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Namibian politician named after Adolf Hitler rejects comparison

A Namibian politician named after Adolf Hitler says he is being unfairly scrutinised – rejecting comparisons to the Nazi leader and insisting that ‘I am not like him’. 

Adolf Hitler Uunona’s victory at a regional election last month propelled him to an unlikely international stardom, but the 54-year-old has bristled at the attention and accused opposition parties of conspiring to discredit him.   

‘I didn’t have a choice. I was a baby when my father gave me that name,’ he told The Namibian. ‘There is nothing that I can do to change the name. I also do not know why my father gave me that name.  

‘It does not mean I have Adolf Hitler’s character or resemble that of Adolf Hitler of Germany. I am not like him.’ 

An ally in the former German colony claims Uunona is being ‘victimised’ and has even written to Bild in the politician’s name, accusing the German paper of working ‘in the interests of certain political opponents of the governing party’.  

Adolf Hitler in 1934

Left: Adolf Hitler Uunona, who won a seat at a Namibian regional election last month; right: the dictator of Nazi Germany delivering a speech in 1934 

German soldiers with captured indigenous people in Namibia in 1905, when the country was part of the short-lived German colonial empire

German soldiers with captured indigenous people in Namibia in 1905, when the country was part of the short-lived German colonial empire 

Uunona, who previously won the seat in 2015, was re-elected with 85 per cent of the vote on the ticket of the ruling SWAPO party – which has reigned in Namibia since independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990.  

Activist Phil ya Nangoloh suggested that SWAPO’s opponents in the newly-formed Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) party were behind the coverage of Uunona. 

SWAPO’s 57 per cent of the vote at the regional elections was a sharp decrease from the 83 per cent that it took in 2015, while the IPC won 18 per cent on its first try. 

‘Coincidentally, IPC enjoys substantial support among white right-wingers, many of whom are Namibians of German extraction,’ ya Nangoloh said.  

Namibia is still home to a small German-speaking community and a number of streets, places and people still bear German names. 

Uunona’s name was abbreviated to ‘Adolf H’ in a list of candidates printed in a government gazette, but his name appeared in full on an official results website. 

‘My father named me after this man. He probably didn’t understand what Adolf Hitler stood for,’ Uunona previously said. 

‘As a child I saw it as a totally normal name. Only as I grew up did I understand that this man wanted to conquer the whole world.’ 

The politician said his wife calls him Adolf, adding that he usually goes by Adolf Uunona but that it would be ‘too late’ to change his name officially. 

‘The fact I have this name does not mean I want to conquer Oshana,’ he said, referring to the region where he won the election. ‘It doesn’t mean I’m striving for world domination.’       

A German bakery in Swakomund, Namibia, is seen in 2008 in a remnant of the German colonial settlement which took place there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

A German bakery in Swakomund, Namibia, is seen in 2008 in a remnant of the German colonial settlement which took place there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries 

German colonial architecture in Luderitz, Namibia, in a country where traces of the colonial past are still visible in names of places and streets

German colonial architecture in Luderitz, Namibia, in a country where traces of the colonial past are still visible in names of places and streets 

A German flag is on display next to a street vendor in Windhoek, Namibia, ahead of a World Cup match involving the German team in 2010

A German flag is on display next to a street vendor in Windhoek, Namibia, ahead of a World Cup match involving the German team in 2010

Once known as German South West Africa, Namibia was a German colony from 1884 until the empire was stripped of its possessions following World War I. 

The real Hitler would later use the humiliation of the post-war Treaty of Versailles as a propaganda tool to win support for the Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s. 

While Germany has spent 75 painstaking years trying to atone for the war and genocide that it unleashed under Hitler’s rule, its colonial atrocities in Namibia are little discussed – but pressure for reparations has been growing in recent years.   

German soldiers slaughtered some 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama tribespeople in a bloody campaign to suppress a local revolt between 1904 and 1908.  

The killings came after German occupiers forced native tribespeople off their land and recruited them for forced labour, leading to an uprising in which Herero people killed 123 German settlers. 

In addition to the slaughter, thousands of Hereros were driven into the desert and died of thirst and starvation, and the rest were sent to prison camps. 

Last year, a German government minister described the massacre as a genocide while on a visit to the African country. 

‘It has become clear that the crimes and abominations from 1904 to 1908 were what we today describe as genocide,’ Mueller said after meeting tribespeople. 

The former German government headquarters in Windhoek, pictured in 1946, by which time Germany's atrocities in Namibia had been overshadowed by Hitler's genocide

The former German government headquarters in Windhoek, pictured in 1946, by which time Germany’s atrocities in Namibia had been overshadowed by Hitler’s genocide 

A cavalry contingent in what was known as German South West Africa until the empire was dissolved following World War I

A cavalry contingent in what was known as German South West Africa until the empire was dissolved following World War I 

The German government says it has a ‘special responsibility’ towards Namibia ‘on account of the two countries’ shared colonial past’. 

But in August, Namibia turned down Germany’s £9million offer of reparations for the colonial massacres, stating that it needs to be ‘revised’.     

A small German-speaking community still lives in the country today, and around 120,000 Germans are estimated to visit Namibia every year.  

That community has occasionally been associated with displays of neo-Nazi sentiment, including a celebration of Hitler’s 100th birthday in 1989. 

Three years earlier, a group of German speakers took out an advert commemorating the death of Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess and paying tribute to ‘the last representative of a better Germany’.  

In 2005, a German-language newspaper ran an advert voicing ‘joy and satisfaction’ over the death of Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal. 

The German ambassador to Namibia demanded that the newspaper apologise, which it subsequently did.  

In 2011, members of a Namibian delegation in Berlin stand over a set of skulls of Namibian tribespeople who were victims of German colonial atrocities in the early 20th century

In 2011, members of a Namibian delegation in Berlin stand over a set of skulls of Namibian tribespeople who were victims of German colonial atrocities in the early 20th century 

Back in Namibia, a crowd awaited the return of the skulls while one car was emblazoned with a message saying that 'Germany must pay' for the genocide

Back in Namibia, a crowd awaited the return of the skulls while one car was emblazoned with a message saying that ‘Germany must pay’ for the genocide 

Native Herero people in chains during Germany's brutal suppression of an uprising in Namibia in the early 20th century

Native Herero people in chains during Germany’s brutal suppression of an uprising in Namibia in the early 20th century 

Churchgoers walk out of a Protestant place of worship in German colonial Namibia in 1913

Churchgoers walk out of a Protestant place of worship in German colonial Namibia in 1913 

The 20th century’s first genocide: German massacres in Namibia  

A depiction of the conflict between Herero fighters and German colonialists in 1904

A depiction of the conflict between Herero fighters and German colonialists in 1904 

German soldiers killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in colonial Namibia between 1904 and 1908 in what has been labelled the first genocide of the 20th century. 

Namibia, then known as German South West Africa, was one of the few German possessions overseas – after its 1871 unification meant it arrived too late to capture much of the colonial spoils. 

The German occupiers forced native tribespeople off their land and recruited them for forced labour, leading to an uprising in which Herero people killed 123 German settlers. 

The German Reich sent reinforcements in response, and its soldiers carried out a brutal four-year campaign of slaughter in which 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people are thought to have been killed.  

In addition to the slaughter, thousands of Hereros were driven into the desert and died of thirst and starvation, and the rest were sent to prison camps.

In the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled including women and children. 

Germany recently handed over a cache of skulls and other remains of massacred tribespeople, which were used for experiments to push long-debunked claims of European racial superiority.  

The German colonial empire was disbanded after World War I when the country was stripped of its possessions, and the colonial past has since become largely overshadowed by the horrors of Hitler’s rule. 

Namibia was later handed to South Africa by the League of Nations and finally achieved independence from the apartheid state in 1990.  


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