German Colonialism: The first undertakings to establish a German colony were made by private companies, such as Little Venice, Venezuela, in the 16th century, or the Hanau-Indies in the 17th century. Germany's colonial era started after the country had been unified. Because private initiatives failed, the German Empire proclaimed protectorates. The colonialism of European powers is a chapter of history which brought much sorrow for the locals. The Herero and Nama revolt in German South-West Africa (1904 - 1908) and the Maji-Maji rebellion in German East Africa (1905 - 1907) are just a few examples of violent encounters. Yet, some geographical areas shaped by German colonialism are historical regions, influenced by at least two cultures.

"Die Kunst ist frei, und so muß auch der freieste Mensch im Staate der Künstler sein."

- Gerhart Hauptmann -


revised map: German colonies (1884 - 1919) and trade
revised map: German colonies (1884 - 1919) and trade

1. Togoland

The colony was founded in 1884 with a treaty of protection. Togoland set already the course on the question of citizenship for the Reich's descendants: Nicolas Grunitzky was in the unfortunate position to have a Reich's father and an African mother. Therefore, he could not become a Reich's citizen. This example illustrates the paradoxical understanding of colonialism.

German population: around 440 (1914)

trade goods: corn, cutton, ivory, palm oil, rubber

2. Cameroon

Cameroon was a German colony from 1884 to 1919. Colonisation started with the Woermanns' trading house. Later, it became officially colonized through treaties of protection.

German population: around 1640 (1913)

trade goods: corn, ebony woods, ivory, rubber

3. German East Africa

German East Africa was a German colony from 1885 to 1918. The colony made headlines due to the Arabs' insurrection in the years from 1888 - 1890.

German population: around 4110 (1913)

trade goods: cutton, coffee, cutton, hemp, tobacco

4. German South-West Africa

German South-West Africa was a German colony from 1884 to 1915 that became partly Germanized. German names such as the Lüderitzbucht and cultural elements like the Black Forest cake and German garden goblins are reminders of the region's past.

German population: around 12.000 (1914)

trade goods: copper, diamonds, iron ore, marble

5. Asian Territories: Hankou, Tientsin and Jiaozhou

The Asian territories were part of the German Empire's trading policies through the foundations of trading bases.

trade goods: tea, silk, groundnuts, pharmaceuticals

6. Mariana Islands

German colonization started with the German Spanish contract of 1899.

trade goods: birds of paradise, copra (see German New Guinea)

7. Marshall Islands

German colonization started with missionaries and merchants.

trade goods: see German New Guinea

8. Caroline Islands

The Caroline Islands were part of the German Spanish contract of 1899 (Mariana Islands).

trade goods: see German New Guinea

9. German New Guinea

German New Guinea was a colony from 1884 to 1914. Colonization started with treaties of protection, supported by Germany's naval forces.

trade goods: birds of paradise, copra, phosphate, tobacco

10. German Samoa

The colony was in focus during the Spanish American War of 1899, which resulted in a division of the island into East- and West Samoa. East Samoa became an American insular area, and West Samoa became German. German Samoa was a colony from 1900 to 1914.

German population: 300 (1914)

trade goods: bananas, cacao beans, coffee

Sources / Quellenangabe:

Naumann, Günter. Deutsche Geschichte. Wiesbaden: marxisverlag, 2018.

Scriba, Arnulf. "Statistische Angaben zu den deutschen Kolonien."LeMO, 17 September 2014.