Flag of German South West Africa
German South-West Africa (German: Deutsch-Südwestafrika or DSWA) was a colony of Germany from 1884 to 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa and administered as South-West Africa, later becoming Namibia. With an area of 835,100 km2, it was easily one and a half times the size of the German Empire of the time.
In 1883, German merchant Adolf Lüderitz bought land from a native chief in the area of Angra Pequeña. The city of Lüderitz and the adjacent coast (now in Namibia) are named for him. On April 24, 1884, he placed the area under the protection of Imperial Germany, to deter British encroachment. In early 1884, the Kaiserliche Marine ship Nautilus visited to review the situation. A favorable report from the government, and acquiescence from the British, resulted in a visit from the Leipzig and Elisabeth, and the raising of the German flag, on 7 August 1884.
In October, the newly-appointed Commissioner for West Africa, Gustav Nachtigal, arrived on the Möwe. In April of 1885, the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft für Südwest-Afrika was founded, and soon bought the assets of Lüderitz's failing enterprises. Lüderitz drowned in 1886 while on an expedition to the Orange River. In May, Heinrich Ernst Göring was appointed Commissioner and established his administration at Otjimbingwe. A Kaiserliche Schutztruppe ("Imperial Security Troop") under Hauptmann Curt von Francois was stationed in German South-West Africa beginning in 1888, consisting of two officers, five non-commissioned officers, and 20 black soldiers.
The colony grew in 1890 through the acquisition of Caprivi in the northeast, which promised new trade routes. This territory was acquired through the Heligoland-Zanzibar-Contract between Britain and Germany.
German South-West Africa was the only German colony where Germans settled in large numbers. German settlers were drawn to the colony by economic possibilities in diamond and copper mining, and especially farming. In 1902, the colony had 200,000 inhabitants, though only 2,595 were German, 1,354 were Afrikaner, and 452 were British. By 1914, 9,000 more German settlers had arrived. There were probably something like 80,000 Herero, 60,000 Owambo, and 10,000 Nama (disparigingly referred to as "Hottentots").
Rebellions against German rule
In 1893-1894 was the first "Hottentot Uprising" of the Nama and their legendary leader Hendrik Witboi. The following years saw many further local uprisings against German rule, the largest of which was the Herero Wars of 1904. Remote farms were attacked, and approximately 150 German settlers were killed. The Schutztruppe of only 766 troops and native auxillary forces was at first no match for the Herero. The Herero went on the offensive, sometimes surrounding Okahandja and Windhuk, and destroying the railway bridge to Osona. Additional troops hastened from Germany under Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha crushed the rebellion in the Battle of Waterberg. The Herero retreated into the waterless Omaheke-Steppe, a western arm of the Kalahari Desert, where many of them died of thirst. The German forces guarded every water source and were given orders to shoot any Herero on sight. Only a few Herero managed to escape into neighboring British territories.
In the fall of 1904, the Nama entered the struggles against the colonial power under their leaders Hendrik Witboi and Jakob Morenga (who was called "the black Napoleon"). This uprising was finally quashed in 1907-1908.
Altogether, between 25,000 and 100,000 Herero died. Out of 20,000 Nama, less than half survived. 1,749 Germans were lost.
World War I
During World War I, South African troops opened hostilities with an assault on the Ramansdrift police station on September 13, 1914. German settlers were transported to concentration camps near Pretoria and later in Pietermaritzburg. Because of the overwhelming superiority of the South African troops, the German Schutztruppe, along with groups of Afrikaner volunteers who fought on the German side, could offer opposition only as a delaying tactic. On July 9, 1915, Victor Franke, the last commander of the Schutztruppe, capitulated near Khorab.
After the war, the area came under the control of Britain, and was later joined with South Africa. In 1989, the former colony became independent under the name Namibia. Since then, the former liberation movement SWAPO has governed the area.
A multitude of German names, buildings, and businesses still exist in the country, and about 20,000 descendants of the German settlers still live there.
Regular postal service began 7 July 1888 at Otjimbingwe, using postmarks reading "OTYIMBINGUE" on postage stamps of Germany, and continued in this fashion for a number of years, eventually expanding to additional post offices.
The first issue for the colony consisted of overprints applied in May 1897 to German stamps, reading "Deutsch- / Südwest-Afrika" at an angle. On 15 November 1898 the overprint was changed to "Deutsch- / Südwestafrika," dropping the hyphen.
In 1900, the omnibus Yacht issue included stamps for South-West Africa, printed on watermarked paper after 1906. The last of these was a 3-mark value printed in 1919, but which was never put on sale in the colony.
Some values, such as the 3pf and 5pf "Yachts," are readily available today, with prices of around one US$. The others range up to several hundred dollars. The high values of the watermarked Yachts saw very little usage before the colony was captured, and genuinely used stamps are up to 10 times more valuable; but many of the used stamps are known to have forged cancellations.
- Klaus Dierks' chronology of Namibia (http://www.klausdierks.com/)