guilt for the slaughter that she said was “what at the moment would be called as genocide.”
Hannah Weber is a seasoned journalist with nearly 10 years experience. While studying journalism at FernUniversität Hagen, Hannah found a passion for finding engaging stories. As a contributor to Deutch News, Hannah mostly covers human interest pieces.