These interpretations of 'vernichten', whether made in good faith (Poewe) or bad faith (Nordbruch), assume wrongly that if 'vernichten' had usages that fell short of genocide in one context, then the term could not have meant extermination or total destruction of life when used by a military commander. The textual evidence simply cannot sustain such an assumption.
As Nick noted on RODOH, Isabel Hull, p.60, cites this quote from the memoirs of Estorff:
crushing the people like this was in equal measure cruel and insane. One could have saved many of them and their herds, if one had spared them and given them refuge; they were punished enough. I suggested this to General von Trotha, but he wanted their complete destruction [gaenzliche Vernichtung]The non-genocidal interpretation of 'vernichten' is also refuted in this paper by Gewald, which cites a letter by von Trotha in which he declares that "I believe that the nation as such should be annihilated" by denying access to the waterholes and finding "the small groups of the nation who have moved back westwards and destroy[ing] them gradually." Von Trotha then writes:
...I find it most appropriate that the nation perishes instead of infecting our soldiers and infecting their supplies of food and water. Apart from that, mildness on my side would be interpreted as weakness on the other side. They have to perish in the Sandveld or try to cross the Bechuanaland border.Gewald also cites the diary entry of Stuhlmann dated 11th August 1904:
...we had been explicitly told beforehand that this dealt with the extermination of a whole tribe, nothing living was to be spared.Stuhlmann also wrote that
Aber die Parole war ja: `Vernichtungskrieg den Hereros ohne Rücksicht auf anderes.'So we have here, not only the use of 'vernichtung' in a genocidal sense, but also 'vernichtungskrieg'.
Furthermore, some deniers are perfectly aware of the true meaning of 'vernichtungskrieg'. This leads them to outright double standards when they apply the term to Stalin's war methods. Nordbruch informs us here that the English version of Joachim Hoffmann's Stalins Vernichtungskrieg 1941-1945 is Stalin's War of Extermination 1941-1945. The publisher of Hoffmann's text is one Germar Rudolf, who of course denies that the Nazis fought a war of extermination in the USSR, even though Hitler himself used the same term, Vernichtungskrieg, that is in Hoffmann's title.
Finally, the claim that von Trotha's use of 'vernichten' was referring to "breaking of military, national or economic resistance" is clearly refuted by the fact that von Trotha had a policy of not accepting a surrender. The policy was not simply to break resistance, but to prevent any possibility of future resistance by the surviving remnant of the population. The logic of such a policy necessitated a genocide, because any Herero survivors, even children, could, in theory, be assumed to be future rebels.