Bismarck Archipelago, New Hanover, Scharnhorst… have you ever heard of these places? Guess what: none of these places are in Germany – on the contrary, they are all very, very far away.
You may have noticed that the 2018 coalition agreement of the GroKo mentions coming to terms with German colonialism for the very first time in the history of the Federal Republic. But it refers mainly to the African colonies. However, other areas belonged to the German colonial empire, and we will now take a look at them:
kiautschou / 膠州, pinyin Jiāozhōu
the chinese region of Kiautschou became part of the so-called german protectorate in 1898, 14 years after the colonization of the african territories. The Kaiser urgently needed a naval base in the greater East Asian region and wanted to make Kiautschou a preview colony that would show the people, both locally and in this country, how valuable German colonies could be for the domestic economy. Therefore, especially the bay and the port located in it were of great strategic importance.
The conquest of Kiauchou did not take place with weapons, as was usually the case, but was purchased with the help of a lease agreement from the Chinese Empire. But this did not mean that the whole thing was free of violence. Because this treaty was imposed on China by the Germans as one of many, today called “unequal treaties”.
Out of 190k inhabitants, just under 4300 were German. in addition, a 100-man Schutztruppe was stationed there.
German- New Guinea :
In 1899, the German Empire appropriated several groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean. “German New Guinea” initially comprised
- “Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land” on New Guinea,
- more than 200 islands in the Bismarck Archipelago among them:
as well as Palau, the Carolinas, the northern Marianas, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands.
“Deutsch- Neuguinea” is a prime example of how colonialism was primarily economically motivated. The desire to conquer did not come from the government, but from entrepreneurs like Johann Godeffroy from Hamburg.
The seizure was preceded by years of economic preparations and disputes with the other colonial powers, especially England. E.g. the “German Trading and Plantation Company of the South Sea Islands” was specially founded in Hamburg in 1880.
The so-called “German South Sea” was the fourth largest colony with about 250 000 km2, with a total of 9 mission stations and 16 schools.
After World War I, the New Guinea mainland was ceded to Australia. Papua New Guinea has existed as an independent state since 1975.
The other island groups first went to Japan, before they too gradually became independent states and republics from the 1980s and 1990s.
A short time later, in 1900, “German Samoa” followed. Four islands in the west of the country fell victim to German colonialism. This corresponds to an area of about 2600 km2. of the 35000 people at that time, about 300 were Germans. No special Schutztruppe stationed, but 2 missions and 2 schools still existed.
After end of war 1918 German Samoa became a British-New Zealand colony, gained independence in 1962 and has been officially called the “independent state of Samoa” since 1997.
As in all colonies, German thinking and behavior was based on highly racist ideologies. The people living there were degraded with the help of exaggerated caricatures on postcards and in the press, as well as through insulting designations, and were often played off against each other on the ground in order to make the colonization process more efficient.
Throughout the Oceanic colonies, the gold mark was used as currency; in the state of Samoa, people still pay with the “tala” today. However, the Germans brought with them not only their “values”, goods and visions, but also numerous diseases.
So, similar to Africa, Europe divided islands and land among itself, and also used weapons and force where deemed necessary. Resistance on the part of indigenous populations was usually less brutal, but still resulted in so-called punitive expeditions. These served the intimidation, namely through excessive violence, the giving of lessons, and making an example of e.g. the people. People who did not follow the “rules” of the Germans.
Of course, in the course of the punitive expeditions, many goods and objects were violently stolen. Many of the looted treasures and objects, as well as human bones, are still stored in German museums today.
But of course, all this is just a rough overview. The respective histories of the individual territories, islands and people are, of course, in part very entangled and complex.
By the way: some of the former German colonies are still in colonialist power relations, e.g.: the Marianas, Guam and the eastern part of Samoa (“American Samoa”) are still territorial areas of the USA.
Did you already know all this? What facts do you find surprising, perhaps?