Decades before the Holocaust, Germany carried out what many historians consider the first genocide of the 20th century in Namibia. German generals targeted two land-owning ethnic groups, the Herero and Nama, killing 100,000 people; and throwing the survivors into concentration camps.
The killings shrunk the Herero and Nama from among the biggest groups in the country to two of the smallest. Partly as a result, the Herero and Nama are much poorer than Namibians of German descent.
Now, descendants of the survivors are suing Germany for an admittance of genocide, an apology, and reparations.
“We hope to get an apology from the Germans,” Gottlieb Kazombiaze, an Herero activist told VICE News.
They also want to use the money to buy back their land. But they’re facing fierce resistance from the country’s white population. White Namibians comprise 6 percent of the country’s population, but own 60 percent of its private land. They’re not happy with the prospect of giving up property that’s been in their families for decades.
If the Herero and Nama win, the case could set a legal precedent and encourage other indigenous groups to sue former colonial powers.
This story was originally published by The VIce News and aired May 30, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.