The Road to Genocide: Reasons for the Herero Rebellion in German South-West Africa

Student Author(s)

Natalie Fulk

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Lauren Janes

Document Type


Event Date



In 1884, the Germans took control of an area of Africa that they called German South-West Africa, and which is now the country of Namibia. The native Herero people were thus forced to live under German rule and suffered many injustices. The Germans took advantage of the Herero by stealing land and cattle from them and trading unfairly. The Germans also thought that they were physically and mentally superior to the Herero because of their race, and they vocalized this view often. Because of this racism, the Herero suffered injustices such as beatings, sexual violence, and murder. In addition, the Herero suffered inequities within the German legal system. Therefore, the Herero rebelled against the Germans in January of 1904, and afterward the Germans issued an extermination order that essentially said to kill any Herero on sight. After this, about 80% of the Herero were killed by German tactics, and the Herero basically ceased to exist as a cultural society. This genocide of the Herero is considered the first modern genocide of the twentieth century. Most work on this topic focuses on German actions during the genocide. My research draws from first-hand accounts made by Herero people in a 1918 investigation into the genocide, known as the “Blue Book,” and German statements from the time to explain the reasons why the Herero people rebelled in the first place: German economic exploitations, racial ideologies, and racist treatment in and out of the legal system.

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