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The Undefeated - Nama In Botswana (PART 6)

In the aftermath of the September 1907 killing of Morenga, by British forces, Simon Kooper stood virtually alone in his continued armed resistance. He, nonetheless, continued to ambush the Germans inside Namibia, while playing cat and mouse with British forces seeking to confront him in Bechuanaland.

In response additional German troops were dispatched to the area along what is now Botswana’s south-western border with Namibia in the hope of forcing a decisive showdown.

On March 3, 1908 a six-man German patrol was wiped out by Kooper’s men just inside Namibia. With British permission a German expeditionary force of 520 troops, including 23 officers, mounted with support staff on 710 camels, as well as additional oxen, horse and mules, then crossed the border in hot pursuit, further supported by a supply column.

In March 15, the Nama spotted the German force approaching their principal camp at Seatsub pan. Initial reports suggested that the enemy unit was small patrol rather than the main invasion force. Due to this misinformation, Kooper rode out in search of the main enemy force.

As a result it was the Nama who remained behind who initially came under machine gun fire from the main body of the Germans. From behind their barricades and trenches the Nama returned fire, killing the German commander Friedrick von Erckert in the opening fusillade. The defenders then withstood a bayonet charge but, fearing ultimate encirclement fell back after two and half hours of fighting.

German losses were 11 dead and 19 wounded, while 58 Nama corpses, including woman, were discovered. Although tombstones of the fallen Germans are located at a war cemetery at Gochas, Namibia, the remains of at least some are said to still be buried in the sands of Botswana.

Running out of water, the expedition’s new commander, Captain Gruner, decided not to pursue the Nama further.

The battle was the last major encounter of the war. With the failure of the expedition, the Germans agreed to support British efforts to get Kooper’s people to accept a ceasefire and permanent refuge inside the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

In 1909 Kooper finally signed a treaty with the British agreeing to settle his followers at Lokgwabe. They were also granted additional land rights in the then Kgalagadi Crown lands as well as some “compensation” from the Germans in return for their promise to refrain from crossing the border.

Cooper was buried at Kaarltwe pan in January 1913.

Besides being an immense human tragedy the Namibian genocide was a direct antecedent to the subsequent Nazi atrocities in Europe. In both cases we find the systematic mass killing by industrial means of designated population groups based on racial theory.

This process coincided with the use of German words that

would become notorious under the Third Reich, including ‘Konzentrationslager’ (Concentration Camp) and ‘Vernichtungs-befehl’ (Extermination Order) and ‘Volkstod’ (National Death/Genocide). Equally disturbing were ‘academic’ words that are also associated with the conflict, including ‘Rassenreinhiet’ (Racial Purity), ‘Rassenmischung’ (Race Mixing or Miscegenation), ‘Rassenschande’ (Racial Shame) and ‘Rasenhygiene’ (Racial Hygiene), as well as ‘Erbgesunden’ (Genetically Healthy).

There are individuals as well as words that link the Nazi mass murder of those who were conceived to be threats to the ‘racial hygiene’ of the so-called Aryan Master Race (‘Ubermensch’/’Herrenvolk’) and the earlier extermination of indigenous and mixed race Namibians as ‘Sub-humans’ (‘Untermensch’).

One such figure Dr. Eugene Fischer (1874-1967), who became the leading proponent of Nazi ‘Race Science’ in his capacity as the Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics. The professor’s protégés included a long list of war criminals such as Dr. Josef Mengele. To quote from another, who was one of some two dozen anthologists who carried out research on Nama, Ovaherero and ‘Bushmen’ prisoners and corpse at German Concentration Camps in Namibia between 1904 and 1908: “I could make use of the victims of the war and take parts from fresh native corpses, which made a welcome addition to the study of the living body. Imprisoned Hottentots were often available to me.”

Fischer himself was the recipient of not less than 778 severed human heads sourced from Shark Island Concentration Camp. In 1908 he further travelled to Namibia to conduct onsite field research in camps. He also studied the offspring of German or Boer fathers and African women in the colony.

The latter work resulted in 1913 study on “The Problem of Miscegenation among Humans”, which purported to provide scientific proof that the offspring of race mixing would be of a lowered genetic standard and should thus be eradicated. Its findings were cited as justification for the passage of a law prohibiting interracial marriage throughout Germany’s colonial empire.

Fischer’s work was subsequently embraced by Adolph Hitler, who was obsessed with another publication co-authored by Fischer ‘The Principles of Human Heredity and Race Hygiene’.

Under Hitler, Fischer’s played a leading role in the systematic forced sterilisation of Germany’s Euro-African population during the 1930s, alongside the mentally and physically disabled. Like most of his so-called academic colleagues, he was never punished for any of his crimes.

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