Station: [3] Carl von Klewitz Commemorative Plaque

F: Belgium has them. So does France. Not to mention Britain. So why not the German Empire? A question to which the Imperial Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck had this to say:

M: "As long as I am Imperial Chancellor, we shall not pursue a colonial policy. We have a fleet that cannot sail, and we must not have points of vulnerability in remote parts of the world that will fall to the French as spoils the moment it all starts off."

F: But then, Bismarck changed course – radically. Perhaps he was persuaded by those with economic interests. Because Germany’s colonial efforts were primarily driven by trading companies and business magnates. And so, from 1884, the German Empire founded the colonies of German Southwest Africa and German East Africa, as well as Cameroon and Togo. Plus German New Guinea, comprising several islands in the South Pacific.

M: "German protectorates" – that was what the colonies were called. And to protect the protectorates, mainly the economic interests, soldiers were deployed. Among them a certain Lieutenant Carl Klewitz. He served with the 25th Dragoons "Queen Olga", who were stationed in Ludwigsburg at the time. He was the one who put up this commemorative plaque.

F: From 1904 to 1912, Carl Klewitz was stationed in German South-West Africa, today’s Namibia. He was awarded the Military Merit Order and ennobled. Common-or-garden Herr Klewitz became Herr von Klewitz. After being honoured in this way, he was dispatched to German New Guinea as chief of the police force. Early in the First World War, the archipelago was captured by Australia, and Klewitz became an Australian prisoner of war. In 1928, he had this commemorative plaque made on the occasion of the Stuttgart Colonial Conference. As to why? We can only speculate.

M: Something we don’t need to speculate about is the balance sheet of the German colonial period. It generated a minor economic benefit, but resulted in grave political consequences – and human suffering beyond measure.

F: In 1904, German Southwest Africa was rocked by the Herero Revolt. The Nama people under Hendrik Witbooi also joined the uprising. German troops proceeded against the rebels with brutal violence. Up to two thirds of the Herero population died, and half of the 20,000 Nama people were also killed. Today, the suppression of the revolt is seen as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Foto: © Garnisonsmuseum Ludwigsburg