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The Director of the Swakopmund Genocide Museum mobilised residents and visitors from all over the world to volunteer in a campaign to restore unmarked graves of the genocide victims.

Laidlaw Peringanda says thousands of Ovaherero, Nama, and San people were killed by German soldiers, while others perished in concentration camps between 1904 and 1908 at Swakopmund.

Peringanda's great-grandmother was a survivor of the genocide, and he recalls the horrific stories she narrated to the family.

"The prisoners who are buried here, their heads, some of them were decapitated, and then women were forced to boil some of those heads, scraping the skin off, and those skulls were taken to Germany and other museums all over the world, so we have inherited transgenerational trauma because of what Germany did, and Germany must pay reparations to our people."

The victims, he says, worked as slaves until they met their demise. 

Their remains were buried in the Swakopmund Cemetery in unmarked graves.

"So this is actually the duty of the Swakopmund municipality to maintain the cemetery, but they're not doing it. But on the other side, the German soldiers' and settlers' graves have been maintained on a daily basis. And it's really shocking. These people fought the first war of resistance against German colonialism. And their graves need to be protected; they need to be preserved."

The volunteers say brutal stories like the Ova Herero/Nama genocide need to be highlighted for the world to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

The Genocide Museum's founder is in the process of introducing a student exchange programme for Namibian and German youth to learn about the genocide.

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Renate Rengura