The Forum of German-speaking Namibians regrets the decision by the responsible authorities to continue using the former concentration camp ‘Shark Island’ next to Lüderitz harbour as camping ground for travellers and tourists. This, in spite of remonstrations by representatives of the Nama and Ovaherero descendants of the colonial genocide generations, who constitute an invaluable source of advice on the history of the island, as well as on its future utilization in a sensitive and dignified manner.

‘Shark Island’ has already been declared a national heritage site. It should now be considered to be converted into a dignified memorial site in remembrance of all the victims of this former concentration camp. The unimaginable harsh conditions and inhuman treatment experienced by the inmates resulted in an enormous number of deaths, earning ‘Shark Island’ the ignominious reputation of being one of the two concentration camps constituting part of the colonial genocide.

The Forum has full understanding for and sympathizes with the outcry by Nama and OvaHerero descendants of the 1904 – 1908 genocide generations, objecting to the frivolous use of ‘Shark Island’ and accusing the respective authorities of not regarding historical issues in a serious manner.

Some profound proposals with regard to the development of the former concentration camp have already been made. This includes the suggestion, that all relevant authorities – e. g. Environment & Tourism, Fisheries & Marine Resources, Education & Culture, and others – engage with Nama and OvaHerero representatives as well as other bona fide stakeholders, including relevant business interests, in a dialogue on the future of ‘Shark Island’ in order to find a dignified solution to the present untenable situation.

Proponents envisage the creation of a Memorial Museum, possibly adjoined by a library, gift shop and a café, as well as a space for memorial events, which could also be utilized for educational activities. This will provide for a combination of culture, history and tourism on ‘Shark Island’, stimulating critically needed socio-economic development with long term benefits for the community of Lüderitz. Cultural tourism world-wide has become extremely popular and guided day tours could be arranged across the island and through the museum, with explanations about its exhibits and the relevant history. At the same time local creative industries can exhibit and sell their art and crafts to visitors.

Historians, researchers, academics and students could be attracted to study relevant aspects of Namibian history, and educational workshops, dramatic performances, cultural and historical events could periodically be presented.

The Memorial Museum will be a perfect location to house all human skulls as well as other human remains from the genocide period in a dignified manner. Other significant artifacts and antiques repatriated from Germany could also safely and accessibly be stored and viewed here, as well as any other exhibits worth keeping for the enlightenment of future generations. It was correctly pointed out already that financing can be expected to be availed by the German government’s reparations and reconstruction package.

Genocide memorial museum projects have been proven successful in countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda, where they have proven to become popular global tourism destinations. In the European context the famous French-German friendship pact comes to mind, which was sealed between German chancellor Adenauer and French president de Gaulle in 1962 in the cathedral of Reims in France – creating a sound bond of friendship between these two nations after many centuries of mortal enmity.

It might constitute a striking and lasting ritual if the Lutheran “Felsenkirche” (Church on the Rocks), situated on the rocky Diamond Hill high above Lüderitz and ‘Shark Island’ could serve as venue for a solemn joint service, sealing a pact of forgiveness and reconciliation, demonstrating closure of the extremely painful history shared between present-day Namibian compatriots. In acknowledgement of the culture of remembrance and reverence of the forebears of the descendants of the genocide generations, ‘Shark Island’ – having been a former inhuman concentration camp of unimaginable cruelty and numerous deaths – should at the same time be jointly inaugurated as a sacred space, inviting honest and serious contemplation of our shared history and conciliatory engagement for a peaceful common future.

  • Management Committee
  • Vorstandsmitglieder: H. Hecht (Vorsitzender), B. Herma, M. Nambelela, C. von Blottnitz, R. von Hase, A. von Wietersheim, M. von Wietersheim Seite 2 von 2
Allgemeine Zeitung (Windhoek) | Dezember 2021

Slider Credits

  • Lüderitzbucht – Nördlicher Teil mit der Haifischinsel am 31. Dezember 1909 | Aus: Die deutschen Kolonien / Hrsg. Kurt Schwab unter Mitwirkung von Dr. Fr. Böhme [et. al.]; künstlerische Leitung Bernhard Esch; Farbenphotographische Aufnahmen Dr. Robert Lohmeyer (geb. 1879), Bruno Marquardt (1878-1916) und Eduard Kiewning (?) – CD-ROM Deutsche Kolonien in Farbfotografien ISBN-13: 978-3-89853-344-7
  • Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus ermordeten Sinti und Roma Europas im Oktober 2012 nach der Einweihung – FDN-Europa Hf – Rolf Krahl – Wikimedia Commons-CC-BY 4.0
  • Berlin Holocaust Mahnmal, Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas in May 2005 / Wikformi / Wikimedia / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license