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A Brief History of Genocide: from the Soviet Union to Africa

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Genocide is an abhorrent crime that has been around since the beginning of time – but was only recognized as a crime under the law in 1946. Genocide is the intentional act of harming a person physically and mentally. However, not only is this physical and mental harm done to an individual but a large group of people who are consciously targeted. The military campaign in German Southwest Africa with its deliberate targeting of a large group of people, due to their affiliations, was genocide.

The German Military Campaign in German Southwest Africa took place between the year 1904 to the year 1907. This was just seven years shy of being the same as World War 1. This campaign fathered many inhuman military practices due to, what many thought, was because of the racist ideology in the minds of the Germans. However, Isabel V. Hull states in her journal about this campaign that instead it was “a European war in which genocide developed out of standard military practices and assumptions.” The genocide developed as the war did – in four phases. These phases were- small battles, the ultimate battle, the pursuit, and the proclamation.

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These four phases of war during the military campaign show the gradual arrival of the actual genocide. Phase 1 and Phase 2, were the phases of deprivement. Phase 1 was the small battles that were led by Governor Colonel Theodor Leutwein. These battles were led to reinforce the main purposes behind this military campaign by instilling fear within the people of southwest Africa through their military knowledge of their own advantages – technical and organizational. These battles, although small at first, were the gateway to the extreme escalation of the European colonial military practices. This extreme escalation of military practices ranged from imprisonment all the way to execution.

After the fear was instilled through these small battles and ultimately phase 2, the pursuit of the Herero is what brought about the actual genocide. With the escape of the Herero, the military was set on proving the labels of being “incompetent” wrong. The massacres of not only prisoners but people & the deprivement of food and water were all a part of the genocide. The massacres and the lack of food and water are examples of intentional physical and mental harm that the Herero experienced because of the efforts of the military to regain the prestige they had before the escape.

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