The Herero campaign in German South West Africa can with good reason be considered the first Genocide carried out by a Western nation in the 20th century.
A certain group of modern historians argues that it was not the German intention to exterminate the whole tribe, but period literature makes no effort to hide the fact that the soldiers involved were by no means disturbed at the thought of wiping out the race, or by the methods used.
Right:Award document for Heinrich Teske's Colonial commemorative badge
Gustav Frenssen wrote a book about the campaign that sold very well in Germany and seems to have captured the "Zeitgeist" of the German thoughts on the campaign. In "Peter Moors Fahrt nach Südwest" Frenssen, a nominee for the Nobel prize for literature, writes of the actions of the Schutztruppe and fate of the Herero as if if were simply a natural chain of events.
"We arrived at a place where the grass was flattened. I fell to my knees and examined the tracks. Countless children's feet intermingled with some adults. Large groups of children accompanied by their mothers moving to the North East. I walked a bit further to a tree and pulled myself up into the lower branches. There I saw it. Just 100m away on the moonlit slope, hundreds of huts with their low entrances and glowing embers. The crying of the children and the barking of a dog. There lay thousands of women and children under the grass roofs. Behind them on the slopes going to the top of the "Berg" stood more huts, difficult to see in the darkness, from there came the sound of barking dogs and cattle. I stared wide eyed at the scene and made note of the position. The thought went through my head "There lays a Race, with all its children, all its possessions... surrounded on all sides by shot and shell, sentenced to die"... I felt a shiver down my spine..."
It must be noted that Peter Moor does not find the notion to be disturbing, in fact, like in much period literature, the author finds it justifiable.
"I joined them and listened eagerly to what they had to say. They spoke of the past 15 years of struggle in the colony, and of the last three months of fighting. I was astonished that such hardship and glory had taken place and that not a word had been written about it, that so much German blood had been spilled in this hot and dry land. Then the topic changed to the reasons for the rebellion. An older man who had lived in the colony for years spoke... "Children, why are you so surprised? They were herders and free, and we are busy turning them into possession less workers. That angered them. They did what our ancestors in Northern Germany did in 1813, this is their liberation struggle." "But with such barbarity!" protested someone. The older man was unimpressed "Do you think it would have been different if our whole race had risen up against an oppressor? And are we not just as hard on them?" The conversation turned to what we Germans wanted here in this land. It was agreed that it should be clear what our goals were. The missionaries came and said "You are our brothers, we want to give you faith, love and hope." and the soldiers and settlers said "We want your land, your cattle and to turn you into our workers." It was ridiculous, it was either right to colonise, take away rights and turn into servants... or to Christianise and preach of brother love. Either one, or the other, to love... or to rule. Before or against Jesus. The missionaries were confusing them saying "You are our brothers!"... They are not! They are our servants, to be treated fairly but strictly. Our brothers? maybe in 100 or 200 years, first they must learn what we had to learn, to build dams and wells, to dig and plant maize, to build houses and weave cloth. Maybe then they will be brothers. You don't join a club until you have paid your dues!"
The skirmish at Hamakari was one of the first actions in the battle at the Waterberg. The headquarters column of the Schutztruppe was racing forward to capture the wells, with them was "Peter Moor", Hauptmann Max Bayer and Gefreiter Heinrich Teske, a artillery man in the 5th field artillery battery. The battery was one of a number of units which had been hastily formed with volunteers in Germany to help crush the rebellion.
Accounts of the skirmish can be found in most books dealing with the campaign, including detailed accounts in the "Peter Moor" story and number of works by Max Bayer (one of which is extensively quoted below).
On the right is a map that shows the position of the headquarters column at the moment they were surrounded. The 5th battery with Heinrich Teske was in the middle of the "Igl" but was later to move to the boundaries and engage in direct fire.
To continue to Teske's awards and an account of the battle, please click here.