(GIN) – The New York-based American Museum of Natural History is believed to be holding skeletal remains collected by a German racialist scientist who studied the Herero and Namaqua peoples of Namibia.
The find was announced last week and will be included in a federal class action suit filed on behalf of the Herero’s and Nama people by the New York attorney Kenneth McCallion.
The remains were originally gathered for use in experiments. According to representatives of the Namibian groups, skulls and skeletons dating to the German occupation of southwest Africa in the decades before the first world war still remain in a museum archive. The museum has declined to comment.
“The discovery of Namibian human remains highlights the fact that the genocide of the Ovaherero and Nama peoples continues to have repercussions not only in Namibia, but also in places such as New York and the rest of the U.S.,” said McCallion in a published statement, “where many of the descendants of survivors of the genocide have settled and still maintain their vibrant cultural and ethnic identities, despite the effort by the German imperial forces to wipe them out.”
From 1904 to 1908, Imperial Germany murdered at least 80,000 Ovaherero and 10,000 Nama in south “German South West” Africa, today’s Namibia. In many ways this genocide became a proving ground for the Holocaust.
Historians have described how authorities in Namibia collected and cleaned large numbers of skulls which they dispatched to Germany to be used in pseudo-scientific experiments to support racist theories regarding the inferiority of the African races and the superiority of the German peoples.
It is thought some reached the US when the museum bought the private collection of a German anthropologist in the 1920s.
Ovaherero and Nama leaders and representatives from Namibia will view the remains at the museum on Oct. 13, the date of the next scheduled court appearance before Judge Laura Taylor Swain in a federal court in downtown Manhattan.
The Association of the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu Genocide in the USA – a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promote awareness and affirmation of the 1904-1908 genocide and the just resolution of the Ovaherero demands for restitution from Germany.