AKA: Namibian Genocide
Genre: Historical Documentary
Year Released: 2004
Running Time: 58 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 15+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Hate Crimes In the Heartland, Hidden Colors series, Nanking, Before They Die!, Race War
-There will be controversial content involving racism, colonialism, and genocides mentioned. Reader be warned.
-This documentary was filmed and released on what would’ve been the 100th anniversary of the Namibian victims. Never forget.
-The Namibian Genocide documentary is the directorial debut of David Olusoga. He’s a Nigerian/British film director born in Lagos, but based in Newcastle who would eventually be involved in films such as A House Through Time, Fighting For King and Empire, and Black and British: A Forgotten History.
-Long after this documentary was filmed, the Namibian government and some citizens who descended from the survivors of that genocide have been suing the German government and there’s legislation being passed at the moment where there will be a land reclamation without compensation similar to what South Africa is doing. Also…NO! There is NO WHITE GENOCIDE GOING ON THERE!
You all should know by now that I tend to review controversial films and series more often than not. Whether it involves controversial opinions or reviewing movies with controversial content, I certainly have made my thoughts known about so many things. I’ve covered film plagiarism controversies, political implications that can be unsavory, and even some films with mature content on this blog. Ever since I did my own research and learning about things involving Africa, I found out this year that the country of Namibia had suffered immense injustices by their German colonizers. That was something I never learned about in school.
What? You thought I decided to look up things about Namibia just because of Looking for Nelao? You’d be wrong even though I still like that short film, but that’s besides the point.
The Namibian Genocide and the Second Reich documentary looks at the atrocities that happened in this Southern African nation. Namibia was colonized by Germany no thanks to the Berlin conference where several European nations took part in the nefarious Scramble for Africa. Germany got this piece of land and saw it as a solution to avoid overpopulation in cities like Berlin which were way too crowded. They claimed this country and called it German South West Africa (how original) and they encroached upon the territory of some of the tribes, namely the Herero and the Namaqua. These tribes were attacked and raped by these colonizers, so they defended themselves by killing some of them in retaliation. The Germans freaked out so they called for an all out extermination on the Namibians through guns, cannons, mass starvation, and concentration camps which would cause the first genocide of the twentieth century during 1904 to 1907.
Being immersed in this blood-soaked history by watching this documentary caused so much rage in me even when I felt like I learned something that I wish I knew earlier in my life. The research involved was great with people knowing what they were talking about, various pictures involved, and even talking to some of the descendants of the survivors of that horrific event. The usage of interviews, archived footage, B-roll footage of the country, and the occasional re-enactments going on certainly worked to illustrate the horrors that happened in that African country. Hearing about what went down made me sick at times, so this documentary isn’t for the faint of heart.
This documentary excelled in it’s unfettered approach in mentioning the brutality while also connecting obvious historical events together that makes this event even more horrifying in hindsight (more on that later). It was just sick what the German troops did to the Namaqua and Herero tribes. The gang rapes would be some of the more tame things they did before they would starve them out in these camps. They would even do experiments on the Namibians while also beheading them and shipping them off back to Germany for scientific purposes. My body shook seeing some of the carnage that was documented. I would bet you money if the situation was reversed where Namibia tried to colonize Germany and did the same things to that country, then WWI would’ve happened a decade earlier and everyone would know about it in history books worldwide. Watching the scenes with Shark Island (one of the most brutal concentration camps set up in the country at the time) gave me chills with all the starved bodies and skeletal remains as they were isolated from society as punishment. It was hard watching that part of the documentary and thinking that Disney may have gotten inspiration for the Elephant Graveyard in The Lion King. I’ve been believing that the hyenas were made to be proxies for minorities, so the creators and fans of that movie could imagine it as a metaphor for Africans being punished at all costs no matter what. Come on, that movie has so many G-rated anti-Black undertones like many mainstream films out there and if you’re more offended by me pointing out these racist implications of that movie than that picture of the severed head of a victim from Shark Island as seen above, then something’s wrong with you (no, hiring Black actors to play some of the protagonists as well isn’t carte blanche, a rhetorical dodge or lip service to do racist crap, GOT IT?!). Besides the horrifying imagery and actions done, there was one painfully obvious connection that multiple historians and educators pointed out. The Namibian genocide is the prototype for the Holocaust. No, this isn’t just because the Germans were the perpetrators. It’s pointed out that one of the doctors Eugen Fisher would join the Nazi party and taught von Verschuer who had a very certain student named Josef Mengele. What adds even more weight to this connection is one of the military personnel General Franz Ritter von Epp. He was responsible for butchering the Namibians and after his tour of the former German South West Africa, he employed a lower-ranking soldier by the name of (I’m not making this up) Adolf Hitler. Not only that, but Hitler himself said that von Epp helped “give him his voice” and there’s even footage of von Epp right next to that dictator once he rose to power. I dare anyone to argue with me by saying that there were no connections between the atrocities committed between the Second and Third Reich respectively. It’s infuriating that Germany has never paid reparations to the Namibians and I’m glad that African nation is trying to right that wrong.
The Namibian Genocide documentary was very informative, but I wasn’t willing to give it a full 10/10 like other films though. I thought there was an imbalance of those being interviewed. I wished there were more Namibians who should’ve been interviewed. It would’ve added so much more gravitas to the information and everything going on. I also thought the director and some of the interviewees should’ve went harder on the perpetrators of this horrific event. The Second Reich committed the first genocide of the century and some of the interviewees weren’t outraged enough. If the races were reversed, I would guarantee there would’ve been more anger going on. Normally, I would’ve complained about the content being too graphic, but for me, I didn’t think they went far enough. Showing all of the cruel events that unfolded would be needed shock therapy to the viewer to show them uncomfortable truths. Granted, there are instances of graphic content like the mangled bodies, severed heads, and nudity, but I wished they would’ve went in more often to show the whole truth.
The Namibian Genocide and the Second Reich is a gut check of history that people need to see. The level of research was well-done and I do give props to the people and director for showing all of the brutality that happened in the early twentieth century. This is not a documentary for those who can’t handle graphic content especially with history that certain people wouldn’t like or feel comfortable about knowing. I do wish there was more of a Namibian perspective besides having three people from that country talking. It’s still a documentary that I recommend watching.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like historical documentaries.
Subtract 2-4 points if White-on-Black genocides make you really uncomfortable.
-Good production values
-Impeccable connections between numerous historical events
-Not enough Black Namibian interviewees
-Some elements were restrained
-A bit too short
Final Score: 8/10 points
Content Warning: The Namibian Genocide and the Second Reich is something better suited for older teens and up. There are some harsh truths such as the deaths of thousands of Namibians going on as they died in barbaric ways. The women were raped and coerced into sex slavery even though the Germans lied about being raped by Namibian men. The imagery is horrific with severed heads, severed limbs, and a wasteland filled with skeletons in Shark Island. What makes the latter the most horrifying was that it was disguised as an aquatic destination decades after the fact until the tides brought the bones up to the surface. Denial is the last step of genocides and that was a callous example. There’s also nudity in brief spots.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. The Namibian Genocide and the Second Reich is property of David Olusoga and BBC Bristol. The picture is from ResearchGate.