Notorius Street Name to Be Changed

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By Almut Hielscher Munich, Germany The days of Von Trotha street in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, are numbered. A majority of Munich`s City councillors voted on Thursday last week in favour of a motion to change the street name. The name of the street in a middle-class residential area on the outskirts of Munich will in future be known as Herero Street. All councillors of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party supported the motion, whereas the councillors of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Liberal Party (FDP) voted against it. The Green Party had started the endeavours some three years ago to abolish Von Trotha as a street name. Siegfried Benker, one of the councillors, felt is was shameful for the City of Munich to still have a street with the notorious name of Von Trotha, who was one of the driving forces of the genocide committed against the Herero and Nama people. General Lothar von Trotha was known for his hatred of black people and his extermination order against the Herero people of October 1904. As governor of the then German colony, South West Africa, Von Trotha also established the first German concentration camps where Herero and Nama prisoners died in large numbers. The chief whip of the CSU in the Munich City Council, Hans Podiuk, tried to explain that the street name was not meant to honour General von Trotha but to honour the entire family. He referred to a registered decision 13 years ago. However, if German people see the name Von Trotha, most of them think of General von Trotha. It is not by accident that Von Trotha Street is crossed by Waterberg Street. When officials of the fascist Nazi Party named the street after Von Trotha in 1933, the General was widely regarded as a hero of the German colonial era. Councillor Podiuk also said he was not in favour of the suggested new name Herero Street. He referred to historians who claim that the Hereros had committed genocide against the San people long before the arrival of the Germans. However, he did not mention any names. His remark prompted a passionate intervention by the Green Councillor, Benker. He slammed the CSU for trying to portray the Hereros as a people of perpetrators. In August 2004, the German Minister for Technical Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD), as the first German cabinet member, apologized at the Ohamakari commemoration for the German genocide. In her speech, she also referred to the atrocities ordered by Von Trotha, and added: “Nowadays, a General von Trotha would be prosecuted and convicted.”