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The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism Paperback – 4 Aug 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057123142X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571231423
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

''Haunting book ... an unforgettable and unflinching account of a neglected atrocity.' -- Sunday Telegraph >> 'The authors ... seek to show that the Kaiser's Germany displayed an enthusiasm for "social Darwinism" and the imposition of white racial superiority long before Hitler got to work. The first half of their book tells a fascinating story ... a remarkable story, well told here.' -- Max Hastings, Sunday Times >> '(A) provocative and uncomfortably absorbing book. ... Impressively researched, The Kaiser s Holocaust unflinchingly catalogues the abuse of human life in a continent the Kaiser never even visited. Olusoga and Erichsen, with their novelist s flair for narrative, provide a grimly readable history ... the book remains a vitally important addition to the ever-growing literature of atrocity and deserves to be read widely.' -- Ian Thomson, Daily Telegraph >> 'In this powerful book, two historians seek to show that another component of Nazi thinking was the Second Reich s genocidal impulse towards the Herero and Nama peoples of German South-west Africa (now Namibia) in the early 1900s. David Olusoga, an Anglo-Nigerian BBC producer and Casper W Erichsen, a Danish-born historian who runs an NGO in Namibia, write with precision and passion about this chilling episode and its aftermath.' -- Christopher Silvester, Daily Express >> 'The authors powerfully show the crucial role that the bloody colonial period played in the development of the Nazi dogma ... Even more unsettling, the implication of this highly readable book is that the colonial experience of Europe must be re-examined for such unintended consequences. Olusoga and Erichsen have thus succeeded not only in authoritatively reviving a fascinating episode from a neglected past, but also in requiring a reassessment of some of our assumptions about the European colonial legacy.' -- Paddy Docherty, Financial Times >> 'Olusoga and Erichsen have written a vivid, powerful narrative of the Namibian genocide though disputed, the term does seem apt and of the ways it has been forgotten and remembered, concealed and exhumed. They have done some fascinating archival digging, and offer moving evocations of the sites of slaughter today; most especially Shark Island, now a tourist resort, but a century ago the most deadly of the colonial concentration camps. They give a compelling sketch of the multiple connections between Namibia and Nazism.' -- Stephen Howe, Independent >> 'German imperial ambition and theories of nationalism and racial purity were already powerful before the First World War. These combined with the struggle to possess land in Germany's African empire, provoked exterminations as strategies of control. This book focuses particularly on what is now Namibia, where the Herero and Nama peoples were killed, or driven into the desert to die, and finally interned in prototype death camps. This shocking episode is presented as evidence that 20th-century Nazism was not an isolated abberation.' -- The Times, Saturday Review >> 'The Kaiser's Holocaust lifts the veil on a horrific and little-known episode of history.' --Daily Mail

Book Description

The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism, by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen, is the unknown story of the genocide of the Herero and Nama peoples in Germany's forgotten African Empire - an atrocity that foreshadowed the Nazi genocides forty years later.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am not a historian, but I like to try and understand why things happen. For years I have had and heard discussions about Nazism and how the persecution of entire races could actually come about, indeed, be rationally argued for by intelligent, educated people. I found this book made the connections with Germany's colonial past that helped it all make sense. Transport what the Germans did in Namibia to Europe and scale up the Nazi's technological and organisational ability to make it happen and the holocaust makes a chillingly inevitable sequel to what took place in a faraway corner of the world. It's all here. This book deserves to be read by as wide an audience as possible.
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Format: Hardcover
Olusoga and Erichsen's book is really in two parts. The first tells the story of German colonialism in South West Africa, showing how German policy towards the native Herero and Nama peoples developed into one of genocide. In chapters that are crucial reading to all who seek to understand the motives behind 19th century colonialism and imperialism the authors show how a philosophy of white racial supremacy emerged out of the ideas of Charles Darwin and was put into practice. Survival of the fittest becomes justification for white dominance over "inferior" indigenous peoples and genocide an acceptable option. This process is shown though as not just a German process and the German experience is placed in a global context: with British colonists in Tasmania, the US frontier wars, the Argentine wars of the desert all showing the same features.

In the German genocide against Herero and Nama we read of extermination orders, forced labour and concentration camps designed to kill off indigenous peoples who were articulate, politically able and well resourced, but ultimately doomed as the Kaiser's troops introduce a policy of "absolute terror and cruelty... by shedding rivers of blood and money" (General von Trotha) in which the missionary churches were actively complicit.

This alone is a story that needs telling widely, but the second part of the work shows the significance of this colonial experience for future nazism. The colonies first Governor was the father of Hermann Göring, the uniform of the SA was that of the Wilhelm II's brown shirted colonial army. More significantly, the colonial period saw the emergence of the pseudo science of eugenics and the legal framework to protect the purity of German settlers from racial contamination.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This devastating and hugely important book deserves to be in every public and university library. It describes the first major genocide of the twentieth century, a precursor of the Armenian genocide and the Jewish Holocaust which until now has been known only to scholars and a few people with a particular interest.
It is well-written and reads easily, but the events described beggar imagination. Unfortunately the behaviour described is of a kind the human race remains vulnerable to, so the importance of the book goes enormously beyond the destruction of the Herero and Nama peoples of German South West Africa (now Namibia) in a few years from 1904.
The proofreaders have failed to spot a few obvious misspellings and minor errors, but my main suggestion for a second edition is to insert a few decent maps.
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Format: Paperback
In places it could do with a good edit, but the subject is compelling and it presents this relatively little known part of history in a way that lets you relate strongly to the victims; so much so I occasionally had to put the book down to allow myself time to recover. It really is a subject we all should understand better
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Up to page 264 I would rate this as an outstanding work of colonial history, certainly the best work since Hochschild's, 'King Leopold's Ghost' of 1998. Written in a lucid and straightforward style, I did not have to re-read a single sentence, this book relates the history of colonisation of German South West Africa, a country now known since 1990 as Namibia. This fine work is based on much original research and most of its history will be quite unknown to modern readers. It charts the settlement of German farmers onto the fertile plains of this geographically difficult country, bounded by the Namib desert to the west and the Kalahari (Omaheke) desert to the east. Unlike many other African countries subject to colonisation by Europeans, the indigenous people of South West Africa, largely the Herero and Nama, were literate, knowledgeable about world events and armed with modern rifles. They could appreciate immediately the consequences of Western immigration into their country and resisted this from the beginning, resorting to armed conflict when their views were ignored. The settlers retaliated and, backed by the armed forces of the Imperial German Colonial Office of 1905, set about a war of annihilation of the Herero. This was then followed by attempts to imprison and destroy the Nama people through the use of concentration camps. The authors present compelling and detailed evidence for their retelling of this history and provide enthralling studies of all the main protagonists, immigrant German militarists and indigenous peoples alike.
It is in the subsequent four chapters beyond page 264, and for a further 80 pages, that the book lurches off into a different tack.
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