This timeline is re-blogged from Company One’s resource page on We Are Proud to Present… The blog, curated by Company One’s Production Dramaturge, Ramona Ostrowski, can be found here.
Timeline of Events That Led to Genocide
1840s: Germans (first missionaries, then settlers, then soldiers) begin arriving in South West Africa. The two main tribes are the Nama and the Herero, livestock farmers.
1880s: Germany makes South West Africa a colony. The military governor, Major Theodor Leutwein, knows nothing about Africa. He begins playing the Nama and Herero tribes off each other. White settlers continue to arrive and push tribesmen off their land with bribes and unreliable deals.
1889: The first German protective troops are sent to South West Africa in response to the Herero’s growing hostility. They are not meant for combat, but as a police force.
Late 1890s: A cattle-virus epidemic kills many of the tribe’s cows. The colonists offer the Herero aid on credit, and they amass huge debts.
1903: The Nama begin a rebellion led by Hendrik Witbooi and Jacob Morenga. Despite being greatly outnumbered, they use guerrilla tactics. They are joined by the Herero months later.
1904: The Herero rebel, attacking German outposts under the leadership of Samuel Maherero. The German Emperor replaces Major Leutwein with another commander, Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha, who had a reputation for brutally suppressing African resistance to German colonization in East Africa.
German troops begin slowly driving the Herero into a position where they are surrounded on three sides. The fourth side offers escape only into the Kalahari desert, where they poison the few water-holes.
October 2, 1904: von Trotha issues his extermination order.
1904-1907: The Herero are systematically killed by the German soldiers and by disease and starvation in the desert. Survivors are sent to labor camps, where many women are raped and forced to perform sexual services for soldiers. Many Herero people in the camps are also used as human subjects for lab experiments designed to prove the racial inferiority of black people.
The Nama are also put in camps at this point. It is estimated that 35-50% of their tribe is killed.
Herero survivors surrendering to a German work camp
1907: von Trotha’s orders are cancelled in the face of criticism at home and abroad and he is recalled. It is too late for the Herero, however: before the uprising they numbered 80,000, and by 1907 only 15,000 remained.