German colonialism in Africa and the development of racial thinking

de Vos, Vincent (2006) German colonialism in Africa and the development of racial thinking. (MA(R) thesis), Kingston University, .


By the time Germany had joined the colonial powers, it had only been a unitary state for some fifteen years. The colonial experience of war, subjugation and racial confrontation is likely to have contributed to the formation of a new national cohesion - one based to a considerable degree on racial thinking. Many of the concepts that became the basis of Nazi theories were formulated around the latter part of the nineteenth century and the colonies became a testing ground for a number of these ideas. "Lebensraum", forced labour, racial hygiene, concentration camps, the concept of a master race, these all were tried out, applied or studied in the colonies, particularly in South West Africa. This study looks at the politics of exploitation and domination and at the philosophy and scientific thought that came together to create a "racialization" effect in the colonies. Some twenty years later, these ideas and experiences extended their influence back into Germany, where some of them were integrated into Nazi thinking and practice. Looking at some of the key figures and some ordinary people, this study tries to build a cohesive picture of the detachment and the dehumanising effect created when political opportunism and racial superiority thinking come together and how easily genocidal tendencies can be encouraged.

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