German Southwest Africa – Native Passport

 German Southwest Africa Native Passport
Peter, a long-time fellow collector, made it possible that this vital document is now in my collection. In 20+ years, I have seen such a Native passport only twice, including this one! I can’t express my excitement to finally close this gap in my collection.

German Southwest Africa German Southwest Africa Native Passport

In 1884, the German Empire placed German Southwest Africa under imperial protection, motivated by colonial ambitions. The region included what is now Namibia in southwestern Africa. The colonial authority purposefully leveraged poverty and ethnic warfare between local tribes, particularly between the Nama and the Herero, as a tool of subjugation. The military dominance of the German occupation forces suffocated any resistance to foreign control.

The situation worsened between 1904 and 1908 as the German Reich began a ruthless campaign against the local population. This annihilation war, which is now regarded as the first act of genocide in the twentieth century, claimed the lives of up to 80% of Namibia’s original population.

Germany relinquished its colonies with the close of WWI, and German sovereignty over Namibia ended. The League of Nations surrendered the mandate over Namibia to South Africa in 1921 due to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Namibia did not attain independence until the 21st of March 1990.

Compulsory Passes for Natives German Southwest Africa Native Passport

The Imperial Governor’s decree on the passport requirement for natives is found in the “Kolonialblatt” of August 18, 1907, later supplemented by an addendum of July 20, 1911. Basically, every native in the German Southwest Africa territory had to have a brass passport token with a number identifying him/her. German Southwest Africa Native Passport

One can describe the passport token as follows: It is an oval brass plate of 2 mm thickness. It is 50 mm long and 35 mm wide. On the upper edge, there is a hole for the purpose of attachment. Below it is embossed the imperial crown and the name of the district or county. Further below follows the word “Passport” and a stamped serial number.

The passport token was probably made in Germany, although the manufacturer’s name is missing. The passport number had to match the number of the bearer in the native register. According to the above-mentioned regulation, the passport token had to be worn visibly at all times.

If a native wanted to leave the district in which his passport token had been issued, he had to hand it in. He was issued a NATIVE PASSPORT, with which he had to register in the new district. There he again received a passport token with a new number. Lost or unrecognizable passport stamps had to be replaced immediately. In case of death, the passport token had to be returned by the surviving dependents. It was forbidden to employ a native who was not in possession of a valid passport token.

More details on these passport tokens…
Details (PDF) in German

Paragraph 3:

If the passport token holder wishes to leave the district or (if the district in which he resides, is not divided into districts) to leave the district, he shall have a NATIVE PASSPORT issued to him by the competent police station and, if he does not intend to return, he must surrender his NATIVE PASSPORT there.

After returning to the district or county, he shall return the NATIVE PASSPORT to the nearest police station as soon as possible. If he wishes to settle permanently in another district, he shall exchange the NATIVE PASSPORT for a new passport token. The passport token and NATIVE PASSPORT may only be in one person’s name.

Paragraph 4: German Southwest Africa Native Passport

A NATIVE PASSPORT shall not be required of the employees of a white government if they are traveling on its behalf or in its company and, in the former case, are in possession of a certificate issued by the government which corresponds in form and content to the model prescribed for a NATIVE PASSPORT. German Southwest Africa Native Passport

Paragraph 5:

The native may, for important reasons, be prohibited from leaving his or her district or county and may be refused a NATIVE PASSPORT.

Paragraph 8:

Lost or unrecognizable passport tokens and NATIVE PASSPORTS are to be immediately replaced with new ones at the appropriate police station. Fee: one Reichsmark.

Paragraph 11: German Southwest Africa Native Passport

The NATIVE PASSPORT is issued according to the following model:


(Entries in brackets are for the below-shown document)

Serial number (NO NUMBER)
1. name of holder, including byname (LISETTE)
2. tribal affiliation (GERARD. Didn’t find information about this tribe. However, there are 3000 tribes in Africa)
3. place of residence (SO FAR OMARURU)
4. passport token number, if a return is intended (TAKEN OFF)
5. employment relationship (to be deleted if necessary) (NONE)
6. destination (note if return intended) (OUTJO)
7. itinerary (BY TRAIN AND WALK)
8. purpose of travel (GOES TO HER SON AND REMAINS THERE)
9. travel time and day of departure (15 APRIL 1915)
10. carries with him (number and name of livestock) (EMPTY)
(Signature of official and official stamp with date)

Paragraph 14:

It is forbidden to allow a passport-obligated native who is not in possession of a valid passport token or NATIVE PASSPORT, service, lodging, maintenance, or such assistance as may encourage the violation of the passport requirements by the native. German Southwest Africa Native Passport

Paragraph 16: German Southwest Africa Native Passport

Any native subject to passport requirements may be stopped by any white person and, if found without a valid passport, may be turned over to the nearest police officer. If a police officer is not in the vicinity and the person arrested is released as a result, a report shall be made to the nearest police station or police patrol at the first opportunity.

Extract from the article at:

Native Passport German Southwest Africa (Eingeborenen-Reisepass)

It’s clear by now that this passport card was only used for domestic travel when a native was longer than usual out of its regular district. This shows how tight travel was restricted by the Germans. This type of document is very scarce, as issued only for the above-mentioned occasions. German Southwest Africa Native Passport

German Southwest Africa Native Passport

German Southwest Africa Native Passport
Explanation, see above