Herero and Nama Rising

The great Herero Rising under Samuel Maherero

In January 1904, the great Herero Rising under Samuel Maherero began in Okahandja. Apparently, it had been planned for a long time. The rebellion quickly spread through the whole Herero region and Damaraland. 123 white men died, rail tracks and telephone connections were interrupted, farms and public buildings rose in flames. Only when the German protection troops engaged, the tide turned. In spite of an enforcement to as many as 15 000 soldiers, it became clear that the insurgents were well armed and well versed in the art of war. General Lieutenant von Trotha, who had taken over command of the German troops from Mayor Leutwein, did not share his predecessors view that the Herero had been punished enough and the main task in the protectorate was to keep up the very important work strength of this people. Von Trotha wanted to eradicate the Herero people. In the battle of Waterberg, in August 1904, von Trotha closed in on thousands of Herero, leaving them only one route of escape: the path to the waterless dry savannah of Omaheke. He drove the Herero people into the desert. Three quarters of all Hereros died in this war of extermination.

The Nama Rising under Hendrik Witbooi

At the same time, the Nama rose against the Germans. They fought a bitter guerrilla war, lead by Hendrik Witbooi and Jacob Morenga. Witbooi died in October 1905 in an attack on a German supply transport. Witbooi’s resistance was dead, but his followers kept fighting. new leaders stepped in at the head of the movement. The last of them was Jacob Morenga. He was killed in 1907 by Cape police when he tried to organize operations against the Germans out of the cape region. Apparently, the British were concerned that Morenga might create turmoil in the cape region, as well.

After 1907, the Nama and Herero tribes were as good as exterminated. Between 20 000 and 30 000 Herero had died up to that date. About 2 500 Germans had lost their lives in the fights. All Black people were denied the right to own land or cattle, the tribal areas and occasional property were confiscated. Many members of the tribes died in concentration camps, survivors were “resettled” in reservations. Tribes in more remote areas like the Ovambo, Damara, Himba and the Rehoboter Baster were affected by this development.

Germans in the region had a quiet time for a while, until World War I began.

Zacharias Lawela discoveres a diamond near Lüderitz

In 1908, the workingman Zacharias Lawela was shovelling sand off rail tracks and discovered a diamond in the sand. His boss, track master August Stauch, bought a digging permit. Soon the new digger city Kolmanskop rose on both sides of the rail track. In September 1908, the “Deutsche Diamanten-Gesellschaft” acquired all digging rights.

World War I