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Imperialism | Colonial Policy


Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas mit Jahrbuch (Atlas German Colonies, with Yearbook), edited by the German Colonial Society, 1918, What presses Germany

What presses Germany

Despite all differences of opinion over what the coming peace conclusion shall bring in security for Germany and the German people, there is agreement concerning one war aim : the return of the German colonial property presently occupied by the enemies, and its expansion in order to form an economically and politically productive German colonial empire.* Without presenting specific demands here, further down aspects are described which have to be an orientation for the colonial peace programme.

Matters in World Politics

(p.35) The English historian Seeley once has coined the phrase, that present-day Britain compares to a Venice translated gigantically, with oceans and Canals. The same phrase fits for Germany in a certain degree. Was it not, as in the case of Britain, owner of large overseas territories, so a network of cultural and economic threads covered the entire world, which was plaited denser every year, and in the construction of which millions and 
millions were involved at home in Germany and overseas. One land after the other became the field of operation of German spirit and German economy. There hardly exists a corner in the world, be it as remote as it may, where the German homeland did not send her first advance messengers in form of German products. From year to year the network of German steamer lines, crossing all the world's oceans, grew denser, and the capital Germans 
invested in non-European countries amounted to billions. As in the economic terrain, so in the cultural area, too. German schools have emerged, in East Asia universities for the natives have been established, our missions worked in all parts of the world, directly or indirectly contributed to the spread of a civilization, the strength of which finally has only been proven by the war.
It may have fitted the mainly continentally oriented perspective of the Germans that they were satisfied with the existence of this cultural network covering the entire world, that they even believed to do a favour to foreign peoples by expanding it, but that they completely forgot, that all these relations merely had been tolerated by the others. When war broke out, we had to experience that a spirit of destruction took hold of everything what the German side had constructed. The fact that an institution was German sufficed to sentence her to death. And the death sentence could ** be spoken, because the German side did do nothing to (p.36) protect German world economical and cultural-political interests. We are rather familiar with the development, than in case of a growing city its defense installations are moved further and further out. The defense installations, however, were limited to the home districts, while no protection existed for the outposts. We did, as is well-known, dispose of a fleet of cruisers. The names Emden, Königsberg, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Karlsruhe are forever engraved in the history of the German nation. But they could not provide a protection of the German interests, as nothing existed which provides the basis for modern warships to operate, such as ammunition depots, coal stations etc. Britain, on the other hand, with its many fleet bases and coal stations spread all over the world has the possibility to clear the sea within days, in a wide circle, of everything what could place itself in her way. So numerous ships sailing under the German flag became victims of a spirit which could only rule, because it could not be resisted, for the lack of coal stations. Contrary to the German Weltpolitik, which did not seriously consider the possibility of a war, as far as trade and shipping were concerned, Britain always has implemented the principle that growing trade required growing protection.
So the powerful bases emerged, which provided Britain with the rule over the oceans, and such, over the world. The area of the Indian Ocean alone be mentioned, one of the world's smaller oceans. Britain commands access by the means of the line Gibraltar-Malta-Port Said-Suez-Aden. In addition, the entire ocean is bracketed by a cross of British fleet stations, which permit Britain, within short time to seal off the Indian Ocean. Just this aspect requires more attention when freedom of the seas is discussed, because freedom of the seas does not only mean freedom of the North Sea and of her exit, but security for German interests in the seas surrounding Europe as well as in the seas surrounding Africa, Asia and America.** With justification it has been said that only he can be strong in the world who is strong on the oceans. This war's events have most clearly proven that strength on the seas necessarily requires strength at the seas, i.e. that there is a future for the demand that the German world interests have to be given the necessary protection by advanced outposts of German power, so that they not again are defenselessly exposed to anyone in the possession of overseas "trenches". As long as Britain alone disposes over such "trenches" and their effect is not counterbalanced by the existence of other "guard posts", freedom of the seas and protection of German interests in the overseas territories remain a utopia !**
To this another fact has to be added, which became evident only in the present war with its mass involvement of men : the militarization also of the inhabitants of colonial territories, also by the entente ! It will forever remain an irony of world history that it was just those countries who stood up to fight Prussian militarism who brought this ostensibly so much hated militarism to foreign peoples, with no other legitimation but force. Just a few years before the war the judgment in England seemed unshakable that it would be a crime against civilization to use coloured troops on European battlefields. As it is commonly known, for a colonial power, especially for one of the status of Britain, such a natural conviction of the moral duty of the countries owning colonial possessions, did not prevent Britain from, shortly after the war began, sending Indian troops in large numbers onto the European battlefields. At least, it seems, Britain in this aspects has limited herself somewhat, although if it was moral considerations or the possibility to recruit masses of white men from her large "white" colonies of Canada, South Africa and Australia, may be open to discussion. France did not dispose over such an option, and in this war it made use of the possibility which, years before the war, has been discussed in length and detail. How strong the coloured troop masses employed on European soil by France have been in total has never been made public in detail. In spring 1916, according to an announcement made on the colonial debate in Toulouse it were 600,000 men already, the numerous coloured forces France has brought in from her colonies to employ them as workers in her war factories. By now obligatory military duty has been introduced in France's West African colonies, and in January 1918 the black deputy for Senegal has been appointed High Commissioner for the purpose of recruitment.
Before we discuss the questions raised by the militarization of Africa in detail (p.37), a general remark may be expressed. It is namely the French and British side which again and again emphasizes that the Entente fights for aims which form a command of justice. To judge over this statement, of course, this is not the proper place. But we may ask 
: does it fit civilization and justice, if a colonial power to force millions of natives entrusted to her by history to fight for a cause which is of no concern for the well-being of these natives ? Does it fit justice, that hundreds of thousands of men not qualified to make their own decisions, whom to elevate and to develop France has obliged herself to by taking possession of their territories, were made victim of a state ideology, the justification of which is at least dubious ? Disregarded the fact that those natives, forced by the French administration to serve as cannon fodder, who return alive to their homelands, have been given a strange impression of the solidarity of the white race which has been preached to them by the representatives of christian missions. It shall be completely disregarded, that the returning natives will describe Europe and the Europeans from a perspective, which does not serve the interests of Europe and the white nations.
In any way, so much can be said, that the militarization of Africa has created a danger, as for instance South African General Smuts admitted, for the entire European, and thus for world civilization, a danger for which those peoples are to be made responsible, who committed the sacrilege to transport their native proteges to the battlefields of Macedonia and France. In purely political-military terms the militarization of Africa during this war has the consequence that steps have to be taken to prevent a repetition in the future. The discrepancy between the earlier expressed opinion in Britain and action taken during the war goes to prove, that it is dangerous to invest one's hopes in international agreements to that aim strong enough to prevent the repetition of such spectacles. If the racial conscience of the British did not prevent them from employing, in violation of century-old principles, Indian and black troops in Europe, so the danger is imminent that France, whose population figures have been affected even more, will even less bother to follow such international agreements. If it will be in danger or believes to be so, it will not refrain from placing millions of natives familiar with war and capable of fighting, from her near north and west African colonies , in the service of her mainland policy.
To prevent this possibility once and for all is a demand of German security. By the means of our own, large colonial property on African soil, sufficiently equipped with means of fortification, we have to prevent France ever again being in the state to strip her west and north African colonies of her men. If we dispose of the necessary fleet bases and the corresponding installations in our colonies, we are capable of doing so. Then we have the means to energetically protect or world political and world economical interests, so that they not again are easy prey for any attacker.


Note * : in the original emphasized by fat font

Note ** : in the original emphasized by blanks between the letters

Source: Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas mit Jahrbuch, (Atlas German Colonies, with Yearbook), edited by P. Sprigade und M. Moisel, Surveys and retrospects by Dr. Karstedt. Berlin 1918, p.35ff.

GM (digitalisation) and AG (translation) 
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Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz


Dokument in deutscher Sprache