Germany has expressed its "regret" for the killing of thousands of Namibia's ethnic Hereros during the colonial era.
Germany's military commander vowed to wipe out the Herero
Between 35,000 and 105,000 people were killed after the Hereros rebelled against German rule in 1904.
But Germany's ambassador to Namibia ruled out paying compensation, as the Hereros have demanded in a law suit.
Correspondents say Wolfgang Massing's statement, at a ceremony to commemorate the massacres is the closest Germany has come to an apology.
History could not be undone, he said but "we can give back to the victims and their descendants the dignity and honour of which they were robbed".
"I also wish to express how deeply we regret this unfortunate past," he said at a commemoration of the 12 January, 1904 uprising in Okahandja, the Hereros' former capital 70 kilometres north of the capital, Windhoek.
He said it would be unfair to Namibia's other groups to only compensate the Hereros.
But Herero Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako insisted that compensation must be paid.
"The wounds of the past must be healed. Our reparation claim must only be seen as an effort to regain our dignity and help us restore what was wrongfully taken away from us," he said.
"I once again invite the German government to accept the genocide of my people and engage in a dialogue with the Herero to iron out issues of mutual interest".
After the Hereros rebelled, the German military commander, General von Trotha, ordered the Hereros to leave Namibia or be killed.
"I, the great general of the German troops, send this letter to the Herero people... All Hereros must leave this land... Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall no longer receive any women or children; I will drive them back to their people. I will shoot them. This is my decision for the Herero people."
Hereros were massacred with machine guns, their wells poisoned and then driven into the desert to die.