Decades before the Nazis turned to the Jews, German colonialists in Southwest Africa – now Namibia – dehumanized, built death camps for, and slaughtered tens of thousands of tribespeople in a systematic genocide. Here, Edwin Black reveals the full horrors of an eerie and odious precursor of the Shoah, and its legacy in the US.
recent years, some in the African American community have expressed a disconnect from Holocaust topics, seeing the genocide of Jews as someone else’s nightmare. After all, African Americans are still struggling to achieve general recognition of the barbarity of the Middle Passage, the inhumanity of slavery, the oppression of Jim Crow, and the battle for modern civil rights. For many in that community, the murder of six million Jews and millions of other Europeans happened to other minorities in a faraway place where they had no involvement.
However, a deeper look shows that proto-Nazi ideology before the Third Reich, the wide net of Nazi-era policy, and Hitler’s post-war legacy deeply impacted Africans, Afro-Germans, and African Americans throughout the twentieth century. America’s black community has a mighty stake in this topic. Understanding the German Reich and the Holocaust is important for blacks just as it is for other communities, including Roma, eastern Europeans, people with disabilities, the gay community, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other groups in addition to Jews.
The dots are well known to many scholars — but are rarely connected to form a distinct historical nexus for either the Holocaust or the African American communities. This is understandable. The saga behind these connections started decades before the Third Reich came into existence, in a savage episode on another continent that targeted a completely different racial and ethnic group for death and destruction.
But the horrors visited on another defenseless group endured, and became a template for the Final Solution. Students of the Holocaust are accustomed to looking backward long before the Third Reich and long after the demise of the Nazi war machine. African Americans should do the same.
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