Return all skulls before reparations

Swapo MP Ida Hoffmann says the human remains still in Germany or elsewhere should be repatriated en masse.

10 July 2018 | History

Founder of the Nama genocide discussion and chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee, Ida Hoffmann, says all human remains of Namibian origin still in Germany must be returned before talks of reparations can be done.

“The matter we are dealing with is a holy case. For us it is a sacred and noble cause and must be handled with dignity and respect. Our ancestors will never be able to speak on their own behalf. We are their voices and whatever we do must be done with honesty,” Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann is referring to a recent statement reportedly made by the German special envoy for the genocide negotiations, Ruprecht Polenz, who said that the next restitution of 22 skulls of Namibian origin Germany to Namibia will be in late August.

She said there are many more skulls in Germany that ought to be returned.

The first consignment of 20 skulls were returned in October 2011 and in March 2012 a further 35 skulls were repatriated.

She said there are still 14 skulls at the University of Freiburg, which were ready for repatriation already in 2011.

Another three skulls were identified at the University of Freifswald and another at the Focke-Museum in Bremen.

Hoffmann said there are also skulls in Hamburg, Frankfurt and in the United States of America.

“Why are the Namibian remains being brought back bit by bit?” questioned Hoffmann.

She reiterated that all human remains must be returned before any real discussions about reparations can be done.

“Customarily, you never discuss heirlooms when the body is still in the mortuary. Our ancestors' bodies are still in the mortuaries of universities and museums. This is disrespectful towards our ancestors who need a proper burial,” Hoffmann said.

She said whatever reparations the German government might agree to pay will be the heirloom of the Ovaherero and Nama.

She bemoaned the fact that there have not been any formal burials of the human remains except the 24 bags of bones retrieved by the Roads Construction Company (RCC) on road works in southern Namibia and buried in 11 coffins by Hoffman and the late chief Dawid Fredericks with no assistance from the government or other traditional authorities.

Hoffmann said a number of bones have also been identified at Charlonton Bay near Lüderitz that have yet to be collected and treated with due respect.

“What game is the Namibian government playing? Why are the human remains, accompanying documents and the Witbooi bible, which is in the Linden Museum in Stuttgard, not returned? Is the government postponing matters?” Hoffmann asked.

Catherine Sasman

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