German evangelical church apologises for role in Namibian genocide

The German evangelical church has issued an apology for its role in Namibian genocide at the start of the 20th century.

Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber, vice president of the Evangelical Church in Germany, said the move was long overdue. She pointed to priests being closely linked to troops that carried out the mass killings, considered the first genocide of the 20th century.

Herero prisoners of war, guarded by German soldiers, around the time of the genocide.Wikipedia

'Although no priest there called directly for annihilation, the relationship to colonial settlers and troops was so close there was no way they could have stood up to atrocities,' she told the Deutsche Welle news site.

'That's why we can only ask for forgiveness.'

Her intervention comes before the Lutheran World Federation holds its conference in Windhoek, the capital of Nambia, in May.

She admitted it had taken 'some convincing' to pursuade church leaders to issue the apology and said attempts at reconciliation and improved relations would continue.

But she ruled out the German church paying any reparations for its role because, she said, there is no historical evidence of culpability.

'If we were to consider reparations, it would make the honest reappraisal [of history] even more difficult,' she told Deutsche Welle.

Between 1904 and 1907 the German army in German South West Africa, now Namibia, oversaw the deaths of tens of thousands from the Herero and Nama tribes. It began in January 1904 when the Herero people rebelled against colonial rule and in retaliation were driven into the Namib Desert where most of them died of dehydration.

Later in Octoer the Nama people also rebelled only to suffer the same fate with the German army blocking them from leaving the desert.

The next faze of the genocide saw thousands of both Herero and Nama people imprisoned in concentration camps where the majority died of disease and exhaustion.

The killings were recognised by the United Nations in 1085 as an attempt to exterminate the Herero and Nama people groups and so were the first genocide of the 20th century. Between 24,000 and 100,000 Herero people are thought to have died and around 10,000 Nama.

Representatives from both people groups have filed law suits against the German government, demanding compensation after Berlin repeatedly refused to pay reparations.