Germany to Send Back 35 Skulls

Windhoek — Thirty-five skulls and two skeletons of Namibian origin are to be returned to Namibia from Berlin and Freiburg, Germany on March 7 in a second repatriation exercise.

However, unlike the first repatriation exercise, the March repatriation of the ancestral skulls will be a low-key event with a delegation of about 10 government officials expected to receive the skulls in that country. The first exercise, in October 2011, had an entourage of about 65 people, including chiefs of the Nama and Ovaherero people, at a cost of about N$1.7 million. This year’s costs would be N$1 million allocated for the trip. “This time, it will be at minimal cost,” said Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology at a press conference yesterday.

The delegation will include the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Jerry Ekandjo, Acting Director of the National Heritage Council, Esther Mwoobola-/Goagoses, Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders Chief Immanuel /Gaseb and Namibia’s Ambassador to Germany Neville Gertze.

The delegation will first receive 14 skulls from the Alexander Ecker Collection of the University of Freiburg on March 4, which will be handed over at the ‘Haus zur Lieben Hand’.

On March 5, the Namibian delegation will receive 21 skulls and two skeletons, which were held in the anthropological collections of the Charité University Hospital in Berlin.

The remains were collected during colonial times by the German administration, members of the German military troops or their physicians and scientists to in the early 1900s to ‘prove’ racial superiority of white Europeans over black Africans, among others.

The exact date and time of arrival of the human remains will be communicated to the public in due course, although an official reception ceremony is planned for March 7 from 07h30 to 11h30 at Parliament Gardens. The public will have an opportunity to view the remains and perform traditional or religious rituals from 12h00 to 16h00.

Ua-Ndjarakana said that President Hifikepunye Pohamba would then hand the remains to the youth minister, who would then transfer them into the care of the National Museum.

Ua-Ndjarakana could not give an exact breakdown of the skulls and the skeletons, but said they were of Ovaherero, Owambo, San, Nama and Damara tribes.

In the meantime, some members of the Namibian genocide committees have expressed dissatisfaction with the way in which the second repatriation is being conducted.

They said that they were not informed of the exercise and only learned yesterday from the communications deputy minister Stanley Simataa that repatriation of the skulls would take place next week.

It is believed that about 300 skulls of Namibians slaughtered in concentration camps during the colonial uprising of 1904 to 1908 were taken to Germany to prove perverse racial theories which later emanated in Nazi Germany’s genocidal ideology.