The Holocaust is a well-known event in world history, but few people know that multiple imperial forces in Europe used their African territories to create and develop the horrors of Nazi concentration camps.
In 1900-1902, during the Second Boer War in South Africa, the invading British forces set up refugee camps full of tents for Boer civilians affected by the war. In an effort to control guerrilla uprisings in the area, refugee camps became internment camps, and then the term “concentration camp” evolved.
The camps, containing prisoners from both the white Boer and Black African populations, quickly became unsanitary, overpopulated and inadequately supplied. Over 26,000 people died from starvation and/or disease during that time.
A few years later the Germans ran with the idea of concentration camps, and between 1905 and 1907 used the method to eradicate thousands of Namaqua and Herero people in present-day Namibia. The biggest camp was located on Shark Island where Herero and Namaqua prisoners lived in unsanitary conditions, malnourished, abused and forced to do dangerous physical labor that caused sickness and death for most of the prisoners.
To add insult to injury, the women had to collect and clean the heads of dead prisoners so that they could be shipped to German universities for scientific study. Many of the German scientific and medical advancements were made at the expense of Black lives. Although the total death toll is unknown, estimates reach up to 4000 deaths, and only an estimated 245 people survived the camps.