There were five concentration camps in Namibia, then called German South West Africa, between 1904 and 1908. In January 1904 war broke out between the Herero nation and the German colonial admnistration in Namibia. After the Battle of Waterberg the Herero nation either succumbed to the desert or were picked up by German patrols and put in concentration camps. The official mortality rate in all five camps was 45%. Thousands of people were crammed in small areas. Rations were minimal, consisting of a daily allowance of a handful of uncooked rice, some salt and water. Disease was uncontrolled. Beatings and maltreatment were part of life in the camps. The concentration camp on Shark Island, off the coastal town of Luderitz, was the worst of the five Namibian camps. Luderitz lies in Southern Namibia, flanked by desert and ocean. In the harbour lies Shark Island, which was then connected to the mainland only by a small causeway. The island is barren and characterised by solid rock carved into surreal formations by the hard ocean winds. The camp was placed on the far tip of the small ….. the gale-force winds that sweep Luderitz for most of the year. By April 1907 1700 prisoners had died. Missionary reports put the death rate at between 12 and 18 a day. As much as 80% of the prisoners sent to the Shark Island concentration camp never left the island. Cold, hunger, thirst, exposure, disease and madness claimed scores of victims, and cartloads of their bodies were carted every day over to the back beach, buried in a few inches of sand at low tide, and as the tide came in, the bodies went out, food for the sharks.
March 14, 2017
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