‘The Kaiser’s Holocaust‘, by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen, exposes the long-ignored history of the German Empire’s colony in modern-day Namibia and the mass murder, first officially acknowledged as a genocide by Germany in 2015, of the Herero and Nama peoples. Colonial soldiers soon enslaved Namibians, established the Shark Island concentration camp for punitive purposes and ‘medical research’, and murdered perhaps 100,000 Herero and Nama before the territory was confiscated following World War One. Olusoga and Erichsen hypothesize an ideological continuity between the Second and Third Reichs, investigating National Socialism as a newly-technologized manifestation of colonialism, and illustrating the racism which suffused the upbringings of those who went on to become Hitler’s acolytes – not least Hermann Göring, son of the ‘Imperial Commander of German South-West Africa’. A contentious thesis to be sure, but a fascinating read and a timely publication as the Bundestag publicly grapples with the question of if, when and how to recompense Namibia.
This week in history: In 1962, Adolf Eichmann was executed in Israel. One of the central architects of the ‘Final Solution’, in his capacity as head of the ‘Office of Jewish Affairs’ Eichmann would be directly responsible for the deportation and death of millions of European Jews. With the assistance of Bishop Alois Hudal and other Vatican officials, Eichmann, granted asylum in numerous monastical safehouses, travelled through Europe to reach Argentina under the pseudonym ‘Ricardo Clement’. There Eichmann remained, until a co-operative effort between the Mossad and the Holocaust survivor and ‘Nazi-hunter’ Simon Wiesenthal resulted in his capture.
Eichmann was kidnapped outside his home on Garibaldi Street, Buenos Aires, on the 11th of May 1960, and smuggled to Israel. Despite Argentina’s efforts to repatriate Eichmann, he was taken to trial in Jerusalem. His court proceedings, the first to be televised, began in April 1961 and would last for 56 days, during which time numerous Holocaust survivors gave testimony. Observing his trial, the German Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt would famously describe Eichmann as the personification of the ‘banality of evil’. On the 31st May 1962, Eichmann was hanged, his ashes later discarded at sea.