Abstract

Germany colonized South West Africa in 1884, then lost the country (present-day Namibia) after World War I. In order to escape the apartheid perpetuated by subsequent occupier South Africa, many black Namibians fled to support the SWAPO liberation movement, based in neighboring Angola. After South Africa bombed a camp that was home to many SWAPO supporters in 1978, SWAPO sent the first of a series of 428 Namibian three-to-five-year-olds to East Germany (a.k.a. the GDR) for protection, education, and socialist training. A decade later, they were unexpectedly "returned" after Namibia's first all-race elections fell the same week as the Berlin Wall. Placing them with surviving relatives in the rural North seldom succeeded for more than a short period because the children no longer spoke their native language competently and frequently felt allegiance primarily to their other returning "siblings." Members of SWAPO and of Namibia's 30,000 ethnic Germans laid claims to these "GDR Kids," but most children who had spent over eight years in Germany were enrolled in Namibia's German-speaking schools. This article concludes that by integrating these and other Namibian German institutions, the GDR Kids altered the margins of what is considered German in this most German of former German colonies.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1941-3599
Print ISSN
1939-6724
Pages
pp. 232-249
Launched on MUSE
2008-05-25
Open Access
No
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