Colonial history

„We demand our place under the sun“ and „We will not pardon ! Prisoners will not be made !“

This quoute comes from Chancellor von Bülow and Kaiser Wilhelm II proclaiming the goals of the German colonial politics concerning economic growth and oppression of the people in the colonies.

Germany's colonial adventure begins in 1683 with the Gross Friedrichsburg fort in todays Ghana erected by the electoral Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. From this fort he wanted to trade in rubber, ivory, gold and slaves. In 1885 chancellor Otto von Bismarck invited the European  nations to the Congo Conference in Berlin to divide up Africa among them. After many revolutions and massacres in todays Cameroon and Namibia, Germany lost its colonies in 1919. The contact of Versailles ended the German dream. In the early period of the Weimarer Republic German wanted the colonies back. One of the main backers of this idea was Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first chancellor after the Second World War. Adenauer  was vice-president of the German Colonial Society from 1931 to 1933.  The idea got impetus with the Nazis in 1933. Hitler planned his idea of new „Lebensraum“ in the east and a recolonization of Africa. With the defeat of Germany  in 1945, the dream was forever over.

Only very little is known about the Ruhr areas role during this time. A few references can be found in the 1909 established Colonial-Warrior-Club Essen and Surroundings, the Union of Colonial Troops Hagen and Surroundings, the Colonial Troops Oberhausen, and the Club of Colonial Germans of Herne.

A anecdote for the first public perception of Africa in the Ruhr area comes in 1912 when the theme park „Lunapark“ was opened, the largest of its kind in Germany. The promoters organized a big exhibition called „Congo Negro Village“. The Africans in this exhibition did not come from the Congo, but from the German colony Togo.  The leader of the Togolese was Nayo c. Bruce, who was later a independent showman after performing in a 1896 colonial exhibition  in Berlin.. His daughter Cäcilia was born in a hut in the Münster Strasse in 1912, as recorded in the registrar's office. Cäcilia was the first African born in Dortmund.

The new Soul of Africa Museum will exhibit colonial artefacts from the Ruhr region.The collection belonged to  the Essen topographer Lorenz Wohlfahrt, who served in Southwest Africa (today Namibia) from 1905-1912. This vast  collection containing origional maps, photograhs, diaries, uniform, weapons and trophies was given to Henning Christoph by Wohlfahrt's daughter who lives in Essen.

Lorenz Wohlfahrt, a colonial administrator from Essen.

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