All Titles

»Ein trauriges Fiasko«

Jonas Kreienbaum

»A sad fiasco«: Colonial Concentration Camps in Southern Africa, 1900–1908

[»Ein trauriges Fiasko«: Koloniale Konzentrationslager im südlichen Afrika 1900-1908]

300 pages, € 28.00
March 2015

Rights sold:
  • World English (Berghahn Books)
About the Book

Within what has been referred to as the »colonial turn« in historiography and debates about the connections between massacres perpetrated in Europe’s colonies and Nazi genocidal violence, the origins of concentration camps as sites of planned annihilation has become a centerpiece of heated discussions. This study offers an in depth assessment of archival sources on the British colony South Africa and German South West Africa to shed new light on the claim that there was a direct »path from Windhoek to Auschwitz«, as historian Jürgen Zimmerer and others have contended.

Kreienbaum systematically reconstructs the contexts of the two military conflicts and the goals pursued by the two colonial powers in erecting the camps to show that they were above all part of a military strategy. As in other colonial wars, differences between combatants and civilians were increasingly blurred, resulting in high numbers of civilian casualties. The day-to-day operation of these mass internment sites by disinterested and incompetent military leaders was the second decisive factor that resulted in dramatically rising death rates. But Kreienbaum’s analysis shows clearly that neither intentional extermination of inmates nor tacit acceptance of death due to forced labor were part of the colonial powers’ plans in establishing the camps. His systematic comparison of the camps in southern Africa with those created by Nazi Germany reveals that the differences between the two were considerably more significant than their similarities.



I. The Wars in South Africa and against the Herero and Nama in German South West Africa

II. The Purpose of the Camps

III. The Camp Model Copied? Observation and Knowledge Transfer

IV. Colonial and Nazi Camps: Comparisons Considered

V. »A Sad Fiasco«: Conclusions

About the Author