In the late 19th Century, there was a land grab competition in the African continent, and Germany sought to make their colonial imprint in the Namibia region in Southwest Africa. The Herero people revolted against German rule, at one point killing over 100 German settlers. Reinforcements went sent and the Herero were vanquished. Guerrilla warfare ensued, and the German response was to ship the Herero, and the Nama people who also rebelled, to concentration camps. One of the worst was located on Shark Island, off the southern coast.
This coincided with the Eugenics movement in science, and German doctors committed atrocities on the island in their attempts to prove Aryan superiority.
The irony of using barbarity to support a disfavored science is what brought forth this painting.