During colonial times, the human remains of members of indigenous Namibian communities were removed unlawfully and shipped to Germany for pseudo-scientific racial purity and eugenic ‘research’ without respect for human dignity, cultural or religious beliefs or practices. For the third time, following previous handovers in 2011 and 2014, human remains will be returned to Namibia, escorted by members of their communities, the churches and the two Governments. The 27 sets of human remains which will now be handed over had been held by various institutions in Germany, including the Charité University Hospital in Berlin and the University of Greifswald.
A Namibian delegation headed by Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, has travelled to Germany to take receipt of the human remains. The delegation includes traditional leaders representing the Nama and Ovaherero communities. The German Government facilitated the travel of 25 traditional leaders. The composition of the delegation was determined by the Namibian Government.
“This is about closing a gap in our culture of remembrance”
On August 27, before the arrival of the delegation from Namibia, Ms. Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State for International Cultural Policy in the German Foreign Office, declared:
“Namibia and Germany share a trustful partnership. On the basis of this mutual trust, both Governments are working intensely on coming to terms with the colonial past.
The way in which human remains which were brought to Germany during colonial times are treated is of particular importance in this context. I am looking forward to the visit of Ms. Hanse-Himarwa, Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, and her delegation. For Germany, this is about closing a gap in our culture of remembrance.”
Handover in Berlin and ceremonial act in Namibia
On the evening of August 28, a vigil will be held in Berlin in the presence of the Namibian delegation and invited guests. On August 29, at the end of a commemoration service in the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche (a church in one of Berlin’s central squares) held at the invitation of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) and the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), the human remains will be ceremonially handed over by the German Government to the Government of the Republic of Namibia.
The German Government will be represented on this occasion by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering. Thereafter she will travel to Windhoek, together with Mr Ruprecht Polenz, the Special Envoy of the German Government for German-Namibian Dialogue, Mr Robert Dölger, the Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel in the Foreign Office, and Mr Christian-Matthias Schlaga, the German Ambassador to Namibia, as well as the Namibian delegation.
In Windhoek, the return of the human remains will be acknowledged by the Namibian Government in a ceremonial act on Friday, August 31. Minister of State Müntefering and high-ranking Namibian representatives will deliver addresses on this occasion.