Part V (last part) German colonial empire aftermaths
The End of the German Colonial Empire in International Law. Global Reorganization and Transnational Debates in the 1920s and Their Aftermaths.
On June 28, 1919, Germany signed the Versailles Peace Treaty, thereby declaring against its will the renunciation of its overseas colonial empire. Militarily, Germany had already lost the colonies to the Allies during the First World War. The peace treaty stipulated the cession of the colonies as valid under international law and ethically justified this with “Germany’s failure in the field of colonial civilization.” This accusation was primarily based on the violence that German colonial actors had perpetrated against inhabitants of the colonies through wars and forced labor. As evidence served in particular voices of inhabitants of the colonies, which Great Britain had documented in the “Blue Book” of 1918. From 1919 on, German colonial administrations with corresponding police and military structures in Africa and Asia were a thing of the past. However, German colonialism did not end there. State colonial policy, colonial thinking, and colonial economic relations between Germany and the colonially claimed territories continued. German colonial empire aftermaths
The end of the German colonial administrations provoked conflicting reactions at the Paris Peace Conferences in Germany and the former colonies. By analyzing them, it is possible to reconstruct globally conducted debates about colonialism, which at the same time reflect the beginnings of heterogeneous memories of the German colonial empire. In the European debate, voices from the colonies were instrumentalized to underpin their own narratives. Elites in the former colonies, in turn, used memories of the German colonial period to criticize the new mandate administrations. In this way, many actors – as a strategy in their respective contexts – produced memories of the time of the German colonial empire, some of which are still influential today. German colonial empire aftermaths
In German historiography, reactions to the end of the colonial empire have mostly been studied as national debates and fantasies. However, capturing the reactions and debates transnationally is essential because important actors who shaped the processes are otherwise overlooked. Moreover, the actors referred to each other transnationally and debated against the backdrop of the new international system institutionalized at the Paris Peace Conferences through the establishment of the League of Nations. Although they were not allowed to send official representatives to the peace conferences, the societies of the former colonies also discussed the consequences of the end of the German colonial administrations and tried to influence the negotiations. German and European historiography needs to examine colonial history from multiple perspectives and in its interconnections and interactions if it seeks to overcome its Eurocentrism. On the political level, this is the prerequisite for a joint reappraisal of colonial history, together with the societies of the former colonies. German colonial empire aftermaths
National Assembly at Weimar; Friedrich Ebert becomes Reich President; Petition of Africans living in Germany to the National Assembly; Signing of the peace treaty in the Palace of Versailles; the German colonies are transferred to the mandate powers of France and Great Britain. German colonial empire aftermaths
Dissolution of the Reichskolonialamt, transfer of affairs to a central colonial administration in the Reich Ministry for Reconstruction (1920); Passing of laws on “compensation for colonial war damage,” administration of payment of compensation for African colonial soldiers by the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Eingeborenenkunde” (German Society for Native Studies), commissioned by the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office (1920 to 1925); Organization of colonial congresses by the Deutsche Kolonial Gesellschaft/DKG in Magdeburg, Nuremberg, Berlin, Dresden and Bochum (1920 to 1927). German colonial empire aftermaths
Reestablishment of a colonial department in the Foreign Office (1924); Colonial exhibitions in Berlin and other cities (1925 to 1928); Publication of the colonial novel “Volk ohne Raum” (People without Space) by the publicist Hans Grimm (1926); Colonial training week in Bremen organized by the “German student body” (1927); Foundation of the German section of the “Liga zur Verteidigung der Negerrasse E.V.” (“Liga Universelle pour la Défense de la race Noire”) with headquarters in Berlin (1929); New York stock market crash – beginning of the world economic crisis (1929); First “International Conference of Negro Workers” in Hamburg, the founding of the magazine “Negro Worker” (1930); participation of Africans from Berlin in the “International Conference for the African Child” in Geneva (1931). German colonial empire aftermaths
Establishment of the Colonial Policy Office; Colonial exhibitions in Chemnitz, Cologne, Wiesbaden, Nuremberg, Freiburg, Eisenach, Königsberg, Meersburg (1934 to 1935);
Several colonial films are commissioned, including: “The Horsemen of German East Africa” (1934), “Congo Express” (1936), “Carl Peters” (1941). German colonial empire aftermaths
“Gleichschaltung” of the colonial associations in the Reichskolonialbund (1936); Establishment of a Colonial Press Office in the Kolonialpolitisches Amt (1938).
Memoranda and memoranda on the establishment of a German colonial empire in southern Sahara (summer/1940) – “Central African Colonial Empire”; Issuance of a “Reichskolonialgesetz” by the Kolonialpolitisches Amt; Establishment of the “German Africa Corps” (1941). German colonial empire aftermaths
Dissolution of the Colonial Policy Office (Jan.); Surrender of German troops in North Africa (May).
Surrender of Berlin (May); unconditional surrender of the German Reich.
Imperial protection troops in German Southwest Africa
Passport Mark for Natives Black brass embossed passport mark with the imperial crown, below “Keetmanshoop Passport” with stamped No. 15488, top with mounting hole. These passport marks were issued by the Kaiserliche Schutztruppe to the natives to pass the passports and border control posts.
Handwritten Passport 1922, German Consulate Pretoria
Passport 1923, German Consulate Pretoria
Passport 1932, German Consulate Windhuk
FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?
The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...
2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?
Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...
3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?
"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...
4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?
Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...
5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?
Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.
6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?
7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?
During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...
8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?
Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.
9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?
Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.
10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?
A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉
11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?
First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...
Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.
Question? Contact me...