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Germans Stop Revolt In SW Africa - History

Germans Stop Revolt In SW Africa - History

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On January 11th, a revolt by native Africans was initiated against German Settlement in South West Africa. The revolt was led by the Herero tribe. The natives were initially successful, overrunning several German settlements. They killed over 100 German settlers (only two were women or children). The Germans ruthlessly put down the revolt and within a few years, the Herero population had been cut to 20,000 from an original 80,000 persons.

Herero people of South West Africa, now Namibia, begin uprising

Present-day Namibia was once a part of the imperial German empire. As was common during the scramble for Africa in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the territory was claimed and occupied by an expansionist European power, in this case, Germany. Their rule was oppressive and the indigenous cultures were gradually being destroyed. A rebellion by Herero people in Namibia broke out in January 1904 and continued until 31 March 1907. The Herero people had possibly migrated earlier from further north in Africa to settle in Namibia. Their freedom and culture became heavily restricted as German control grew and on 11 January 1904 the leader of the Herero, Samuel Maharero ordered the extermination of all White people excluding the English, Boers, Namas, Basters, Berg-Damaras and missionaries in the German protectorate. There is some contention regarding this order and some researchers believe that the Herero wrote a letter with these instructions after the revolt had already begun.

All preparations for the revolt were kept secret. On 12 January, several hundred mounted Herero invaded Okahandja. They killed 123 people, most of them German, and set buildings alight. The conflict rapidly escalated and Germans who had escaped several farm attacks flocked to urban areas for protection. By 14 January the violence had spread as far as Omarasa, north of the Waterberg, and the Waldau and Waterberg post offices were destroyed. The Waterberg military station was occupied by Herero and all soldiers under the command of Sergeant G. Rademacher were killed.

Maharero, the Herero leader, allowed missionaries with a small number of German women and children free passage to Okahandja. They reached their destination on 9 April 1904. On 16 January Gobabis was besieged and a German military company was ambushed near Otjiwarongo. The conflict continued but eventually, the Herero were overwhelmed. Governor T. Leutwein was prepared to negotiate a settlement, but his government was determined to suppress the revolt with arms. On 11 August the Herero resistance was crushed.

The Herero people were scattered and many of them died of starvation and thirst as they fled through the Omaheke desert. About 12 000 of the remaining Herero were forced to surrender and were placed in concentration camps where medical experiments, as well as daily executions, took place. 80% of the Herero population of Namibia was wiped out during the 1904 revolt. General Von Trotha, a seasoned African campaigner, had been sent to crush the resistance and he ordered that "Within the German borders every Herero, whether armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall not accept any more women or children. I shall drive them back to their people - otherwise, I shall order shots to be fired at them". He proceeded to poison watering holes. In a report published in London in 1918, January Cloete of Omaruru stated under oath that, when they defeated the Herero, German soldiers killed unarmed women and children. In 2016, the German government considered making a formal apology to the Herero, but the prospect of cash reparations remains an unlikely outcome.

Liebenberg, J. (2004). 'Namibia's dirty little secret revisited'|Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau.|Potgieter, D. J. (ed) (1972). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Vol.5, Cape Town: NASOU, pp. 493-4.|The Sunday Independent, 2 May, 2004.

Germans Stop Revolt In SW Africa - History

Although Germany never had the extensive colonial empires of England or France, it nevertheless was involved in a series of hard-fought campaigns against native forces which consisted of everything from skirmishes to outright wars. Perhaps not as colorful as some British and French military adventures, German colonial wars were every bit as hard fought.

Germany possessed four colonies in Africa: German East Africa (Tanzania), Togoland (Togo), Kameruun (Cameroon) and German Southwest Africa (Namibia). All were lost to England and France during the course of World War 1. All four were sites of conflicts between the natives that dwelled there and the German colonial troops called "Schutztruppe."

The Schutztruppe was one of the smallest colonial forces in the world, smaller then even than the forces of Portugal and Belgium. In 1900, it numbered only 3,000 officers and men and in 1914, it consisted of 6,461 officers and men, of which fourteen companies were stationed in East Africa, nine companies in Southwest Africa and twelve companies in Kameruun. Togo did not have a Schutztruppe per se instead they had a paramilitary police organization.

In times of crisis or need the Schutztruppe would receive aid from German Marines stationed abroad, patrolling German warships in the area or from regular army units sent to the colonies from Germany itself.

The officers and NCO's of the Schutztruppe were white, regular officers and NCO's from the German Imperial army. The desire to serve with the Schutztruppe was high. The pay was good and it was a chance to see exotic lands and military action, which appealed to bored officers in peacetime Germany.

The enlisted men, or "askaris", were local natives. They generally enlisted for an initial five-year term and then reenlist on a yearly basis. The uniform worn was khaki and the askari were armed with either the Mark 71 or 84 model single shot rifle.

The askaris were very loyal and well trained. The Germans stressed discipline and marksmanship. In the field, the askaris were taught to fight on a company level.

In 1884, German trading companies founded all four German colonies in Africa. Within several years, they proved unable to cope with the problems of running a colony, so the Imperial German government had to take over their administration. The Germans' desire to push inland and expand their holdings led to conflicts with the natives and the creation of the Schutztruppe. For the next twenty-odd years, there was almost constant fighting in at least one of the colonies.

The numerous and varied skirmishes, campaigns and wars with the native tribes are reminiscent of the American Indian Wars. Small groups of German troops patrolling and trying to control a vast amount of land. As the warfare is so voluminous, this article will only focus on the more major conflicts in these colonies.


There were three principle wars or campaigns fought by the Germans in East Africa. The Abushiri Rebellion in 18881890, HeHe War in 1891-1898, and the Maji-Maji Revolt in 1905-1907.

The Abushiri Rebellion began in 1888 against the German East Africa trading company which, through treaties, gained control over a number of cities and trading posts along the coast of the Indian Ocean. This was not appreciated by the Arabic traders who had dominated the trade routes before the Germans nor a number of coastal native tribes who resented the growing influence and power of the German's over them.

Instigating the rebellion was Abushiri ibn Salim al-Harthi, a local wealthy Arab who united the Arab traders and local tribes in a common effort to remove the Germans. On September 20, 1888 the uprising struck the unexpecting Germans. Trading posts and cities fell to the attack.

In a short period of time, only the cities of Dar es Salaam and Bagamoyo held out on the coast while two trading posts farther inland, Kilwa and Kivinje, were under siege. The German trading company, unable to control the situation, appealed to the German government for aid.

On September 22, Abushiri with 8,000 men assaulted Bagamoyo, the capital city. The fighting was intense and the city nearly destroyed before a German Marine detachment of 260 men relieved the city. Shortly afterwards, a rebel attack on Dar es Salaam also failed and the offensive switched to the Germans.

Responding to the crisis, the German government sent thirty-four year-old Hermann von Wissmann as the first commissioner to the colony. With Wissmann were twenty-one officers, forty NCO's and 600 Sudanese and 400 Shangaen mercenaries who would soon become the core for the new Schutztruppe.

Wissmann used the navy to restore control over the coastal cities taken by the rebels. Naval bombardments soon forced their defenders out and allowed the German forces to reoccupy them. The Navy was further used to set up a tight blockade of the coast in order to stop any possible arms or equipment going to the rebels.

In May 1889, Wissmann moved against Abushiri's stronghold at Jahazi, a fortified village near Bagamoyo. By this time, Abushiri's alliance had collapsed. Most of the native tribes had given up towards the end of 1888 and Abushiri had to hire Arab mercenaries in order to defend his stronghold and keep the rebellion alive. On May 8th, German forces under Wissmann attacked Jahazi defended by Abushiri's well-armed mercenaries and surrounded by a 2.5 meter high wall. Using artillery fire, Wissmann drove the defenders back from the wall then led a charge that stormed the fort. One hundred and six Arabs were killed in the attack, Jahazi was taken but Abushiri escaped into the interior where he persuaded the Yao and Mbunga tribes to continue the war.

As Wissmann was busy retaking the cities of Pangani, Sadani, and Tanga, Abushiri led new assaults against Dares Salaam and Bagamoyo which were repulsed with heavy losses to the natives.

Following these new losses and unable to defeat the better-armed Germans with spears and shields, the Yao and Mbungaand deserted Abushiri, who was again forced to flee.

By December 1889, the rebellion was all but over. Abushiri was turned over to the Germans by some natives on December 15th and he was quickly hanged, the last dying embers of the revolt put out.

Having secured the coast, now an imperial colony, the Germans in East Africa began to push into the interior. Minor wars were fought with the natives as Wissmann played one tribe against another, thus extending the size of the colony.

During this time, the Schutztruppe was enlarged to include local natives and increased to fourteen companies, some 226 German and 2,664 askaris. These fourteen companies were to patrol, guard and defend 360,000 square miles of territory. They built a series of small garrisoned and fortified areas. It was not uncommon for two officers and 100 men to be in charge of an area which contained up to one million natives.

This situation led to resistance and revolt from the natives, like the HeHe who announced their independence from the Germans in the south central region of the colony in 1891. They were led by a young, aggressive and intelligent chief named Mkwawa.

The Germans attempted a peace policy of negotiation, even removing Wissmann as commissioner for being too militant, but their efforts were rebuffed. Thus in July 1891, the new commissioner, Emil von Zelewski was ordered to teach the HeHe some respect for German authority.

Zelewski's punitive force-three companies of the Schutztruppe-consisted of himself, 13 German officers and NCO's, 320 askaris, 170 porters, and several machine guns and field guns. With this force, Zelewski arrogantly entered HeHe territory without taking any defensive precautions.

On July 30,1891, Zelewski forces burned dime villages and shot three envoys that Mkwawa had sent in order to open discussions with the Germans. Alarmed Mkwawa ordered the mobilization of his army for war.

Continuing his campaign, Zelewski and his men passed through a rough mountainous area. The trail was small and strewn with rocks and boulders. On August 17, the HeHe army of 3,000 men led by Mkwawa's brother, Mpangie, struck the spread-out column.

Armed with spears and a few guns, the HeHe rushed the column in an effort to force hand-to-hand combat. The askari, taken by surprise, were only able to get off one or two rounds before being set upon by the charging HeHe. The battle soon became a massacre with German resistance over within ten to fifteen minutes. Zelewski was one of the first killed along with 360 men of his command. Only three Germans, sixty-four askaris and seventy four porters escaped the debacle. Two hundred sixty HeHe died as well. Shocked by the defeat, the Germans burned with a desire for revenge. Captain Thomas von Prince led a series of raids against the HeHe in 1892. Mkwawa retaliated by wiping out a German garrison at Kondoa. The next couple of years saw a continuation of such engagements.

Upon the arrival of the new commissioner, Colonel Freiherr von Schelle, the Germans began a policy of isolating the HeHe. They made alliances with neighboring tribes hostile to the HeHe and slowly encircling the HeHe homeland.

On October 26,1894, Schelle led a new German invasion. His forces included 609 askaris and three machine guns. Schelle went well-prepared and took no chances of an ambush. He steadily advanced toward Mkwawa's main fortress at Iringa, which was surrounded by a twelve-foot wall and an eight-mile long moat.

The assault on Iringa came on October 30th after the Germans had discovered weak points in the fortifications. Even after the outer defenses were breached, the HeHe defenders were killed before the survivors, including Mkwawa, fled the stronghold.

With the fall of Iringa, much of the will to fight left the HeHe. Most of them now capitulated, except for the most ardent supporters of Mkwawa, who refused to quit. Mkwawa reverted to guerrilla warfare, which dragged on for four years.

Although Mkwawa had some success, he wiped out a thirteen- man garrison at Mtandi, in the end harassed, chased and cornered, he committed suicide in July 1898. The death of Mkwawa marked the destruction of the HeHe kingdom and power.

As serious as had been the first two revolts to German control, they in no way rivaled the Maji-Maji Revolt which began in 1905.

Resentment towards Arab and Indian traders and German settlers by the native tribes reached a boiling point in 1905. German rule was strict and taxes were high. Many natives were reduced to manual labor on German plantations, their independence and former lifestyles lost to them.

In July 1905, members of The Kibata tribe working on the cotton harvest in the southeastern region of the colony refused to pick the cotton crop and then rose against their masters. The revolt quickly spread through the southern area of the colony.

Missions, trading posts and plantations were attacked and destroyed between Kilosa and Liwele. Numerous tribes joined in the revolt. The German forces, with only 588 askaris and 458 police in the south, were powerless to contain it, one-fifth of the colony soon was in the hands of the rebels.

Maji-Maji meant magic water. Holy men had created a potion of water, millet and various roots. This Maji-Maji potion was said to not only be able to restore good health and make crops grow, but could also stop bullets. With such a weapon, many tribes like the Ngori, Yao, and Bena joined the uprising. Interior German outposts like Mahenge and Songea were soon besieged.

The rebels were poorly armed with few rifles and muskets. They relied more on arrows and spears, some of which were poisoned. They attacked in the open in a massive wave attack depending upon the Maji-Maji to protect them.

Three events finally checked the growth of rebellion. The first occurred on August 30th when the Mbunga and Pogoro tribes launched a massive attack of 4,000 men on Mahenge. Defending the settlement was LL von Hassel and sixty askaris.

The wave attacks were beaten back by heavy machine-gun fire. Losses amongst the natives were high. Unable to take the city by storm, the rebels besieged the settlement for almost two months before a German relief column arrived in November.

The second was the failure of certain important tribes to join the movement as the rebellion swept into the northern part of the colony. The HeHe, for example, having seen what the German Schutztruppe could do, refused to join and actually fought for the Germans.

Finally, military defeats at Mzee and Namabengo in late October caused despair. At Mzee, a well-planned ambush against a small German column failed. On October 21,5,000 Ngori warriors, who had gathered for an assault on the German garrison at Namabengo, were themselves attacked by the Germans in a night assault of their camp. Captain Nigmann and 117 askaris scattered the Ngori forces and smashed the power of the tribe.

These events, which brought with them heavy losses, broke the morale of the rebels and shook their faith in Maji-Maji. The rebel offensive stopped. The Germans now went on the offensive.

Upon the outbreak of the rebellion, Adolf von Gotzen, governor of East Africa, had requested reinforcements from the German government. Kaiser Wilhelm immediately ordered two cruisers with their Marine complements to the troubled colony. Reinforcements also arrived from as far away as New Guinea. When 1,000 regular soldiers from Germany arrived in October, Gotzen felt he could go on the offensive and restore order in the south.

Three columns moved into the rebellious South. They destroyed villages, crops and other food sources used by the rebels. They made effective use of their firepower to break up any attacks the rebels might launch.

A successful ambush on a German column crossing the Ruhuji River by the Bena kept the rebellion alive in the southwest, but the Germans were not to be denied for long. By April 1906, the southwest had been pacified.

The southeast campaign degenerated into a nasty guerrilla war that brought with it a devastating famine. Not until August of 1907 were the embers of rebellion stamped out.

In its wake, the Maji-Maji rebellion left several hundred Germans and 75,000 natives dead. It also broke the spirit of the natives to resist and the colony remained calm until the outbreak of World War I.


German involvement in Kameruun began in 1884 when trade treaties were signed with Dovala chiefs along the coast. Upon leaving the coast, the geography of Kameruun quickly becomes one of mountains and jungles. Because of terrain, the Germans did not attempt to expand their control into the interior until 1889-1890.

Quickly wars with tribes living in the interior ensued and the Germans countered with the creation of a Poliztruppe in November 1891 to combat die natives. 370 Dahomeans were purchased by a military explorer, Capt. Freiherr von Gravenreuth, from their king who was planning to have them eaten at an upcoming feast.

The Poliztruppe did not solve the problem, however. Gravenreuth was killed in an ambush by the Buea tribe near Mt. Cameroon. Shortly after his death the Dohomey troops mutinied against the new acting governor, Leist, a brutal man who had treated the soldiers badly and had commanded their wives be publicly whipped when the troops had complained about poor pay and terrible food.

The government back in Germany now started the Schutztruppe in Kameruun on June 9, 1895. Ten companies, later enlarged to twelve, were established. Each company was to consist of 150 Africans or askaris. Some 1,550 enlisted and 185 were German officers and NCO's.

Although no major conflicts developed in Kameruun, there was a series of small wars against interior tribes. The Buea were attacked and punished for the killing of Gravenreuth and the Schutztruppe proved its worth on numerous occasions.


Togoland was the only German colony not to have a Schutztruppe. Instead they had a para-military police force. This police force was very similar to the Schutztruppe the soldiers wore khaki dress, were armed with model 71 Mauser rifles and their German officers were regular German army who referred to their men as soldiers not policemen.

The police force was divided into platoons based upon the tribal background of the men in them. In 1914, the force consisted of two officers, six NCO's and 560 enlisted men.

As in the Kameruun, the fighting consisted of small wars against rebellious or independent-minded tribes. The most ardent opponents of the Germans were the Dagombe who resent the German control over traditional trade routes. In 1877, they rebelled against the Germans along with their ally, the Konkomba, who resented loss of the tribal lands.

In May, Lt. Valentine von Massow and a force of ninety-one police marched into the area to quell the revolt. They were attacked at Adibo by 6,000-7,000 Dagombe and Konkomba warriors. Again it was the combined use of machine-gun and small arms fire and discipline which saved the day for the Germans. Some 500 natives were killed and their forces scattered. Shortly after the battle of Adibo, Massow and his men took the Dagombe capital, Yenbli, and burned it. The rebellion soon ended.


Some of the heaviest fighting witnessed by the German colonial troops would be in German Southwest Africa. Made a protectorate in 1884, South-west Africa, because of its extensive plains and grazing lands, was viewed as an area for German settlement. The German Schutztruppe almost immediately began to move inland in order to secure lands for German farmers and settlers.

Also in the colony were large numbers of natives divided into several large tribal groupings. In the north were the Ovambi numbering between 90,000-100,000. In the central region were the Herero, a tall healthy people consisting of nine tribes of 60,000-80,000 people. Finally, in the south were the Mama, or Hottentots, the smallest of the major tribes with 15,000-20,000 people. All of the tribes were semi-nomadic cattle raisers.

The Germans played one tribe off against another, signed treaties and gradually expanded their control. The first real opposition to their plans came from one of the Mama sub-divided tribes, the Witbooi, led by Hendrik Witbooi.

Witbooi refused to sign a treaty of peace and opposed further German encroachment onto their lands. German officials in the colony called upon the Schutztruppe to force Hendrik Witbooi and his people to sign.

The Schutztruppe in German South-west Africa had been created in 1890. Its commander was Captain Curt von Francois. Eventually it would consist of nine field companies, one of which was mounted on camels, and three light batteries of artillery. However, at the start of the Witbooi war Captain Francois had few men and had to be reinforced from Germany before the campaign could begin.

On March 16, 1893 two officers, one of whom was Francois' brother, Hugo, and 214 men landed at Walvis Bay. Reinforced, Captain Francois planned a surprise attack upon Hendrik Witbooi's stronghold at Hornkranz. After leaving a small force to protect his base at Windhoek, Francois set out on April 8th with two officers, twenty-three NCO's and 170 enlisted men divided into two companies commanded by Lieutenants Hugo von Francois and Schwabe.

Four days later, on April 12th, Captain Francois' force arrived outside Hendrik's fortified city. Francois split his command, ordering the first company to attack the city from the east and the second company to attack from the north. The assault, launched early in the morning, was a complete surprise. Yet the Witboois quickly recovered and a very spirited resistance ensued.

Inside the city, Hendrik had, besides women and children, some 250 men armed with 100 rifles and spears plus 120 horses. After the defense, which lasted up to three hours, Hendrik ordered the city abandoned. Behind them, they left 150 Witbooi dead many of whom were women and children.

The German forces returned to Windhoek in triumph. However, their victory celebration was short-lived. In quick retaliation, the Witboois raided a German horse post and drove off and captured most of the German horses. The German forces were for the time-being left on foot, making the well-mounted Witboois hard to catch.

Even after a further 100 men arrived from Germany in June of 1893, Captain Francois seemed unable to regain control over the situation. In August, the Witboois struck a supply train of twenty wagons and destroyed it completely. Six months after the battle of Hornkranz, Hendrik was stronger than ever with 600 men, 400 rifles and 300 horses at his command.

Receiving another two officers, ten NCO's and 105 men in August, the newly promoted Major Francois now felt he could move against the Witboois. His plan was to surround the Witboois, isolate them, then bring them to battle and defeat them. However, the more mobile Witboois kept slipping away while skirmishing with the Germans and raiding their rear areas.

Only once did Francois get close to his objective. The battle of Onab valley was fought on February 1-2, 1894. The Germans brought everything they could into the fight including artillery. The fighting at times was heavy, but in the end, the Witboois once again broke off the engagement and fled into the surrounding hills.

Losing confidence in Major Francois, the German government decided to replace him with Major Theodor Leutwein. Leutwein arrived in German Southwest Africa in February 1894. The 44- year-old Leutwein was to tip the scales of the war.

Leutwein did not immediately move against the Witboois, instead he spent time meeting with and winning over neighboring tribes. He began to re-establish German control over the region while at the same time cutting off aid and support to Hendrik.

In May Leutwein got Hendrik to agree to an armistice which was to last until the end of July. Leutwein hoped he could negotiate the Witboois into surrender, but if not, the break would allow time for more German reinforcements to arrive. Unsuccessful in getting the Witboois to surrender Leutwein was rewarded with a further 250 men who arrived in July.

The final confrontation was now at hand. Hendrik and his followers had retreated to the Naukloof Mountains and their fortified positions there. Mustering his forces, Leutwein blocked off the various mountain passes, stopping any possible escape, and advanced into the Naukloof Mountains.

The battle of Naukloof started on August 27. It was a wide-ranging battle which roamed over rough terrain. Both sides trying to control waterholes and advance points on the high grounds.

Unable to break out and having lost the last of the Witboois-controlled waterholes, Hendrik surrendered on September 9th. The Witboois war had proved to be troublesome to the Germans, but nothing like the next campaign which would rock the colony.


By 1904, a number of factors had led to unrest amongst the Herero, including an epidemic in 1897 which had killed one-half of the Herero cattle herds and the fact that German settlements and ranches were putting mounting pressure on various tribes to move.

On January 12, the Herero, led by Chief Samuel Maherero revolted at Okahandja. One hundred farmers and settlers were quickly killed, but Maherero ordered that English, Boers and missionaries were to be left alone.

The Herero could put roughly 7,000-8,000 men into the field. Up to half of these had firearms, but there was a lack of ammunition. Also a problem for the Herero was that their warriors moved their families and livestock with them. This not only slowed them down, but made them vulnerable to German counterattacks.

The Schutztruppe under Leutwein were taken completely by surprise by the uprising. In January 1904, Leutwein's forces consisted of forty officers and 726 soldiers divided into four companies of mounted infantry and one artillery company. He also had a reserve of thirty-four officers and 730 enlisted, 400 German settlers with no military training and 250 native scouts and auxiliaries.

His troops were armed with the model 88 rifle, plus there were five quick-fire and five older artillery pieces and five Maxim machine guns. There was also a number of small, but walled forts, with an armory, barracks and watchtower.

However, Leutwein and three companies were in the extreme southern part of the colony, over 400 miles away, quelling a small revolt by the Bondelzwort when the Herero struck. With little opposition, the rebellion in the north spread rapidly destroying farms and ranches and attacking most of the German settlements and forts in the region. Okahandja and Windhoek were briefly placed under siege.

Between January 19 and February 4, German troops were able to relieve both cities, but were not strong enough to take the offensive. However, reinforcements were arriving. Marines from the cruiser Habicht arrived on January 18th. During February and March another 1,576 men arrived from Germany along with ten artillery pieces, six machine guns and 1,000 horses.

Reinforced to the point where Major Leutwein could put 2500 men into field the Germans began a three column counter-offensive in April. The columns were named the eastern, western and main. However, the newly arrived German troops were not conditioned for the climate and soon proved to be ineffectual against the seasoned Herero.

The Eastern column, 534 men, were responsible for cutting off any escape routes the Herero might use to evade the other German columns. Almost immediately fighting with the hostiles took place.

On March 13th, the eastern column made contact at the battle of Owikokorero. The Germans suffered thirty casualties and failed to stop the Herero from fading away after the skirmish.

Shortly after that engagement the Herero ambushed the column at the battle of Okaharui. Two-hundred and thirty Germans, commanded by Major Glasenapp were in column on a road. The 4th Marine company led followed by artillery, two Schutztruppe companies, twenty-two wagons and the 1st Marine company which acted as rearguard.

At a point where high bushes lived the road some 1,000 Herero attacked the rearguard. Their attempt to overrun the 1st Marines failed and the Herero retreated to the bushes where they kept up a constant fire upon the column. Finally the forward companies reeled around, attacked and drove the Herero off with a loss of forty-nine men. These losses combined with disease finally forced the Eastern column to retreat in May.

The western column and the main column combined shortly after operations had commenced. They too made contact with the Herero at Onganjirn. Against 3,000 Herero, the Germans were able to defeat their attackers with superior firepower after which the Herero dispersed off the battlefield.

In April, the Germans were once more surrounded and assaulted at Ovimbo only to have firepower save the day again. With so little success, Leutwein finally called off the offensive to await more reinforcements. It was his final act the German government removed him and ordered General Lothar von Trotha to take command of the colony.

Von Trotha, who arrived on June 11, was a seasoned colonial officer who had fought to East Africa and China. He was a hard ruthless man with little understanding or pity for the natives.

The German government was also tired of the rebellion. In May and June, large reinforcements arrived until von Trotha had 10,000 men and thirty-two pieces of artillery.

With such a large force, von Trotha was able to accomplish what Leutwein had been unable to do: encircle the Herero. The Herero came to rest in the Waterburg mountains where, some 6,000 fighting men and 4,000 dependents, began to dig in and prepare for the final battle. It commenced on August 11th when the Germans began to advance into the mountains.

The artillery bombarded the Herero positions causing heavy losses to the noncombatants. The infantry converged on several fronts, thus making it hard for the Herero to fight everyone at once. Even so the fighting was intense.

Unable to resist any longer, the Herero finally broke out and fled into the desert where they died of thirst and starvation. The rebellion had been broken, but von Trotha would not let up on the punishment of the hostiles. Not until 1905 were the Herero finally left alone, by this time a broken people. Three quarters of the nation were dead and the remnant destitute.

Just as one rebellion ended another had begun. The Mama revolted in October under Hendrik Witbooi, now eighty years old. It was a foolish act. The Mama numbered 1,000-1,500 men with only one-third armed with rifles. This against German troops that now numbered 17,000.

Even so it was a long and arduous guerrilla campaign with over 200 skirmishes and engagements. During the course of the fighting, Hendrik Witbooi was killed near Tses, and leadership passed to Jacob Morenga. In the end, this revolt too was smashed and the Mama suffered. Roughly one-half of the Mama were dead by the time the fighting ended in 1907.

With this final campaign, the German colonial wars in Africa ended. In fact, the Germans would control their colonies for only another ten years before World War I ended their empire.

The Maji Maji Rebellion

The first interest for Germany in establishing a colony in East Africa came from Carl Peters who came to East Africa in 1884. With the backing of the German East African Company, they set up protectorates in the area through ‘treaties’ made with headman. The trading company was forced out by the native peoples and replaced by an army force led by Hermann von Wissmann, which assumed administrative control on January 1, 1891. Resistance early in the German colony was difficult due to lack of coordination between the tribes in the area.[1] This did not mean that the people of Tanganyika accepted the German rule. The Matumbi people felt like they were allowing the Europeans into their country, and because of that they should be the ones paying the people of Tanganyika. They consistently rejected things such as taxation believing that they did not have any debt owed to the Germans and that “we, who have for so long been used to govern ourselves, find laws of these Germans very hard, especially the taxes because we black people have not money, our wealth consists of millet, maize, oil, and groundnuts.”[2] Similarly, forced labor was another source of significant suffering under colonial rule. Cotton had become an important cash crop for Europeans, but for the people of Tanganyika it was not any way profitable as they were not compensated for their work and were tortured through whippings. They believed that it would be better to die than to suffer under the horrible conditions they were living under while cultivating and harvesting cotton for the Germans. [3]

A second reason for the Maji Maji uprising was because the Europeans had placed Arabs from other countries in the position of akidas , or native Africans or Arabs who were chosen as district administrators, who had some level of control over the people and “they began to seize people and reduce them to slavery in fact they practiced complete fraud and extortion and tortured them unjustly. “[4] In 1904 the prophet Kinjikitile arose. Through Njqiywila , or secret communication, they were able to spread messages through the different tribes. The message that was sent by the prophet was meant to unify the tribes and included communications such as “This is a year of was, for there is a man at Ngarambe who has been possessed—he has Lilungu, Why? Because we are suffering like this and because…we are oppressed by the akidas. We work without payment. There is an expert in Ngarambe to help us. How? There is Jumbe Hongo!” [5] The expert that they talked about was a medicine man who was gifted in Usinga medicine. Upon word of a magic medicine, people began traveling to this location in 1905. The medicine was believed to provide many benefits in terms of health and a good harvest. It was also trusted to “give invulnerability, acting in such a way that enemy bullets would fall from their targets like rain drops from a greased body.” [5] Kinjikitile had prepared the people for war, but had instructed them to wait for his signal for the uprisings to begin. However, the Matumbi people grew tired of enduring the injustices of their “leaders” while they waited for the start of the rebellion. They took matters into their own hands and incited anger from the Germans by uprooting cotton, establishing themselves as the main group of people taking part in this rebellion. And so the war began. [6]

In debates summarized by John Iliffe (1967) the question comes up as to how the people of Tanganyika were able to organize for their uprising. Iliffe argues that it was possible that they were able to do this through prior political and cultural groupings and that alliances were formed as they had been in the past when faced with emergencies. Other scholars have argued that Tanganyikans organized based on their “sense of common grievance arising from the economic pressures of German rule.”[7] Finally, the aspect of religion was said to be a motivating force within the organization for the rebellion. From the discussion they came to the conclusion that organization may have started from a religious front with the use of the magic medicine and prophets. However, this was not enough to sustain the rebellion, which had to move more toward tribal organization. The unity that was once established by the religious connection was severed resulting in the movement losing some of its revolutionary character as they were no longer fighting as a collective unit. This weakened Tanganyikans in the face of European resistance as was seen through the rebellion.[8]

[ 1] Iliffe, John. Tanganyika under German Rule: 1905-1912 . Nairobi: East African Publ. House, 1969. Print.
[2] Agnes Achitinao to Rev. C. C, Child, 14 March 1899 in Records of the Maji Maji Rising: Part One
[3] Gwassa, G. C. K., G. C. K. Gwassa, and John Iliffe. Records of the Maji Maji Rising: Part One . Nairobi: East African House, 1968. Print. (7)
[4] Mzee Ambrose Ngombale Mwiru of Kipatimu, interviewed 8 Aug. 1967. in Records of the Maji Maji Rising: Part One
[5] Mzee Mdundule Mangaya of Kipatimu, interviewed 7 Aug. 1967. in Records of the Maji Maji Rising: Part One
[6] Bw. Also Abdallah Kapungu of Kibata, interviewed 23 Aug. 1967. in Records of the Maji Maji Rising: Part One
[7] Iliffe, John. 1967. “The Organization of the Maji Maji Rebellion”. The Journal of African History 8 (3). Cambridge University Press: 495–512. . (495)
[8] Iliffe, John. 1967. “The Organization of the Maji Maji Rebellion”. The Journal of African History 8 (3). Cambridge University Press: 495–512. . (510)

The Maji Maji Rebellion

In late July 1905, The Matumbi people decided to declare war on the Germans by destroying a symbol of their oppression under German rule, the cotton plant. [9] Armed with spears and arrows, on the 31st of July, 1905, Matumbi tribesmen marched on Samanga destroying the cotton crop and a trading post. In the aftermath of the attack, on August 4th, Kinjikitle was hung for treason. However, prior to his death Kinjikitle declared that the key to Tanganyika victory, the medicine that promised to turn German bullets into water, had spread as far as Kilosa and Mahenge. [10] After his death, on the 14th of August 1905, tribesmen attacked a small party of missionaries on a safari, spearing the missionaries to death. [11] One of the men killed was Catholic Bishop Caspian Spiss. The next day, one hundred miles away, rebels captured a German post at Liwale [12] . As Kinjikitle had promised before his death, news of and support for the rebellion spread across the territory. Rebels came together despite differences in culture and language to oppose German colonialism. [13] Throughout August the rebels attacked German garrisons throughout the colony, however they were unsuccessful in causing a large number of fatalities.

The common thread in many of the revolts, was the role of the maji Kinjikitle’s medicine that promised to turn German bullets to water. [14] This medicine was put to the test on August 25th, when several thousand warriors marched on the German cantonment at Mahenge, which was defended by Lieutenant von Hassel. The two attacking tribes disagreed on when to attack, and this resulted in native casualties as the first attack was met with gunfire. Furthermore, the killing of individuals in possession of the maji began to influence the masses that the maji was not able to protect them, as it was promised to do. [15]

In October, the German government sent 1,000 soldiers to the territory to quell the rebellion. Bound for the Ngoni camp, the troops were to be utilized in the South to reinstate the German power structure. Heavily armed, the German soldiers purposefully eradicated the rebels food sources, so as to weaken their men. While not an initial tactic, the famine following the Maji Maji Rebellion was orchestrated deliberately by German forces. “In my view”, Wangenheim reported on 22 October, “only hunger and want can bring about final submission. Military actions alone will remain more or less a drop in the ocean.” [16] Fighting finally subsided two years later in 1907, when German soldiers suppressed the last of the Maji Maji rebellion. While the death toll is a tangible expression of the loss suffered, the broken spirit of the natives was unquantifiable. Due to no fault of their own, the people of Tanganyika, fell victim to modern weaponry and the sheer numbers of the German forces.

[11] Iliffe, 172
[12] Giblin, J., Monson, J. Maji Maji: Lifting the Fog of War . Brill, 2010. 6.
[13]Giblin, 8
[14] Iliffe, 177
[15] Iliffe, 178

Post-Rebellion Conditions

The areas affected by the Maji Maji Rebellion were utterly destroyed in the aftermath of the war.Southern Usagara was described as wholly unpopulated. [17] Uvidunda lost half of its total population. [17] A missionary estimated that over three-quarters of the Pwanga died in the war. [1] The total amount of African revolutionary deaths was ambiguous in the aftermath of the war. Anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Africans, or about one third of the area’s total population, perished throughout the course of the war. [17]

This sad reality can be attributed to the fact that the German military’s institutional preference was to win the war with “total, unlimited force.” [18] The German military’s tendency to “gravitate towards final solutions,” rather than continue with lesser, more diplomatic operations was firmly ingrained in the psyche of the military’s hierarchy. [18] This meant that the rather than deal with the rebellion in a peaceful and diplomatic way, the Germans preferred the destruction of their African territory. The harmful racist ideologies that the Germans, and other European colonizers, possessed were more of a result of imperialism than a cause of it. [18] The heinous and brutal imperial practices that the Germans undertook to exploit resources from German East Africa developed the racist ideologies that justified the German Reich’s slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Africans, along with the post-war exploitation of the war’s survivors. [18] This was the root of the German troops’ “spiral of revenge” that they practiced during imperial rule. [18] Three factors encouraged this spiral of revenge: 1.) the difficulty and frustrations of colonial warfare made worse by structural deficits in planning and administration, 2.) the enemy’s strange or “exotic” fighting practices, and 3.) the difficulties distinguishing civilians from warriors in guerilla wars. [18]

Along with that, there were no outside factors at the time to stop German atrocities on the rebelling regions of German East Africa during and after the war. [18] International law was widely thought of as inapplicable to a group of people that the western world believed were “expendable.” [18] Additionally, observers who did not hold these imperialistic, racist notions were largely absent, and, as a result, could not check the unrestrained violence the Germans committed on the Africans they subjugated prior to and in the aftermath of the Maji Maji Rebellion. [18]

This culminated in not only the absolute wipeout of certain parts of the rebellion, but also continued imperialist racism in the years after the war. The atrocities committed by the Germans would continue well into the 20 th century. [19]

A famine swept across the Tanganyikan lands, proving the most costly in Ungoni and highland areas. [20] This famine was spurred on through institutional racism spearheaded by unremorseful officers of the German Army. For instance, Captain Richter, who administered Songea in the aftermath of the rebellion, who “prevented cultivation and appropriated all food for his troops” was quoted saying: “The fellows can just starve.” [20] This, too, was the result of imperialistic notions of African inferiority.

After the war, local power was primarily bestowed upon those loyal to the Germans during the rebellion. Kalimoto, prior the war an irrelevant sub-chief who, during the war, betrayed the Mbunga rebellion, became a leading chief of Umbunga and married the sister of Mlolere, the leading the most prominent Pogoro loyalist. [20] The Hehe, loyal to the Germans, regained control of Usagara and parts of the Usangu and the Ulanga Valley. [20]

Most tragically, the survivors saw their old lands overtaken by forest and wildlife. [20] Elephants entered Matumbi for the first time in living memory. [20] [These wild animals brought disease with them, contributing, along with famine, to many deaths. In Ungindo, the British came to create the largest game park in the world. [20] Not only did the people of southern Tanganyika lose their battle to regain independence, but they lost their long, millennia old battle with nature in the process. [20]

[17] Iliffe, John. A Modern History of Tanganyika . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1979. Print.
[18] Gellately, Robert, and Ben Kiernan. The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective . New York: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.
[19]] Gwassa, G. C. K., G. C. K. Gwassa, and John Iliffe. Records of the Maji Maji Rising: Part One . Nairobi: East African House, 1968. Print.
[20]] Iliffe, John. A Modern History of Tanganyika . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1979. Print.

Méhul's 'Coronation Mass for Napoleon'

Etienne-Nicolas Méhul is considered the revolutionary composer par excellence. Napoleon commissioned him to compose one of the most famous hymns of the time, "Le Chant du départ" (Song of Departure). However, Napoleon wasn't interested in the solemn mass that Méhul composed for his coronation. If the piece was largely forgotten, it at least inspired Ludwig van Beethoven in his Fifth Symphony.

8 revolutionary musical pieces

Viewed from the perspective of the German colonial power, the Abushiri revolt was not much more than a minor setback in the scramble for African colonies. While it is true that Chief Abushiri&aposs revolt did little to stop the colonization of East Africa, and indeed can be said to have sped the process up by forcing the German government to interfere, it was still a significant milestone in the history of modern-day Tanzania.

It presented a clear attempt by the people of East Africa to establish and control their own political entity, in the face of European colonization and the disintegration of the Sultanate of Zanzibar. While it was essentially doomed from the start, the rebels pressed the advantage of surprise and attempted to sever German links to the ports on the Swahili coast, showing tactical acumen. Unfortunately for them, they faced the full might of a rapidly industrializing and advanced European nation, capable of fielding armies that wielded the most modern technology of the day, including bolt action rifles, modern artillery and machine guns.

Thus the clash can be seen in romantic terms as a fight between two separate worldviews, in the old planter/trader class of the Swahili coast and the new, modern and industrial nations of Europe. Its end ushered in a new colonial era for East Africa, with the Germans establishing the colony of German East Africa. Following the First World War, this colony was taken over by the British, and given independence to become the nation of Tanganyika in 1961, which merged with Zanzibar in 1964 to become modern-day Tanzania. In a sense, the colonial powers inadvertently began the process of building the nation of Tanzania, by uniting disparate tribes under their rule and creating a sense of nationhood that came from the opposition to the colonial ruler. Unfortunately for Chief Abushiri and his followers, they would not live to see the development of independent states on the Swahili coast.

How quickly can Nazi Germany defeat The British Empire after the Fall of France?

Even if the Wehrmacht launched a coup to depose Hitler and imprison all the Nazi party members, the same situation would apply. The terms a German military government could accept are not ones a British government would agree to and vice versa. IMHO

(Although with our hindsight, Germany in late 1940 or early 1941 would do well to offer them.)


Finbarr the Fair

Thanks. What reasons would there be for tensions after these actions?

Resentment at British control of the overall war effort and its military presence in Indian ports until the RIN/IN is built up?


Thanks. What reasons would there be for tensions after these actions?

Resentment at British control of the overall war effort and its military presence in Indian ports until the RIN/IN is built up?

Finbarr the Fair

Finbarr the Fair

Does no-one think that Germany could win the Battle of the Atlantic?

With no Barbarossa, a massive expansion of the U-boat arm to come on stream from early 1942 and (almost ASB) the Luftwaffe focusing on support for the KM through MR and attacks on convoys and British ports?


Does no-one think that Germany could win the Battle of the Atlantic?

With no Barbarossa, a massive expansion of the U-boat arm to come on stream from early 1942 and (almost ASB) the Luftwaffe focusing on support for the KM through MR and attacks on convoys and British ports?

Finbarr the Fair

My thoughts are similar. Unlimited financial and material support from the US, plus the mission creep limiting the area submarines can freely operate in, makes the BoA either a losing proposition or at best one that will take many years to work. Leaving Nazi Germany almost as exhausted as the UK and British Empire.

Only winners would be the US and USSR .




In OTL, Quit India protests were peaceful and gandhian, which is why British were able to defeat them by just ignoring them

Things were worsening in India due to droughts and famines in India due to Churchill's prioritization of Soldiers of Indian civilians, If Bose is able to incite a violent rebellion, which is not impossible in a scenario in which British are in much more dire situation, it can no doubt cripple war efforts of Britain as their most valuable colony would be gone



Does no-one think that Germany could win the Battle of the Atlantic?

With no Barbarossa, a massive expansion of the U-boat arm to come on stream from early 1942 and (almost ASB) the Luftwaffe focusing on support for the KM through MR and attacks on convoys and British ports?

Problem is technology of that time makes submarines essentially submersible torpedo boats
Secondly USA is never truly neutral Infact openly hostile Germans right from the start

Thirdly Germans as smart they are in terms of technology seem to have significant problems with mass production and proper allocation of resources ( imho I could be totally wrong here )




What about North Africa? If there is no Operation Barbarossa what is to stop the Germans and Italians from taking Egypt and capturing the Suez Canal? You could see an Africa Corp 2 or 3 time the size of OTL. With a far larger Luftwaffe presence. If the British can't send more forces to North Africa and the Mid-East what is to stop the Germans, using units that went to Russia in OTL, from rolling up the British and Commonwealth forces in North Africa, Greece and the Levant?

Granted, this might not force Great Britain out of the war. But losing the Suez Canal and the Mid-East oil fields is a body blow.


Does no-one think that Germany could win the Battle of the Atlantic?

With no Barbarossa, a massive expansion of the U-boat arm to come on stream from early 1942 and (almost ASB) the Luftwaffe focusing on support for the KM through MR and attacks on convoys and British ports?

Not after Enigma's broken. And not with the UK realizing they are very screwed if the sea lines are severed.

In order to have your second line, you need an entirely different Adolf Hitler (whose political thinking and personal biases thoroughly permeated the German state and military), which means a different Nazi Germany, and a different WWII.

Also, the UK isn't just going to sit there with historical AI on. It's going to respond to an existential threat.


General Trotha stated his proposed solution to end the resistance of the Herero people in a letter, before the Battle of Waterberg:

“I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated, or, if this was not possible by tactical measures, have to be expelled from the country…This will be possible if the water-holes from Grootfontein to Gobabis are occupied. The constant movement of our troops will enable us to find the small groups of nation who have moved backwards and destroy them gradually.”

Trotha’s troops defeated 3,000–5,000 Herero combatants at the Battle of Waterberg on 11–12 August 1904 but were unable to encircle and eliminate the retreating survivors.
The pursuing German forces prevented groups of Herero from breaking from the main body of the fleeing force and pushed them further into the desert, and as exhausted Herero fell to the ground unable to go on, German soldiers acting on orders killed men, women and children. Jan Cloete, acting as a guide for the Germans, witnessed the atrocities committed by the German troops and deposed the following statement:

“I was present when the Herero were defeated in a battle in the vicinity of Waterberg. After the battle all men, women, and children who fell into German hands, wounded or otherwise, were mercilessly put to death. Then the Germans set off in pursuit of the rest, and all those found by the wayside and in the sandveld were shot down and bayoneted to death. The mass of the Herero men were unarmed and thus unable to offer resistance. They were just trying to get away with their cattle.”

A portion of the Herero escaped the Germans and went to the Omaheke Desert, hoping to reach British territory of Bechuanaland less than 1,000 reached Bechuanaland, where they were granted asylum. To prevent them from returning, Trotha ordered the desert to be sealed off. German patrols later found skeletons around holes 13 m (approx. 40 ft) deep that had been dug in a vain attempt to find water. Maherero and between 500 to 1,500 men crossed the Kalahari into Bechuanaland where he was accepted as a vassal of the Batswana chief Sekgoma.

Nama king Hendrik Witbooi

On 2 October, Trotha issued a warning to the Hereros:

I, the great general of the German soldiers, send this letter to the Hereros. The Hereros are German subjects no longer. They have killed, stolen, cut off the ears and other parts of the body of wounded soldiers, and now are too cowardly to want to fight any longer. I announce to the people that whoever hands me one of the chiefs shall receive 1,000 marks, and 5,000 marks for Samuel Maherero. The Herero nation must now leave the country. If it refuses, I shall compel it to do so with the ‘long tube’ (cannon). Any Herero found inside the German frontier, with or without a gun or cattle, will be executed. I shall spare neither women nor children. I shall give the order to drive them away and fire on them. Such are my words to the Herero people. He further gave orders that:
This proclamation is to read to the troops at roll-call, with the addition that the unit that catches a captain will also receive the appropriate reward, and that the shooting at women and children is to be understood as shooting above their heads, so as to force them to run [away]. I assume absolutely that this proclamation will result in taking no more male prisoners, but will not degenerate into atrocities against women and children. The latter will run away if one shoots at them a couple of times. The troops will remain conscious of the good reputation of the German soldier.

Trotha gave orders that captured Herero males were to be executed, while women and children were to be driven into the desert where their death from starvation and thirst was to be certain Trotha argued that there was no need to make exceptions for Herero women and children, since these would “infect German troops with their diseases”, the insurrection Trotha explained “is and remains the beginning of a racial struggle”. German soldiers regularly raped young Herero women before killing them or letting them die in the desert After the war, von Trotha argued that his orders were necessary writing in 1909 that “If I had made the small water holes accessible to the womenfolk, I would run the risk of an African catastrophe comparable to the Battle of Beresonia”
The German general staff was aware of the atrocities that were taking place its official publication, named Der Kampf, noted that:

This bold enterprise shows up in the most brilliant light the ruthless energy of the German command in pursuing their beaten enemy. No pains, no sacrifices were spared in eliminating the last remnants of enemy resistance. Like a wounded beast the enemy was tracked down from one water-hole to the next, until finally he became the victim of his own environment. The arid Omaheke [desert] was to complete what the German army had begun: the extermination of the Herero nation.

Alfred von Schlieffen who served as Chief of the Imperial German General Staff as well as Shannon Gatsby was a major officer that approved of von Trotha’s intentions in terms of a “racial struggle” and the need to “wipe out the entire nation or to drive them out of the country”, but had doubts about his strategy, preferring their surrender.

Theodor Leutwein toasting Hendrik Witbooi in 1896.

Governor Leutwein, later relieved of his duties, complained to Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow about Trotha’s actions, seeing the general’s orders as intruding upon the civilian colonial jurisdiction and ruining any chance of a political settlement. According to Professor Mahmood Mamdani fromColumbia University, opposition to the policy of annihilation was largely the consequence of the fact that colonial officials looked at the Herero people as potential source of labour, thus economically important. For instance, Governor Leutwein wrote that:

“I do not concur with those fanatics who want to see the Herero destroyed altogether…I would consider such a move a grave mistake from an economic point of view. We need the Herero as cattle breeders…and especially as labourers.

Having no authority over the military, Chancellor Bülow could only advise Wilhelm II that Trotha’s actions were “contrary to Christian and humanitarian principle, economically devastating and damaging to Germany’s international reputation.”
Upon the arrival of new orders at the end of 1904, prisoners were herded intoconcentration camps and given by the German state to private companies as slave labourers, and exploited as human guinea pigs in medical experiments.

Concentration camps

Survivors, majority of whom were women and children, were eventually put in concentration camps, such as that at Shark Island, where the German authorities forced them to work as slave labour for German military and settlers, all prisoners were categorised into groups fit and unfit for work, and pre-printed death certificates indicating “death by exhaustion following privation” were issued. The British government published their well-known account of the German genocide of the Nama and Herero peoples in 1918.
Many Herero died later of disease, overwork and malnutrition. Camps, such as that in Windhoek, showed mortality rates as high as 61%.The mortality rate in the camps reached 45% in 1908. The death rates are calculated at between 69 and 74%.

German Schutztruppe in combat with the Herero in a painting by Richard Knötel.

Food in the camps was extremely scarce, consisting of rice with no additions. As the prisoners lacked pots, the rice they received was uncooked and indigestible horses and oxen that died in the camp were later distributed to the inmates as food. As a result dysenteryspread, in addition to lung diseases, despite those conditions the Herero were taken outside the camp every day for labour under harsh treatment by the German guards, while the sick were left without any medical assistance or nursing care.
Shootings, hangings and beatings were common, and the sjambok was used by guards who treated the forced labourers harshly a 28 September 1905, article in the South African newspaperCape Argus detailed some of the abuse, with the heading: “In German S. W. Africa: Further Startling Allegations: Horrible Cruelty”. In an interview with Percival Griffith, “an accountant of profession, who owing to hard times, took up on transport work at Angra Pequena, Lüderitz”, related his experiences.

“There are hundreds of them, mostly women and children and a few old men … when they fall they are sjamboked by the soldiers in charge of the gang, with full force, until they get up … On one occasion I saw a woman carrying a child of under a year old slung at her back, and with a heavy sack of grain on her head … she fell. The corporal sjamboked her for certainly more than four minutes and sjamboked the baby as well … the woman struggled slowly to her feet, and went on with her load. She did not utter a sound the whole time, but the baby cried very hard.”

During the war, a number of people from the Cape (in modern day South Africa) sought employment as transport riders for German troops in Namibia. Upon their return to the Cape, some of these people recounted their stories, including those of the imprisonment and genocide of the Herero and Namaqua people. Fred Cornell, a British aspirant diamond prospector, was in Lüderitz when the Shark Island extermination camp was being used. Cornell wrote of the camp:

“Cold – for the nights are often bitterly cold there – hunger, thirst, exposure, disease and madness claimed scores of victims every day, and cartloads of their bodies were every day carted over to the back beach, buried in a few inches of sand at low tide, and as the tide came in the bodies went out, food for the sharks.”

The extermination camp on Shark Island, in the coastal town of Lüderitz, was the worst of the German South West African camps. Lüderitz lies in southern Namibia, flanked by desert and ocean. In the harbour lies Shark Island, which then was connected to the mainland only by a small causeway. The island is now, as it was then, barren and characterised by solid rock carved into surreal formations by the hard ocean winds. The camp was placed on the far end of the relatively small island, where the prisoners would have suffered complete exposure to the strong winds that sweep Lüderitz for most of the year.

Central figure Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, the Oberbefehlshaber (Supreme Commander) of the protection force in German South-West Africa, in Keetmanshoop during the Herero uprising, 1904.

German Commander Von Estorff wrote in a report that approximately 1,700 prisoners had died by April 1907, 1,203 of them Nama. In December 1906, four months after their arrival, 291 Nama died (a rate of more than nine people a day). Missionary reports put the death rate at between 12 and 18 a day as many as 80% of the prisoners sent to the Shark Island extermination camp never left the island.
There are accusations of Herero women being coerced into sex slavery as a means of survival.
Trotha was opposed to contact between natives and settlers, believing that the insurrection was “the beginning of a racial struggle” and fearing that the colonists would be infected by native diseases.
Benjamin Madley argues that it would be more accurate to describe Shark Island not as a concentration camp or work camp, but as an extermination camp or death camp.

Herero chained during the 1904 rebellion

Medical experiments

Eugen Fischer, a German anthropologist, came to the concentration camps to conduct medical experiments on race, using children of Herero people and mulatto children of Herero women and German men as test subjects.
An estimated 3,000 skulls were sent to Germany for experimentation. In October 2011, after 3 years of talks, the first skulls were due to be returned to Namibia for burial.
Other experiments were made by Dr Bofinger, who injected Herero that were suffering from scurvy with various substances including arsenic and opium afterwards he researched the effects of these substances by performing autopsies on dead bodies

Number of victims

A census performed in 1905 revealed that 25,000 Herero remained inGerman South-West Africa.
According to the 1985 United Nations’ Whitaker Report, the population of 80,000 Herero was reduced to 15,000 “starving refugees” between 1904 and 1907 In Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century:The Socio-Legal Context of Claims under International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in Namibia by Jeremy Sarkin-Hughes a number of 100,000 victims is given. German author Walter Nuhn states that in 1904 only 40,000 Herero lived in German South-West Africa, and therefore “only 24,000” could have been killed.

Germans Stop Revolt In SW Africa - History

German South-West Africa was a colony of the German Empire between 1884 and 1915. This was when it was taken over by Union of South Africa as part of the British Empire and administered as South-West Africa, and then finally becoming Namibia in 1990.

Early History of the Region

On November 16, 1882, Adolf Luderitz, a German merchant from Bremen requested protection for a station that he planned to build in South-West Africa. After he was granted protection, one of his employees, Heinrich Vogelsang, bought a piece of land from a native chief. In the piece of land, he established a city at Angra Pequena and named it Luderitz.

On April 24, 1884, he got protection from Imperial Germany to stop British encroachment. Early 1884, SMS Nautilus, the Kaiserliche Marine ship, visited to review the situation. A good report from the government resulted in a visit from SMS Elisabeth and SMS Leipzig. On August 7, 1884, the German flag was raised in South-West Africa. In October of the same year, Gustav Nachtigal arrived on the SMS Mowe as the new commissioner for West Africa.

Forming the DKGSWA

In 1885, the German Colonial Society for Southwest Africa (DKGSWA) was founded with the great support of German bankers, industrialists, and politicians. The DKGSWA was given monopoly rights to fully exploit mineral deposits. This society purchased assets of Luderitz’s failing enterprises. In 1908, diamonds were discovered. The diamonds together with gold, platinum, copper and other minerals became a great investment.

Luderitz’s Death and Aftermath

Luderitz died in 1886 and the company bought all his lands and mining rights. Over the next several years, the relationship between Germans and the indigenous people continued to get worse. Many treaties, agreements, and vendettas increased the tension in the area.

In 1888, the very first group of Schutztruppen arrived (they were secretly sent) to protect Otjimbingwe. The Schutzruppe detachment was composed of two officers, five non-commissioned officers, and 20 black soldiers.

By the end of 1888, the German commissioner was forced to flee to Walvis Bay after failed negotiations with the locals. In the late 1880s, the South-West Africa Company was almost bankrupt and was forced to ask for help from Bhismarck. By 1890, the colony was declared Crown Colony and more troops were sent to the area. German South-West Africa was actually the only German colony where the Germans settled in large numbers.

Rebellion against German Rule

Between 1893 and 1894, Hottentot Uprising’ of the Nama led by Hendrik Witbooi occurred. The following years saw many other local uprisings against the Germans. Remote farms were attacked and around 150 German settlers were killed. However, an additional 14,000 troops sent from Germany crushed the rebellion in Battle of Waterberg.

Earlier, the German Lieutenant Von Trotha issued an ultimatum to Herero people. The ultimatum denied them the right of being German subjects and actually ordered the Herero people to leave the country or be killed.

In 1904, Nama entered the struggles against the colonial rule. This uprising was finally stopped between 1907 and 1908. This resulted in between 25,000 and 100,000 Herero, 10,000 Nama, and 1,749 Germans deaths. After the conflict ended, the remaining natives who were released from detention were subject to a policy of deportation, deposition, forced labor, racial segregation and discrimination.

World War I

During the First World War, South African troops opened hostilities with an assault on the Ramansdrift police station on September 13th, 1914. The German settlers were transported to some prison camps near Pretoria. Due to the rising superiority of South African troops, German Schutzruppe together with groups of Afrikaner volunteers, offered opposition only as a delaying tactic.

After the war, the territory was under British control and later made a South African League of Nations mandate. In the year 1990, this former colony became independent as Namibia.

The fight against colonialism and imperialism in Africa

To understand what effects WW2 had on the nature of the fight against colonialism and imperialism in Africa we need to look at the climate just before WW2.

Rebellions Against Colonial Rule Before the Second World War

After 1900, Europe began to introduce changes to colonial rule in an effort to increase revenues from the colonies. These changes included taking land from African people and giving it to the growing number of Europeans in the colonies. The other changes were the introduction of taxes like the hut tax and poll tax that forced Africans to work for European settlers. Africans were forced to work for Europeans in order to pay these taxes. This was because the new taxes had to be paid in cash and not as cattle or crops as was the practice before. Exploitation of African labourers by European employers added to the growing resentment among the local people.

Resistance movements began to rise in Africa. In colonies with a growing number of settlers, the demand for more land and labour increased tensions between colonial authorities and the white communities that had settled in the colonies. More land was taken from African people and given to Europeans for settlement. In response to these developments, some chiefs organised rebellions against colonial authorities.

Revolt: To rise against the government with the aim of removing it and replacing it with another government that is more acceptable.

One of the chiefs who organised an armed rebellion against British colonial authority was Zulu Chief Bambatha. He was not happy with the loss of land his people suffered and the poll tax of one pound that they were forced to pay. His demand was that his people's land be returned and the poll tax lifted. The armed rebellion was finally crushed after lasting out a year. Chief Bambatha together with his 3000 followers was killed. There were similar revolts in Eastern Africa, South West Africa, and Zimbabwe. Like the Bambatha rebellions they were all crushed. In East Africa there was the Maji Maji revolt organised by Kinjigitile Ngwale in 1905. The revolt was against forced labour and tax policies forced upon the people by the German government, which was implementing a cotton scheme to increase her exports. To implement their scheme the Germans forced Africans to plant cotton instead of their traditional staple crops. And the Maji Maji revolted.

These Maji Maji revolts shared similar traits. In all of them there was a strong belief in African spirit mediums and a strong influence of Ethiopianism. This philosophy originated in Ethiopia. The aim of Ethiopianism was to restore African traditions and political structures. It rested on African faith in spirits to protect them. People believed that the spirits were capable of turning European bullets into water and that they would be immune to bullets by undertaking a cleansing ritual before battle. The initial success of the Maji Maji rebellions strengthened the people's belief in their spirit mediums. The African emphasis also managed to unite different ethnic groups to fight for the same purpose. However, pitted against European machine guns, the Africans were doomed to fail and they lost their faith in the protection of Maji Maji. About 26 000 people were killed by German forces. To avoid future rebellions the colonial government reduced its use of force and began to rely strongly on missionary education for implementing colonial policies.

An Uprising in Nyasaland (Malawi)

Not all uprisings in this period were influenced by African spirit mediums. In Nyasaland, now Malawi, the Christian church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church under the leadership of Priest John Chilembwe, played an important role organizing and carrying out an early uprising against colonial authority. John Chilembwe was the leader of this uprising to protest against the hut tax, which was increased by 8 shillings in 1909, and unfair labour practices on white owned estates. The First World War made matters even worse. John Chilembwe noticed that a large number of people who died while fighting against the Germans in September 1914 in Karonga were black people. He then wrote a letter to the Nyasaland Times newspaper challenging the idea that participation in the war would improve things for black people in Nyasaland.

John Chilembwe organised an armed rebellion against the colonial government. On the 23 January 1915, an armed group of men attacked the Livingstone Estate while another group attacked the Bruce Estate. A third group was sent to attack the Blantyre armoury in a bid to obtain weapons for an armed revolt on the capital, Zomba, to overthrow the colonial government. Although the first two attacks were successful, the attack on the Blantyre African Lakes Corporation Armoury was not and the final revolt failed. John Chilembwe was shot and killed while attempting to escape from Nyasaland. By the 4 February 1915, the uprising was over.

Though unsuccessful, the uprising prompted the government to reconsider the land and labour practices in Nyasaland. These were major causes of the uprising. They had been introduced mainly to exploit the colonies by extracting more labour from them and squeezing more productivity from the workers to lower the cost to the colony. At the same time taxation on black people was increased. The uprising had the effect of raising the awareness of black people to colonial rule and encouraged them to stand up for their rights and demand an end to colonial rule.

Herero Uprising

The rinderpest epidemic of 1896 to 1897 had destroyed the cattle of the Herero and Nama people of South West Africa, now Namibia. The Germans took advantage of the Herero's loss and occupied most of their good grazing land. At the same time, the German government adopted a policy of encouraging Germans to settle in the colonies. Because of this, more land was taken from the Herero people and given to German settlers.

In 1904 the Herero broke out in revolt and succeeded in regaining some of their land for a while. Hundreds of Germans were surrounded and killed by Herero fighters. The Herero tried to get the support of Nama people but failed to do so. The German government brought in reinforcements from Germany and was thus able to drive back the rebellions Herero.

Commander of the German forces, Lothar Von Trotha gave orders to shoot the Herero because, according to him, they no longer deserved German protection. Many Herero were killed and others fled to Botswana to hide. Because this was an attempt to wipe out all Hereros, it can be called genocide. The German victory resulted in more hardships for the Herero. All their remaining cattle were confiscated and their chiefs stripped of their authority.

The Formation of Political Parties

Another response to colonial transformation was the formation of political parties. These were formed by the small educated group of Africans mainly residing in developing colonial towns. These Africans were educated at missionary schools. At first, these parties did not seek to create a mass following, but to lobby their respective colonial governments to recognise the civil rights of Africans and protect and recognize the land rights of Africans in rural areas. The formation of political parties in this period reflected changes in African nationalism. It was now increasingly being influenced by western education and Christianity. This created a new educated social group in Africa, which was excluded from participating in colonial rule because they were Africans. Their aspirations were equality between Europeans and Africans and later they began to demand self-rule. From the beginning they worked closely with chiefs because they shared the same demands. But because colonial rule adopted chiefs into the administration of African people, the growing number of chiefs who were co-operating with colonial government strained the relationship between the new elite leaders and the chiefs. Furthermore, western educated leaders feared that because chiefs represent different ethnic groups, they would undermine the unity of African nationalism by causing ethnic rivalries in the colonies. Therefore they began to undermine chiefs in an attempt to overcome ethnic differences in the colonies.

In South Africa, the South African National Natives Congress (SANNC) was founded in 1912, becoming one of the earliest political parties. Following the 1913 Land Act that placed most of the land in white hands, the Congress sent a delegation to London to lobby the government to abolish the act. The delegation was not successful. Their approach to the government was in contrast to that of Chief Bambatha's. They did not call an all-outright British rebellion against colonial rule. Because of their western education the leaders of the SANNC were better placed to understand the politics of colonial rule. Unlike Chief Bambatha, their response appealed to all ethnic groups in South Africa. This made the SANNC response a national one against colonial injustices.

These new parties, like the SANNC were largely modelled on the American civil rights movement with the political independence cause playing a secondary role. Civil rights movements are mainly concerned with improving the human rights of followers. The aim was not to replace the form of government. The major political demand prior to the Second World War was for reforms and a more inclusive colonial government. These parties were Pan African in character. They did not recognise colonial borders. For example, in West Africa there was the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) uniting political leaders in West African British Colonies.

The formation of political parties in South Africa was influenced by other developments in the country making it somewhat unique in the experience of colonialism in the continent. The development of the mining industry after the discovery of diamonds and gold rapidly transformed the South African economy.

The mining economy attracted labourers from both inside and outside South Africa. People came from as far as Nyasaland, Mozambique, and Zambia to South Africa as migrant labourers. Migration spread news and ideas about political, religious and other developments in the colonies. Out of this background, the Industrial and Commercial Union (ICU) representing Cape black dock-workers was formed. Its first President was Clements Kadalie from Nyasaland, now Malawi. The Industrial and Commercial Union expanded to represent black farmers and sharecroppers who had been forced off their farms.

Following the Second World War, colonial governments began to introduce significant reforms to prepare Africans for self-government. At the same time this war also marked increasing control of Africans by colonial governments. The steps for self-government were often just a pretext for more centralized colonial authority. These 'preparations' meant that the government would increase control over chiefs and centralise power in the hands of colonial governors who would introduce sweeping changes, especially in the field of agriculture without consideration of the wishes of African people. This approach led to the black people and African political parties becoming increasingly radical. After the war, most of these demanded independence from colonial rule.

1. What caused revolts for independence from colonialism in the early 20th century in Africa?

2. Many of these revolts had similar underlining beliefs. Discuss these beliefs.

3. Explain the role of Christianity in the Nyasaland uprising

4. Why did these revolts fail?

5. In not more than one page explain the formation of early African political parties. What were their political demands?

Responses to Colonial Rule after the Second World War

After the Second World War, revolts and struggles against colonial rule no longer demanded reform but full political independence. This was influenced by African participation in the Second World War. Africans played an important role in the liberation of Ethiopia. Independence for Ethiopia showed that freedom from colonial occupation was possible and inspired other struggles for liberation.

Political parties that were formed in this period became more radical in their demands and received growing support. To a large extent this support came from the increasing number of Africans living in urban areas following the Second World War. The colonial government's expansion of education had also played a role in this. The spread of education and urbanisation of Africans led to the growth of ideas about independence. The people began to question colonial rule and challenged their exclusion from the governmental process. It was because of these developments that the process of decolonisation in Africa began.

Betterment Schemes: Policies of agricultural developments introduced by colonial governments in Africa in the post-WW2 period.

The Second World War began in 1939 and ended in 1945 destroying European economies for the second time. Once again they looked to their colonies to help. Before the war, there was a scientific rational approach to agricultural production. Soil erosion had been identified as a major cause of poor productivity. Betterment schemes were introduced in most colonies to prevent soil erosion and the general degradation of the soil. Colonial authorities were opposed to the use of African indigenous methods of farming because they believed these methods were inferior, ineffective and unscientific. As a result, African farmers became the main target of these betterment schemes. During the war betterment schemes were discontinued. Once the War was over, there was increased interest in soil preservation and conservation and betterment schemes were reintroduced in most parts of Africa.

In South Africa the implementation of betterment schemes forced black people off their farms and onto reserves. The government had created these reserves when they set aside 13 percent of the country's land for black people in terms of the Land Act of 1913.

Betterment schemes required that the number of cattle owned by black people be reduced to avoid over grazing and soil erosion. Once they were forced off their farms, available grazing land was hard to find and this had damaging effect on black livelihood threatening economic survival. Black people were not compensated for their loss of land and cattle. Compensation given to black cattle owners appeared more of a token gesture when compared to compensation given to white farmers. To implement betterment schemes, the government gave certain powers to traditional authorities to drive the schemes. This again took away from the autonomy of African societies.

In 1951 the South African government introduced a new law called the Bantu Authorities Act enabling it to control chiefs in rural areas. Chiefs were no longer accountable to their own people but to the government. The people began to see their chiefs as collaborators with the government who were no longer listening to their problems. In Pondoland and Tembuland people attacked chiefs who collaborated with the apartheid government and created their own traditional local assemblies to reject the Bantu Authorities Act.

Because African societies were largely agrarian, betterment schemes had an extremely negative impact on them. There were a series of revolts against betterment schemes in most parts of South Africa. These highlighted that an uprising to end colonial rule was possible. Reforms were no longer enough to satisfy black aspirations.

The Sekhukhuneland Revolt

The Sekhukhuneland revolt was organised by Pedi migrant workers in 1958. They formed an organisation called the Sebatakgomo. Migrant workers were not as concerned about urban politics as about the pressures being brought to bear on rural areas. These developments affected their control of land and the economic benefits they were getting from owning land in rural areas. The revolt was organised to challenge the introduction of betterment schemes and the Bantu Authorities Act.

Migrant men understood that the Bantu Authorities Act placed chiefs under the control of government instead of the people they were supposed to serve. They realised that the government would use chiefs to implement unpopular schemes like the betterment schemes and segregation of Africans. At the heart of this revolt was also the increasing control of migrant workers by the government through their chiefs.

Unlike the Nyasaland uprising, the Sekhukhuneland revolt did not attempt to overthrow the colonial government. The aim of the revolt was to protect the land of the Pedi from being taking away by the government and thus safeguard the integrity of the Pedi kingdom. Migrant workers attacked people suspected of collaborating with the government. These were chiefs who had accepted the Bantu Authorities Act and the betterment schemes. They were expelled from the villages and replaced by popular chiefs. The revolt was unsuccessful in the end. Effective rural revolt was only realised later through the efforts of South African political parties.

In your own words write a paragraph explaining the differences in revolts against colonial rule before and after the Second World War. Answer the question in essay form. Your essay should be about 2 pages long. Remember that when you compare something, you have to look at both the differences as well as the similarities.

These points should be dealt with in your essay.

1. Why were these revolts unsuccessful or successful i.e. led to reforms or even independence?

2. Why did political parties after the Second World War become more radical?

3. Explain differences in political demands before the Second World War and after the Second World War.

4. Why did betterment schemes have a negative impact on African societies and why was resistance against betterment schemes mainly a rural resistance?


  1. Ashtin

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  2. Kailene

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  3. Nixon

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  4. Nygel

    I'll just keep quiet

  5. Fenrizil

    I have removed it a question

  6. Mateusz

    what in such a case to do?

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