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Country Report: Germany

Germany Country Report

January 2023

AfD Rally in Baden-Württemberg. Photo: Daniel Maurer.

Germany’s history of genocide spans back to the colonial rule of German Southwest Africa (DSWA), today Namibia. DSWA was Germany’s primary settler colony, with over 3,000 German citizens settling there by 1903. In response to colonization, Indigenous people, including the San, Damara, Ovambo, Nama, and Herero groups, rebelled in the early 1900s, killing approximately 100 German settlers. After the riots, German General Lothar von Trotha ordered the annihilation of all Herero and Nama people. The German army forced the tribes into the desert and to labor camps. Approximately 80,000 died from disease, exhaustion, thirst, and starvation from 1904-1908, including 80% of the Herero and 50% of the Nama populations.

The Herero genocide later inspired Nazi policy. After World War I, Germany claimed Jews and communists orchestrated their defeat, known as the ‘stab-in-the-back' myth. Adolf Hitler rose in the ranks of the Nazi Party through his dedication to nationalism and white supremacy, eventually becoming Chancellor in 1933. The Nazis sponsored the killing and sterilization of mentally and physically disabled, the segregation of Jews into ghettos, and antisemitic pogroms such as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. The Nazis also targeted Soviet POWs, Poles, and Slavs by mass executions from Einsatzgruppen death squads. An estimated 6 million Jews and 11 million individuals of other targeted groups (Soviets, Poles, Roma and Sinti, asocials, homosexuals, disabled people, and Jehovah’s Witnesses) were killed in the Holocaust.

Despite this history of genocide, there have been reconciliation efforts from Germany today. In May 2021, Germany agreed to pay $1.1 billion in reparations to the Herero and Nama peoples, officially recognizing the 1904 genocide. However, some criticized the century-long delay for these reparations. Germany has also paid billions of Euros in reparations to Holocaust survivors, memorials, and funds.

However, neo-Nazi activity and white supremacy still plague Germany. Scholars are concerned by the rise of the alt-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) Party in Germany. In addition, reports by Human Rights Watch indicate a 72% increase in anti-immigrant hate crimes, and a 16% increase in antisemitic hate crimes during 2021. For example, Tareq Alaows, a Syrian human rights activist and the first refugee to run for German parliament, withdrew his campaign in March 2021 due to racist attacks and threats. Most recently, a right-wing extremist group, comprising a former AfD politician, attempted to overthrow the German government in Berlin on December 7, 2022.

Because of the increase in right-wing extremist activity and threats to democracy, Genocide Watch considers Germany to be at Stage 6: Polarization.

Genocide Watch recommends the following:

  • The German government continue to donate to Holocaust survivors, memorials, and educational funds, especially as Holocaust denial increases worldwide.

  • The Herero and Nama genocide should be taught in German primary and secondary educational curriculums.

  • Legal action should be taken against the former AfD policymaker that participated in the attempted coup in December 2022. AfD should also be investigated as a potential terrorist group and labeled as a threat to German democracy.

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