Treatment of Natives in the German Colonies


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Treatment of Natives in the German Colonies is Number 114 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The study is comprised of eight chapters: I “The Official Element” (covering German colonial policy and discussion of it in Germany); II “Flogging in the German Colonies;” III “Administration of Justice;” IV “Forced Labour;” V “Treatment of Chiefs;” VI “Charges against Individuals” (brief accounts of 14 individuals accused and in many cases convicted of atrocities in the German colonies); VII “Brutalities in South-West Africa;” and VIII “Risings and Rebellions.” With regard to the latter, the study concludes: “The numerous risings that have occurred in the German colonies afford the best commentary on German methods of administration. They have been due to a variety of causes, such as expropriation of the tribal lands, seizure of sacrificial cattle, maladministration of justice, excessive floggings and general severity of treatment, invasion of native rights and customs, flogging of women, forced labour and recruiting of natives by means of forced levies, or to a combination of all; but in every case they have been suppressed with a ruthless barbarity that, if committed by a less powerful nation, would have roused a storm of indignation throughout the civilized world.” The three main uprisings discussed are the Herero Rebellion in South-West Africa (present-day Namibia) and the Bushiri and Maji Maji Rebellions in German East Africa (now part of Tanzania).

Last updated: March 24, 2015