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Wiener Library visit concludes UK programme of Herero and Nama delegation

On Friday 10 July 2015 the Wiener Library welcomed a delegation from Herero and Nama dignitaries and professionals who are working today to promote commemoration and documentation of the Herero and Nama genocide. The visit concluded a wider programme of events and discussions marking the centenary of the end of German colonial rule in South-West Africa, a territory that is now Namibia. In 1904 the German colonial authorities responded to revolt, first by the Herero and later by the Nama, with extreme aggression and violence. As a result tens of thousands of Herero and Nama were killed, under the authority of an order issued by General Lothar von Trotha, which threatened that the colonial forces ‘would spare neither women nor children’. To this day the impact of the genocide is still palpable among the Herero and Nama communities, and many outstanding issues remain unresolved, including the question of how best to preserve the oral tradition that has passed between generations over the past hundred years. 

The UK delegation visitor programme began with a ceremonial reading from the Blue Book, a record of the genocide compiled by the British in 1918 as a way of justifying the removal of colonial possessions from Germany after the First World War. This book is now one of the key pieces of written documentation of the history of the genocide, and in fact it was almost destroyed by the British government in the 1920s as a means of re-establishing friendly relations with Germany. A moving passage from the book was read out by Lord David Steel in the IPU Room off Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament in the presence of the current Chief of the Herero people. The meeting was jointly facilitated by the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, UK Branch.

At the Wiener Library, the delegation learned about the history of the Wiener collection and the group were shown key historical items, including the early bulletins put together by Alfred Wiener and his colleagues in the Jewish Central Information Office during the Second World War. The Library and the delegation recognised areas where knowledge and expertise could fruitfully be shared in order to do more to preserve the history and memory of the Herero and Nama genocide. In recent weeks the President of the German Parliament (Bundestag) recognised that the events of 1904 constituted a genocide as ‘measured by today’s standards of international law’. For the Herero and Nama descendants of victims of the genocide this represents a major step forward. The Wiener Library looks forward to supporting further efforts to promote commemoration and education about the history of the Herero and Nama genocide in the future.

 

Added: Tuesday 14th July, 2015