Lothar von Trotha


Lothar von Trotha

Adrian Dietrich Lothar von Trotha (July 3, 1848 – March 31, 1920) was a German military commander noted for his conduct of the Herero Wars in South-West Africa, especially for the events that led to the near-extermination of the Herero.

Born in Magdeburg, the capital of the Province of Saxony, Trotha joined the Prussian army in 1865 and fought in the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, for which he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class. He found time to marry Bertha Neumann on 15 October 1872 and continued to climb the promotion ladder in the Prussian military.

In 1894, Trotha was appointed commander of the colonial force in German East Africa and was highly successful in brutally suppressing uprisings there and in the Boxer Rebellion while temporarily posted to Qing Dynasty China as Brigade Commander of the East Asian Expedition Corps. It was not therefore a surprise when he was appointed Commander in Chief of German South West Africa on 3 May 1904 and directed to crush the native Herero rebellion. Trotha arrived in South West Africa on 11 June 1904, when the war against the Herero had been raging for five months. The German command up to that time had not had much success against the Herero guerrilla tactics. Initially, he too suffered losses.

In October 1904, General von Trotha devised a new battle plan to end the uprisings. At the Battle of Waterberg, he issued orders to encircle the Herero on three sides so that the only escape route was into the waterless Omaheke-Steppe, a western arm of the Kalahari Desert. The Herero fled into the desert and Trotha ordered his troops to poison water holes, erect guard posts along a 150 mile line and shoot on sight any Herero, be they man, woman or child, who attempted to escape. Hence, in the desert was where the Herero were forced to remain, with many dying of thirst. To make things absolutely clear about his attitude to the Herero, Trotha then issued the "Vernichtungsbefehl", or extermination order: "Within the German borders, every Herero, whether armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall not accept any more women or children. I shall drive them back to their people — otherwise I shall order shots to be fired at them." Von Trotha dicussed his own policies later in his life "It was and is my policy to use force with terrorism and even brutality." An undisclosed German soldier was reported to have said of the massacares "...the death rattle of the dying and the shrieks of the mad...they echo in the sublime stillness of infinity."

Trotha’s tactics were in marked distinction to that of the Herero leaders, who were, in the main, careful to ensure that only German soldiers were attacked. [cf. Drechsler, Horst: "Let Us Die Fighting: The Struggle of the Herero and Nama Against German Imperialism, 1884-1915" (London: Zed Press, 1980), 150."]

As soon as news of Trotha’s actions reached Germany, there was a public outcry which led Imperial Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow to ask William II, German Emperor, to remove von Trotha from his command. [http://www.ppu.org.uk/genocide/g_namibia1.html Talking about genocide: Namibia 1904 - Peace pledge union (British pacifist site)] ] This was too late to help the Herero though, as the few survivors had been herded into camps and used as labour for German businesses, where many died of overwork, malnutrition or disease. Prior to the uprisings, there were estimated to be 80,000 Herero. In the 1911 census, 15,000 were found.

Trotha’s troops also routed the Nama. On April 22 1905, he sent a message to Nama, suggesting they surrender, and mentioning the fate of the Herero.

Approximately 10,000 Nama died during the fighting, the remaining 9,000 were confined in concentration camps.

On 19 November 1905 Trotha returned to Germany and was appointed as general of the infantry in 1910. He married for a second time on 19 May 1912 (to Lucy Goldstein Brinkmann) and died of typhoid fever(bilious fever) on 31 March 1920 in Bonn.

Trotha’s legacy

On 16 August 2004, the German government under Gerhard Schröder officially apologized for the atrocities. "We Germans accept our historic and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time," said Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany’s development aid minister. In addition, she admitted the massacres were equivalent to genocide. The two countries have generally had a good relationship since and Germany has tailored generous economic, political packages for the people of Namibia.

The descendants of Trotha and the von Trotha family traveled to Omaruru in October 2007 by invitation of the royal Herero chiefs and publicly apologised for his actions. Wolf-Thilo von Trotha, a member of the family, said, "We, the von Trotha family, are deeply ashamed of the terrible events that took place 100 years ago. Human rights were grossly abused that time." [cite news
author=
title=German family's Namibia apology
date=2007-10-07
work=BBC News
url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7033042.stm
accessdate=2008-08-08
]

External links

*cite news
author=
title=German family's Namibia apology
date=2007-10-07
work=BBC News
url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7033042.stm
accessdate=2008-08-08

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/mobile/bbc_news/world/africa/703/70330/story7033042.shtml?=0075 Family apologizes]

References


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