Dr. Bofinger was a German physician who performed medical experiments on imprisoned natives suffering from scurvy during the Herero Genocide in Namibia. Driven by a quest for understanding, he subjected vulnerable individuals to horrifying conditions and conducted autopsies on their lifeless bodies..
The Herero Genocide, which took place between 1904 and 1908, was a dark period in Namibia’s history. German colonial forces, aiming to suppress an uprising by the indigenous Herero people, engaged in a brutal campaign led by Lothar von Trotha which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Herero and nama men, women, and children. The survivors were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. It was in this camp that Dr. Bofinger conducted his medical experiments.
At the camp, Dr. Bofinger seized the opportunity to carry out experiments on the captive Herero and Nama population, who were suffering from scurvy due to malnutrition and deplorable living conditions.
Driven by a desire to understand the effects of different substances on scurvy, Dr. Bofinger subjected the prisoners to injections of various substances including arsenic and opium.
Once the subjects succumbed to their ailments, Dr. Bofinger proceeded to perform autopsies on their deceased bodies. These post-mortem examinations aimed to examine the effects of the substances he had injected and gather data on the progression of the disease.
Dr. Bofinger was not alone in these unethical endeavors; he was accompanied by Dr Eugene Fischer, another physician and anthropologist, who conducted his own series of medical experiments on Herero and Namaqua prisoners. Fischer’s experiments involved gruesome practices, such as measuring skulls, anatomical studies through the removal of body parts, and the sterilization of women. The captured women were even forced to prepare human remains for examination by German universities.
The genocide in Namibia resulted in the deaths of an estimated 80,000 Herero people and around 10,000 Nama people. The survivors endured further suffering through forced labor, displacement, and loss of their ancestral lands.
Regarding Dr. Bofinger, his actions, though unquestionably reprehensible, were largely overlooked by the authorities at the time. Shielded by the prevailing racist ideology and the lack of international accountability, he continued his “research” with impunity. It was only after the genocide that his actions came to light, but even then, he escaped any significant consequences for his crimes.
These unethical medical experiments, alongside the broader atrocities committed during the Herero Genocide have left scars on the collective memory of Namibia that continue to reverberate to this day.