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The genocide took place during 1904-1907, organized by General von Trotha. Wikipedia says:

Von Trotha's methods caused a public outcry which led the Imperial Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow to ask William II, German Emperor, to relieve von Trotha of his command.

However, the source cited in wikipedia does not provide any details of the public outrage. I would like to know what form did it take? Did people write editorials? Did deputies protest in the Reichstag? Rallies? Lectures? Petitions? Demonstrations?

Actually- Was there an outrage at all? I tried to google this but got very little except for a claim that reaction to von Trotha's cruel methods led to the Dernburg reforms (whetever they were). But this doesn't settle the question.

P.S. The wikipedia talk page shows that user Jboy had raised the same issue in 2006 but got no response there.

UPDATE: The 1911 Britannica source - suggested by Drux - makes clear that von Trotha was relieved of his command not because he was cruel but because his cruelty just didn't get the job done:

Meanwhile, the administration of von Trotha, who had assumed the governorship as well as the command of the troops, was severely criticized by the civilian population, and the non-success of the operations against the Hottentots provoked strong military criticism. In August 1905 Colonel (afterwards General) Leutwein, who had returned to Germany, formally resigned the governorship of the protectorate, and Herr von Lindequist, late German consul-general at Cape Town, was nominated as his successor. Von Trotha, who had publicly criticized Prince Billow's order to repeal the Herero proclamation, was superseded. He had in the summer of 1905 instituted a series of "drives" against the Witbois, with no particular results. Hendrik always evaded the columns and frequently attacked them in the rear.

EDIT: Regarding Rohrbach. I came across his name in an article where it was said that:

Both Sudholt and Poewe quote from contemporary sources, such as the important book by Paul Rohrbach, the German government official in Namibia, which unequivocally deplores the attempt to exterminate the Herero.

This is footnoted to

P. Rohrbach, Aiis Siidwestafrikas schweren Tagen (Berlin, 1906), pp. 160, 165, 168, 177.

So, it seems that wikipedia's current characterization of him is not correct. It is ostensibly based on the book by Olusoga & Erichsen which I don't have access to so I can't check wiki's source myself.

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The german wiki-page is more detailed, but doesn't go into public opinion either. I'll see if I can ask a historian friend of mine who worked on similiar topics. –  mart Feb 13 '13 at 9:14
Important historical context: Herero genocide is estimated to up to 100 thousand deaths. At the same time Europeans caused/faced the genocide of up to 10 million people in Congo. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congo_Free_State –  kubanczyk Feb 25 '13 at 10:06
@kubanczyk: Absolutely so. But for the Congo we have the Casement report and wikipedia records some specific reactions: " The report of the British Consul Roger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials who had been responsible for killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1903 (including one Belgian national for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese people)." I would like to know what was done (or not) in the Herero case. –  Felix Goldberg Feb 25 '13 at 13:00

2 Answers 2

Trying to dig up the specific reactions of the general public from that time period would be very difficult, if not impossible. But judging from the attitude of the time period there was probably not an "outrage" as we would define it today. For similar projects I've looked at old newspapers from the time period and looked for editorials. Usually there aren't any because the press was arguably "less free" at the turn of the century. The early 20th century was truly the last days of colonialism (so-called modern colonialism is usually metaphorical language). Public opinion was shifting but it was a gradual change. Many European countries were beginning to relinquish their colonies but there were many voices on both sides of the argument.

So I doubt the public thought much about it, genocides of Africans by Europeans was not uncommon.I don't think he was relieved of command because of this one incident.

Finally there is some interesting evidence from today. This BBC article says that descendants of Von Trotha apologized to the Herero chiefs while government officials still do not apologize officially. I find that rather strange but often governments don't like apologizing retroactively or at all.

"The German government has expressed "regret" at the killings, and a visiting minister apologised in 2004 in general terms, but she avoided specifically saying sorry for the massacres. "

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Could you please link to the BBC article? Thanks! –  nic Mar 15 '13 at 9:58

The article in the German Wikipedia (for some perhaps telling reason its title refers to "uprising" vs. "genocide") mentions pressure exerted by protestant missionaries' churches ("Der Druck der Öffentlichkeit, besonderes der evangelischen Missionskirchen, wuchs.")

It quotes a German PhD thesis from 2004 that provides further information (e.g. on page p. 182). It includes a detailed account of the battle of Waterberg and its tragic aftermath in the Omaheke desert. It also confirms Lothar von Trotha's harsh individual stance and imposed methods but also mentions protests from his staff and that some (sadly few) Hereros made it through the Omakehe desert alive.

In terms of public outcry in Germany, it points to activities by the "Rhenish Missionary Society", which led to a reaction by Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow and to von Trotha's recall from colonial service and return to Germany in 1905 (translation courtesy of Google here):

Insbesondere die Rheinische Mission bemühte sich um eine Befriedung des Konfliktes und verhandelte mit dem Auswärtigen Amt und dem Reichskanzler in Berlin. Dabei kritisierte sie in aller Schärfe von Trothas Proklamation. Pastor Hausleiter von der Rheinischen Mission bat Reichskanzler von Bülow in einem Schreiben, Missionare zu den Aufständischen zu entsenden, um diese zur Übergabe zu bewegen. Außerdem sollten sich die Missionen um die Alten, Kranken, Frauen und Kinder kümmern sowie Zufluchtsorte für diejenigen Herero aufbauen, die zwar am Aufstand nicht aber an den Mordtaten gegen Weiße beteiligt waren.

Again, there is a bit more further information in a German-language diploma thesis from 2010. It analyses the Rhenish Missionary Society's publications from the time (and seems to arrive at or start from a more skeptical view as to the alleged importance of the society's noble role as viewed or presented in retrospect from a "white" angle.)

BTW, whether this was "genocide" or not, von Trotha would not have been able to pursue it after 1905 (e.g. up to 1907 as implied in the question), for 1904 was the year of the incidents and 1905 was when he was transferred. The 1911 Encylopaedia Britannica, not always a reliable modern source on colonialism, gives a (to this reader's eyes) relatively fair account of the main actors involvements, but adds some own confusing language ("concentration camps were established in which some thousands of Herero women and children were cared for").

Further evidence could perhaps be recovered from German newspapers at the time (e.g. a Vienna-based newspapers provides a free online archive going back to 1848). However, I currently do not know any such source with a convenient online index. It also seems as if Ludwig von Estorff, one of the officers who tried to stand up to von Trotha in 1904, later had books published about his time in Namibia: They are (sadly) out of print by now.

UPDATE: Paul Rohrbach's book Aus Südwest-Afrikas schweren Tagen (1909) is a collection of diary entries from 1903 to 1905. During that time the author was a senior official in then German South-West Africa. He mentions the Rhenish Missionary Society several times in passing but not in a way that would suggest his own affiliation. There also frequent references to the "Siedlungsgesellschaft". The report reveals a perspective observer and able administrator, even with a sense of humor (translation courtesy of Google):

Herr Schmerenbeck meinte beim Einreiten, als wir alle großen Durst feststellten, daß irgendwo in einem Zimmer noch eine Kiste Bier stehen müsste. Statt der Kiste fanden wir in dem betreffenden Raum aber einen kleinen Termitenbau, und als der mit der Schaufel auseinandergeschlagen wurde, fanden sich auch ca. 20 Flaschen Bier unversehrt darin vor. Die Termiten waren ins Haus gekommen und hatten die Kiste samt den Strohülsen der Flaschen rein aufgefressen. Es ist wirklich wahr: nur Glas und Metall sind vor ihnen sicher. Aber die Flaschenkorken? An die hatten sie wegen der Stanniolhülle nicht herangekonnt.

With respect to pressure from public opinion in Germany it may be relevant that Rohrbach throughout his tenure seemed concerned about a general lack of interest in the colony's fate back in the home country: this would seem to suggest there was no proper basis for raising a broad opposition, e.g. due to lack of information. Rohrbach mentions and severely critizes General von Trotha several times, although he mentions the "genocide" incident only once in passing and regrets a fifty percent mortality rate. While he exhibits many European prejudices opposite Africa that were typical for his time, I find it very hard to believe that he "was an advocate of eradicating native Africans in order to make room for German colonists", as was mentioned. The following excerpt (allegedly from the June 19, 1904 diary entry) may sum up his views as good as any (again, translation courtesy of Google):

Wir alle haben nun die Furcht, daß der Übergang des Oberbefehls an einen General, der nie in Süwestafrika gewesen ist, zusammen mit der fortdauernden notwendigen Vermehrung der neuen Truppen und Offiziere eine Art von Kriegsführung hervorbringen wird, die unseren Bedürfnissen wenig entspricht. Was von den Reden bei der Aussendung der neuen Truppenverstärkungen aus Deutschland verlautet, und was hier über Äußerungen Trothas gleich in den ersten Tagen seines Aufenthalts im Lande kolportiert wird, gibt, fürchte ich, nur Grund zur Sorge. Es ist viel zu viel von der "Vernichtung" der Hereros die Rede. Das hieße auf das Übel des Aufstandes ein zweites setzen, das schlimmer ist [...] Die Hereros führen einen Freiheitskrieg gegen uns, und sie führen ihn in der Art afrikanischer Barbaren. Auch die Cherusker sollen den römischen Sachwaltern nach der Varusschlacht die Zunge ausgeschnitten und den Mund zugenäht haben -- und das waren unsere Vorfahren.

Rohrbach's book is an interesting read and made me think that Karl May may perhaps have had him in mind as a model for his various (from a modern view also more-or-less tainted) fictional heroes.

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Thanks, that's (the beginning of) the answer I was looking for. Could you perhaps find out more in German sources about the role Paul Rohrbach played? My research brought up his name and he also seems to have had some association with the RSM but the English references to him are sparse and spare. –  Felix Goldberg Feb 26 '13 at 11:27
@FelixGoldberg I'll do that, time permitting (and if you keep that bounty open :) The Wikipedia article on Rohrbach claims that he "was an advocate of eradicating native Africans in order to make room for German colonists", which would seem to make an association with the RMS perhaps unlikely (the Guardian's book reviewer for one did not seem impressed by Wikipedia's perhaps overly biased source), but let's see ... –  Drux Feb 26 '13 at 11:56
Yes, it seems to be that Rohrbach was not treated fairly in wikipedia (but I'd want to know for sure before I edit there). I'll add my source on him to the main question - please have a look. Bountywise, you can count on me doing well by you :) P.S. Thanks for the link to the guardian, it has more pertinent information. –  Felix Goldberg Feb 26 '13 at 13:14
Did you find any information about the reactions of the SPD? in the scandal about "Hänge-Peters" the SPD press played quite a role. Anything about them in your sources? –  mart Feb 27 '13 at 15:05
@mart Not yet. Such reactions might exist, because the German Social Democratic Party was apparently founded already in 1863. –  Drux Feb 27 '13 at 22:56

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