Germany is facing a court case in the U.S. and demands for reparations over a forgotten genocide in Africa that is seen as a precursor to the Holocaust.
Representatives of the Herero and Nama peoples have filed a class-action lawsuit to demand reparations for the systematic massacre of more than 100,000 of their forebears between 1904 and 1908.
The attempted extermination of Namibia’s Herero and Nama communities by German colonial troops is widely regarded as the first genocide of the 20th century. Tens of thousands of men, women and children were driven into the Namibian desert to die of starvation and dehydration. Others were sent to concentration camps where they died of disease and abuse. Many victims were beheaded and their skulls sent to Germany for scientific experiments. Up to 100,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama were killed.
In a landmark admission of historical guilt, Angela Merkel’s government last year announced for the first time that it would recognize the killings as genocide. Since the announcement last summer, Germany has been locked in talks with the Namibian government over a joint declaration. But it has steadfastly refused to pay any reparations, insisting it will contribute development aid to Namibia instead.
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Now, leaders of the Herero and Nama communities have filed a class-action suit in New York “on behalf of all Herero and Nama worldwide, seeking reparations and compensation for the genocide.”
The plaintiffs include Vekuii Rukoro, the Herero Paramount Chief, and David Frederick, his Nama counterpart. They also are demanding a place at the talks alongside the German and Namibian governments, and argue no settlement can be agreed on without their approval.
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