Background: One of the constant German demands after World War I, quickly adopted by the Nazis, was that Germany should have its former colonies returned. There was a lively effort to keep colonies in the public eye. The Reichskolonialbund was part of the effort, issuing among other things an annual yearbook that appeared from 1938 to 1942. The organization expired in 1943, since its efforts were hardly relevant to the war effort at the time. Here I translate the opening chapter, written at a time when it seemed possible, even probable, that German would again become an African colonial power.
The source: Das deutsche koloniale Jahrbuch 1941. Kolonien — ein Kraftfeld Großdeutschlands (Berlin: Wilhelm Süßerott Verlag, 1941).
The War and Germany’s Colonial Question
The book is prefaced by a quotation from German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop: “After the transformation of Europe, the reorganization of Africa will follow. Germany and Italy will take the lead in this area.”
“The old colonial empires of the European colonial nations are responsible for the growth of their peoples religiously, commercially, and imperialistically. Europe’s growing industrialization, the rapid increase in population, the development of technology, and the growth of world trade formed the foundation of plutocratic colonial policy that ruthlessly exploited and oppressed colonial nations and peoples. Today, that is outdated and no longer relevant. The new age that is now dawning in Europe will bring a new epoch of colonial policy in Africa, which is the greatest land reserve of our part of the world that will correspond to the needs and necessities of the young and forward-moving peoples.”
SS Oberführer Oberst Richard Peter, Bundesgeschäftsführer des Reichskolonialbundes.
Europe and our fatherland stand before a fateful transformation. An old world is gradually collapsing and sinking, and the dramatic force of marching German armies announces the birth of a new era of the liberation of peoples. Eighty-five million armed Germans have joined in a unique, joyful people’s community, bound together by blood, ready for the final decisive battle that our Führer has said will determine the fate of our nation for a thousand years. This battle for freedom will resolve the ultimate question: Shall the eternal arrogant, thieving, limitless dark forces of British rule forever deny with brutal power the right of the peoples of the earth to freedom and liberty, to land and space, to work and prosperity, or.... shall the most basic laws of nature and life once again gain their place so that the strongest and most capable may also exist and grow in healthy ways within borders where they can live free from oppression, greed, hate, and lust for power?
World history has made powerful strikes forward in recent months. With astonishing force and personal courage, the Führer has realized the dream of the best Germans over the centuries and completed the reorganization of greater German territory. Ancient lands cultivated by German hands and brought to richness by German labor have returned to their mother and threatened areas where dastardly criminal hands were preparing to incite a new world conflagration were taken under the protection and care of the Reich. There really could have been peace had our never-satisfied enemies not envied the living space we had won and drawn their swords. We are waging this war that was forced on us conscious of our clear right to life, and divine justice has enabled the powerful lighting blows of German forces to destroy a boasting, great power [Poland] to the east that failed to see reality, but instead listened to our enemies. It has been wiped from the map. And as rapacious British forces tried to seize the northern nations, the men of our trusty Wehrmacht were already standing along the coasts and fjords, on the land of the Vikings, ready to defend against the insolent attacks of thieves.
That all was the fateful beginning.... but only the beginning! The goal of Germany’s deadly enemies went beyond disturbing our ordered existence. The end goal of this titanic battle was to destroy the German people and ruin its strong Reich. No German plow was to till the free earth, no German farmer was to sow the seed or tend the pastures that produced his daily bread, no more meat was to be smoked, no machines would be heard making things that would allow trade with other peoples and lead to prosperity and security. No German ship should travel the world’s oceans, no German should in the future work for his people beyond the narrow borders of his homeland. Aside from not enjoying the blessings of the goods of the earth, a people that has so generously given the riches of its spirit and abilities to the world was to sink into miserable slavery, to suffocate and perish wretchedly. The weak may submit to this miserable fate in cowardice and without resistance, but the strong will hold their heads high and battle every foe with courageous hearts. German men and women have always been brave even when hard times fell upon their hearths and homes. So are we! Proud of our strength, aware of the calling that comes to us from our brave ancestors, in unshakable faith in the victorious leadership of a man who came to us amid our deepest need, and in absolute certainty that we will in the end win this battle of life and death, we have raised our honorable sword. That is what they wanted!
The Führer said: “The right to earth and soil can become a duty when a great people faces decline if it does not gain additional territory!” If we are not to perish, but continue to live, it is absolutely necessary that we gain additional territory and resources. This is a holy and morally justified war because threats to our existence force our people to take up arms. We are driven not by military ambition, not by naked lust for power, not insatiable lust for conquest, not by sinful desire for world domination, no, our only guide in this battle of wills is to assure our future. Our land is too narrow and poor, and all efforts to use the land we have will have the end determined by nature. That shortage of land and pressing need for resources is not met by the expansion of German territory in the “Old World.” True... We have won back valuable territory that has clearly helped ease the situation, but we have also absorbed industrious people who like us have insufficient territory and must fight for their daily bread. The imbalance between life-giving soil and a demanding population has remained the same even with a larger territory.
We are thus forced to look beyond the oceans to territories under the tropic sky that were stolen from us in an unprecedented way. We gained them properly and without stain, developed them successfully through hard work, cared for them, and defended them bravely. Even during our years of shame, we never ceased to demand the return of our colonies, and the reestablishment of the Reich overseas was an immediate goal of the National Socialist government. This demand remains during this enormous struggle for Germany’s salvation, since it is necessary for gaining, maintaining, and protecting absolutely necessary territory. Our colonies are an essential and integral part of that territory.
“Without colonial possessions, our territory is too small to guarantee our people a secure, sufficient, and lasting food supply.” Over recent years, Germany’s Führer has increasingly emphasized to the whole world this situation, and spoken of the impossibility of accepting it. He has repeated his hope that the day might come when far-sighted statesmen on the enemy’s side would see the need for a peaceful solution. In vain! Thieves never willingly surrender what they have stolen. Warnings and demands were intentionally ignored and one sinfully avoided a peaceful resolution. They thought they had us by the neck and could resolve colonial questions in the way they wanted, as pirates. The old spirit of foolishness, the old evil of stubbornness, the old rapacious avarice!
Enough! We want to escape their stranglehold with iron blows and win our right to the path that they think is the right one. In a death-defying struggle, eye for an eye, we are in the final battle with our greatest, most dangerous colonial enemy, the British and their obedient lackeys. Day by day we see in the lightning and thunder of a “Götterdämmerung” the dawn of a new age. The peace that will follow this grim battle between peoples will also bring to an end the battle over our colonial possessions. Injustice will be transformed to justice and give new luster to our shield of honor.
Let us remember the the misery of those who returned or were driven our of our colonies! How were things back then? The soil of the homeland was too limited, too poor. The distant world called across the seas. With bravery and determination, they risked an uncertain fate and mastered it with firm will and tremendous ability. They were not loafers or tourists who went abroad filled with romantic fantasies or lazy people seeking a carefree life in a distant land, leaving their old homeland with a light heart. No, they went to sunny shores with modesty and honest hearts. They set to work with spade and shovel, axe and saw, to clear the forest and make the ground cultivatable. The giants of the ancient forest fell. Once there was life-giving water drawn from mother earth or stored in dams, unexpected life sprouted on the savannah or sandy plain. Lush farms and rich plantations grew, surrounding well-built houses, barns, and huts. The thorn bush gave way to a garden, rotting forest soil became fruitful farmland, the wilderness became a meadow for large herds of longhorn cattle and woolly sheep. There was life everywhere! The blessings of the new homeland’s harvest and the once-concealed treasures of the earth filled merchant ships making the long way across the seas to the homeland. The settlers built a peaceful life through their labor. No other people suffered, no one was robbed of their food, but blessings flowed to the old fatherland! .... to Germany!
But then disaster came! The world conflagration broke out and spread from old Europe across the seas. Despicable desire for profit, hateful envy, and naked lust for power ignored holy treaties and reached for forward-looking lands that had been built by the blood and sweat of brave German men and women. Germany’s brave pioneers followed a hard, shameful path to cramped prison camps surrounded by barbed wire where they lived in filthy barracks under the blazing sun. Beaten and tortured, robbed of everything they had, they lived under the bayonets of black soldiers waiting for the day that they could board filthy and crowded ships and return home. Burdened with monstrous accusations of incompetence, they left the land that had become their second homeland, and which they kept in their hearts as part of a greater Germany.
But yet!.... When the time came, they returned to their burned-out farms and ruined farmlands, to the destroyed facilities, to restore the ruins with German determination and indomitable courage. Else they would not have been pioneers of German blood, these people with their firm, proud attitude and iron effort. No evil-minded mandate official, no restrictive law, no customs chicanery... nothing could halt their work and labors.
For a second time, evil came into the world. Once again the poisonous serpent of British mercantilism sank its fangs into industrious German hands. Once again German possessions fell victim to foreign greed. And again terrible violence befell German men and women, old people as well as children, in concentration camps and prisons, sometimes removed to terrible fever-infested islands. For a second time they lost all they possessed and had to leave the land they had come to love in poverty and misery. That was the fate of German settlers!
But now the time has come! Powerful blows of fate are opening the door to a more hopeful age! The decisive avenging battle that will forever free the world from the British nightmare presses on. With grim power the German sword is cutting through the strangling web the old sea pirates spread over land and sea, seeking the thousands of corners and strongholds where the greedy sharks lurk, waiting for prey. The sea routes of the world must be free of highwaymen, for the Lord God created the world and its treasures for all peoples, first of all for the stronger among them, whose great accomplishments have earned them the right to share in the riches of the earth. We have no desire to rule the world! No, the earth has room for all! But where a British anchor drops, German anchors, too, should drop, and where a distant harbor opens, Germans, too, should have free access. We must travel the world’s seas, not sit behind cramped walls. A strong young people in the middle of Europe cannot survive in the long term if it closes itself off from the pulse of world trade, if it seeks to master its fate in self-satisfied isolation without looking toward the gates of the world that lie on its coasts. Arrogant dark forces and violent ideas should not dare to block these gates every twenty years, subjecting children and women to raging, deadly starvation. And no criminal hand should in the future attempt to strangle Germans in colonies and gain easy booty from their hard work.
These are the hopes we want to see fulfilled by the work of our good weapons: free oceans and a free life in our colonies! That is why we will fight with the last breath, if that is necessary. German colonial demands may no longer be postponed. Fate has given us a great task in this battle; us, not those who come after us. We will enjoy fate’s favor! We do not want to be seen as a cowardly generation by posterity because we wearily stood aside at the critical hour.
Our youth is waging this battle with burning hearts. Fighting in foreign regions, they sense Germany’s unacceptable territorial limits. Feeling such oppression and realizing how Germany’s honor has been injured rouses their blood and awakens and strengthens their desire for liberation. They gladly give up a comfortable life in an orderly homeland to take up battle in “a raging storm of dangers” in the wilderness. They want to steel their strength, resisting the forces of a hostile and envious world. They want a “window to the world,” a view of the vastness of the earth, one that as General von Epp says is “not into a world that belongs to others, but rather into their own land, bringing blessings and prosperity for their own people.”
The seed sown many decades ago by brave men across the oceans is ready for harvest. Brining it in is our duty today. The age of hypocrisy is over. Today the German sword speaks its clear language. We no longer “demand” — we take!
85 million people are in the midst of a holy war for German existence, and 85 million stand in ethnic unity behind the leadership of a man who will in a unique and unprecedented way win the victory that their fatherland deserves. As we know today, that is the only way in which the battle for our colonies can end. Germany’s colonial leader, Reichsleiter Ritter von Epp, says: “with German possessions in Africa.” [pp. 9-17]
Dr. J. H. Krumbach, Kolonialpolitisches Amt der NSDAP, Reichsleitung.
The remainder of the book includes essays on a variety of topics, including the deficiencies of the mandate system, British imperialism, Italian colonial policies, transportation, and the relevance of German racial theory to colonial peoples.
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