When the Germans invaded Namibia to steal the land, the Herero were driven west, into the Kalahari desert, to expire. German guards were stationed at waterholes so the people couldn’t drink; many wells were deliberately poisoned. In the searing heat of the desert, denied water and food, the Herero didn’t last long. Some women and children tried to return, but they were immediately shot.
Accounts of the holocaust are unbearably harrowing. Witnesses reported hundreds of people just lying in the desert, dying of thirst; children went mad among the corpses of their parents; the buzzing of the flies was deafening. Paralyzed people were eaten alive by leopards and jackals.The end was swift; the ‘thirstland’ of the Kalahari had taken its toll. The official German Imperial report into this colonial 'war’ concluded with sickening eloquence: 'The death rattle of the dying and the furious screams of madness … faded away in the sublime silence of infinitude.’ Reliable historians estimate that 60,000 died in this appalling crime, constituting 70 to 80 per cent of the entire Herero people. The genocide affects Namibia’s demography and politics to this day.