Namibians and Germans face their past

Bishop Dr Zephania Kameeta, Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare (left) and Professor Reinhart Kossler, author of Namibia and Germany: Negotiating the Past at the launch of the book.

The University of Namibia Press (UNAM Press), launched the book Namibia and Germany: Negotiating the Past, by Professor Reinhart Kossler, last week Wednesday, at the Independence Memorial Museum. The book deals with the 1904-1908 war and also with its ongoing legacy of pain and conflict.

Bishop DR Zephania Kameeta, Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare said at the launch that the book is not a history book and that Professor Kossler is not trying to prove what happened in the past. “What he has done is to examine and trace the development of attitudes towards what happened in the past, the attitudes of political parties and governments in Germany and Namibia, and of three particular communities in Namibia, the Germans, Namas and Otjihereros.”
Dr Kameeta added that the book is an offering to resolve the traumatized relationship between Namibia and Germany and that the author has confronted the country’s painful past in an honest and truthful way. Dr Kameeta emphasized that Professor Kossler gives respect and a voice to the descendants of the victims of the genocide and understands the reasons why they insist on an apology. “Professor Kossler also acknowledges that it is not only the victims of violence whose dignity and humanity have been denied, but those who committed inhuman acts have also forfeited their human dignity, both groups are in need of rehabilitation,” concluded Kameeta.
Professor Kossler explained that his book presents a scholarly analysis of Namibia Germany memory politics a hundred years after the end of German colonial rule but it is also an intervention into ongoing political debates and struggles. “At the centre of the book are the various controversial, contradictory and confrontational ways of dealing with the German colonial past in Namibia and in particular, the genocide perpetrated by the colonial army at that time,” said Prof. Kossler.
He compared conditions today with the history saying that for most Namibians, this is a painful past and for many it is a past that has shaped their lives in one way or other and continues to do so to this day, but in Germany, there is widespread ignorance about the country’s past as a colonial power. “However, to Germans who care, the colonial past is a dire past that needs to be addressed, to come to terms with the history of violence that has marked, with very specific reference to Germany, the first half of the twentieth century in unprecedented ways,” he concluded.
“A timely and profound contribution to a relationship that shaped our collective past and continues to shape our present and future. A wonderful exemplar of critical scholarship. In parts, disquieting. Throughout, morally engaging. A most illuminating read,” is what Professor Emeritus Andre du Pisani said about the book.