Ger­many re­turns colo­nial-era re­mains to Namib­ians

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - KIRSTEN GRIESHABER

BER­LIN — A Namib­ian del­e­ga­tion on Wed­nes­day took pos­ses­sion of the re­mains of 27 coun­try­men whose bones were taken by Ger­man colo­nial forces more than a cen­tury ago for pseu­do­sci­en­tific racial ex­per­i­ments.

At a church cer­e­mony in Ber­lin, two skulls in glass boxes along with a cof­fin cov­ered with a Namib­ian flag were placed in front of the al­tar ahead of the han­dover.

The repa­tri­a­tion of the re­mains is a re­minder of Ger­many’s short-lived past as a colo­nial power in Africa which in­cluded the bloody sup­pres­sion of a Herero and Nama up­ris­ing be­tween 1904 and 1908 that left tens of thou­sands dead.

“We in­tend to do some­thing to­day we should have done many years ago, namely to give back mor­tal hu­man re­mains of peo­ple who be­came the first vic­tims of the first geno­cide of the 20th cen­tury,” Ger­man Lutheran Bishop Pe­tra Bosse-Hu­ber said.

Ger­many is re­turn­ing 19 skulls, five full skele­tons and bone and skin frag­ments that were stored in hos­pi­tals, mu­se­ums and uni­ver­si­ties for decades.

In the early 20th cen­tury, Ger­man sci­en­tists tried to prove the “racial su­pe­ri­or­ity” of white Euro­peans over black Africans by, for ex­am­ple, an­a­lyz­ing the fa­cial fea­tures of the skulls.

“These skulls tell the story of bru­tal, god­less colo­nial past and its con­sec­u­tive sup­pres­sion of the Namib­ian peo­ple. They say, ‘Never again!’” Lutheran Bishop Ernst Gamx­a­mub from Namibia said dur­ing his ser­mon.

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