Unlearning Religion

The “GDR Children from Namibia” between Postcolonialism and Decoloniality


  • Alexander Schulze +49 3921 916149




When South West Africa was placed on the agenda of the UN General Assembly as the first decolonization case, no one could foresee that Namibia would be one of the last independent territories of the world. While the political decolonization of most of the former colonies was essentially completed in the mid-1970s, on May 4th, 1978 the SWAPO (South West African People's Organization) suffered its biggest military setback so far. As a result of the attack on the Kassinga refugee camp, between 1979 and 1989 a total of 423 children were brought to the GDR (German Democratic Republic). Experiencing their childhood and youth in the safe socialist state, they were educated according to the ideals of the SWAPO and the curricula of the GDR in order to become the elite of the new Namibia. Religion was not taught and largely suppressed. After their sudden repatriation to independent Namibia in 1990, the “GDR children” felt like strangers in their own country. Despite their good education, they were denied the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the development of the young country. Left alone and disappointed by the promises of the SWAPO, the churches began to play an unexpected role in the lives of the “GDR children”. So it became possible to link to early childhood and henceforth suppressed religious imprints. This article analyzes the religious practices of the “GDR children from Namibia”. Based on the data available so far, the role of the churches can be described as ambivalent. By filling the vacuum, the churches made it possible to reintegrate the “GDR children” into the existing system. In the medium term, however, they indirectly contributed to leveling out their unique competencies. The potential of the “GDR children” for the decoloniality process of independent Namibia was not recognized.