German New Guinea

German New Guinea (German: Deutsch-Neuguinea) consisted of the northeastern part of the island of New Guinea and several nearby island groups and was the first part of the German colonial empire. The mainland part of the territory, called Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, became a German protectorate in 1884. Other island groups were added subsequently. New Pomerania, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the northern Solomon Islands were declared a German protectorate in 1885; the Caroline Islands, Palau, and the Mariana Islands were bought from Spain in 1899; the protectorate of the Marshall Islands was bought from Spain in 1885 for $4.5 million by the 1885 Hispano-German Protocol of Rome; and Nauru was annexed to the Marshall Islands protectorate in 1888.

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and nearby islands fell to Australian forces, while Japan occupied most of the remaining German possessions in the Pacific. The mainland part of German New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the North Solomon Islands are now part of Papua New Guinea. The Micronesian islands of German New Guinea are now governed as the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands. Nauru, the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau are independent countries.

The islands to the east of Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, on annexation, were renamed the Bismarck Archipelago (formerly the New Britannia Archipelago) and the two largest islands renamed Neu-Pommern ("New Pomerania", today's New Britain) and Neu-Mecklenburg ("New Mecklenburg, now New Ireland).[1] Due to their accessibility by water, however, these outlying islands were, and have remained, the most economically viable part of the territory.

With the exception of German Samoa, the German islands in the Western Pacific formed the "Imperial German Pacific Protectorates". These were administered as part of German New Guinea and included the German Solomon Islands (Buka, Bougainville, and several smaller islands), the Carolines, Palau, the Marianas (except for Guam), the Marshall Islands, and Nauru. The total land area of German New Guinea was 249,500 square kilometres (96,300 sq mi).[2]

German New Guinea

Deutsch-Neuguinea (German)
Coats of arms of Papua New Guinea
Coats of arms
Green: German New Guinea
Green: German New Guinea
StatusGerman colony
CapitalHerbertshöhe, Simpsonhafen (after 1910)
Common languagesGerman (official), Austronesian languages, Papuan languages, German creoles
Historical eraGerman colonisation in the Pacific Ocean
3 November 1884
28 June 1919
1913247,281 km2 (95,476 sq mi)
ISO 3166 codePG
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Spanish East Indies
South Pacific Mandate
British Solomon Islands
Mandate of Nauru
Territory of New Guinea


Early German South Pacific presence

The first Germans in the South Pacific were probably sailors on the crew of ships of the Dutch East India Company: during Abel Tasman's first voyage, the captain of the Heemskerck was one Holleman (or Holman), born in Jever in northwest Germany.[3][4]

Hanseatic League merchant houses were the first to establish footholds in the South Pacific: Johann Cesar Godeffroy & Sohn of Hamburg, headquartered at Samoa from 1857, operated a South Seas network of trading stations especially dominating the copra trade and carrying German immigrants to various South Pacific settlements;[5][6][7] in 1877 another Hamburg firm, Hernsheim and Robertson, established a German community on Matupi Island, in Blanche Bay (the north-east coast of New Britain) from which it traded in New Britain, the Caroline, and the Marshall Islands.[8][9] By the end of 1875, one German trader reported: "German trade and German ships are encountered everywhere, almost at the exclusion of any other nation".[10]

German colonial policy under Bismarck

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, an active minority, stemming mainly from a right-wing National Liberal and Free Conservative background, had organised various colonial societies all over Germany to persuade Chancellor Bismarck to embark on a colonial policy. The most important ones were the Kolonialverein of 1882 and the Society for German Colonization (Gesellschaft für Deutsche Kolonisation) founded in 1884.[11] The reasons for Bismarck's lack of enthusiasm when it came to the subject of Germany's colonial possessions is reflected in his curt response in 1888 to the procolonial, expansionist remarks of Eugen Wolf, reflected in the latter's autobiography. After Bismarck had patiently listened to Wolf enthusiastically laying out his plans that he sought to pitch employing several illustrative maps, Bismarck finally interrupted his monologue:

Your map of Africa there is very nice I have to admit. But you know, my map of Africa is here ... in Europe. You see here is Russia, over there is [..] France. And us, we are here – right in the middle between those two. That's my map of Africa.[12]

Despite his personal objections, it was Bismarck himself who eventually organised the acquisition of much of what would become the German colonial empire. The very first attempts at the new policy came in 1884 when Bismarck had to put German trading interests in southwestern Africa under imperial protection.[13] Bismarck told the Reichstag on 23 June 1884 of the change in German colonial policy: annexations would now proceed but by grants of charters to private companies.[14]

Australian aspiration and British disinterest

The edition of 27 November 1882 of the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung carried an article which the Colonial Secretary of the British colony of New South Wales drew to the attention of the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and, on 7 February 1883, the paper published a summary of the article under the heading German annexation of New Guinea. The argument lifted from the German paper began by stating that New Guinea fell into the Australian sphere but had been neglected; although the Portuguese had explored in the 16th century, it was the Dutch from the 17th century "who seemed better satisfied with the country than other European nations had been" but they had over-reached themselves and had fallen back towards Java, Sumatra and Celebes. Recent explorations had given the basis for reconsideration: it "is considered useful by geology and biology people as holding in its forests the key to solve problems... a profitable field for cultivation" but London had only sent missionaries to save souls. "As we Germans have learnt a little about conducting colonial policy, and as our wishes and plans turn with a certain vivacity towards New Guinea... according to our opinion it might be possible to create out of the island a German Java, a great trade and plantation colony, which would form a stately foundation stone for a German colonial kingdom of the future."

The publication of the Sydney Morning Herald article caused a sensation and not just in the colony of New South Wales: over the border, in the British colony of Queensland[15] where the shipping lanes of the Torres Strait and the beche-de-mer trade were of commercial significance,[16] the Queensland Premier, Sir Thomas McIlwraith who led a political party "considered to represent the interests of the plantation owners in Queensland",[15] drew it to the attention of the Queensland Governor together with the general situation in New Guinea and urged annexation of the island.[17] He also instructed the London Agent for Queensland to urge the Imperial Colonial Office to an act of annexation.[18]

"Impatient with the lack of results from this procedure" Premier McIlwraith on his own authority ordered a Queensland Police Magistrate in March 1883 to proclaim the annexation on behalf of the Queensland government[17] of New Guinea east of the Dutch boundary at 141E.[19] When news of this reached London, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Derby promptly repudiated the act.[1][17] When the matter came before Parliament, Lord Derby advised that the British Imperial Government "were not ready to annex New Guinea in view of its vast size and unknown interior, the certainty of native objections and administrative expense".[20]

German New Guinea Company

German new guinea flag
Flag of German New Guinea Company
German New Guinea 1895-A 20 Mark
1895 20 Mark gold coin issued by the German New Guinea Company.

On his return to Germany from his 1879–1882 Pacific expedition, Otto Finsch joined a small, informal group interested in German colonial expansion into the South Seas led by the banker, Adolph von Hansemann. Finsch encouraged them to pursue the founding of a colony on the north-east coast of New Guinea and the New Britain Archipelago even providing them with an estimate of the costs of such a venture.[21]

On 3 November 1884, under the auspices of the Deutsche Neuguinea-Compagnie (New Guinea Company), the German flag was flown over Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, the Bismarck Archipelago and the German Solomon Islands.

Albert Hahl (1868–1945) joined the German Colonial Office in 1895 and until 1914 played a major part in New Guinea's administration. He was an imperial judge at Herbertshoehe (1896–98), deputy governor of New Guinea (1899–1901), and governor (1902–14) As a judge he made three reforms: the appointment of 'luluais' [village chiefs], attempts to integrate the Tolais people into the European economy, and the protection of village lands, which led him to recommend the ending of all alienation of native lands. After 1901 Hahl attempted to apply his system to the whole of New Guinea, and although his success was limited, exports rose from one million marks in 1902 to eight million in 1914. He was forced to retire because of disagreements with Berlin officials, and became an active writer on New Guinea and was a leader in German colonial societies between the wars.[22]

Lutheran and Catholic missions

By the mid-1880s German church authorities had devised a definite program for missionary work in New Guinea and assigned it to the Rhenish Mission, under the direction of Friedrich Fabri (1824–91), a Lutheran. The missionaries faced extraordinary difficulties, including repeated sickness from the unhealthy climate, psychological and sometimes violent tensions and fights between the colonial administration and the natives. The natives rejected European customs and norms of social behaviour, with few embracing Christianity. In 1921, the Rhenish Mission territory was handed over to the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia.[23]

Missionaries sponsored by the Catholic Church in Germany had better resources and influence, and proved more successful. They put more emphasis on tradition and less on modernisation, and were more in line with native world-views and traditions. European morality and discipline were often adopted, as were notions of dignity and prestige.[24]

Table: German Mission societies in New Guinea[25]

German Name English Latin Abbreviation
Liebenzeller Mission, (China-Inland-Mission) Liebenzell Mission - CIM
Maristen, Gesellschaft Mariens Marist Mission, Marists Societas Maristae SM
Linked to German Wesleyan Churches Methodist Mission, Australasian Methodist Mission Society, Wesleyan Society, Methodist Missionary Society of Australasia - -
Kongregation der Missionare vom Heiligsten Herzen Jesu, Hiltruper Mission, Herz-Jesu-Mission Mission of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacred Heart Mission, Holy Heart of Jesus Congregatio Missionariorum Sacratissimi Cordis Jesu MSC
Neuendettelsauer Mission, Gesellschaft für Innere und Äußere Mission im Sinne der Lutherischen Kirche e.V. Neuendettelsau Mission, Lutheran Mission Finschhafen - ND
Rheinische Mission, Barmer Mission Rhenish Mission - -
Styler Mission, Gesellschaft des göttlichen Wortes, (Kapuziner Mission) Society of the Divine Word Societas Verbi Divini SVD
Missionsgesellschaft vom Heiligen Geist, Spiritaner, Väter vom Heiligen Geiste Holy Spirit Fathers, Spiritans, Congregation of the (Servants of) the Holy Ghost. Congregatio Sancti Spiritus CSSp

Imperial German Pacific protectorates

German Pacific
The German Colonial Empire, showing German New Guinea in brown
Hissen der kaiserlichen Flagge auf Mioko
Hoisting the German flag at Mioko in 1884

By the German–Spanish Treaty of 1899, Germany bought from Spain the Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands (excluding Guam, which had been ceded to the US after the 1898 Spanish–American War) for 25 million pesetas (equivalent to 16,600,000 goldmarks). These islands became a protectorate and were administered from German New Guinea.[26] The Marshall Islands were added in 1906.

Forced labour policy

To expand the highly profitable plantations, the Germans needed more native workers. The government sent military expeditions to take direct control of more areas from 1899 to 1914. Instead of voluntary recruitment it became a matter of forced mobilisation. The government enforced new laws that required the tribes to furnish four weeks of labour per person annually and payment of a poll tax in cash, thereby forcing reluctant natives into the work force. The government did explore the choice of voluntary recruitment of labourers from China, Japan, and Micronesia, but only a few hundred came. After 1910 the government tried to ameliorate the impact by ending the recruitment of women in some areas and entirely closing other areas to recruiting. The planters protested vehemently, deciding to go to war with the whites, and the government responded by sending 4 warships with 745 troops to defeat the Sokeh workers and impose the forced labour policy. They arrived in January 1911 and by February 1911 the Sokeh leader had surrendered.[27][28]

World War I

Native recruits during drill in German New Guinea
Neustadt Neuguinea 1922
"Notgeld" banknote (1922). The text complains about the loss of the colony after the Treaty of Versailles

Following the outbreak of World War I, Australian troops captured Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and the nearby islands in 1914, after a short resistance led by Captain Carl von Klewitz and Lt. Robert "Lord Bob" von Blumenthal, while Japan occupied most of the remaining German possessions in the Pacific. The only significant battle occurred on 11 September 1914 when the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force attacked the low-power wireless station at Bita Paka (near Rabaul) on the island of New Britain, then Neu Pommern. The Australians suffered six dead and four wounded – the first Australian military casualties of the First World War. The German forces fared much worse, with one German officer and 30 native police killed and one German officer and ten native police wounded. On 21 September all German forces in the colony surrendered.

Map of the Kaiserwilhelmsland, the German colony of New Guinea, 1884–1919

However, Leutnant (later Hauptmann) Hermann Detzner, a German officer, and some 20 native police evaded capture in the interior of New Guinea for the entire war. Detzner was on a surveying expedition to map the border with Australian-held Papua at the outbreak of war, and remained outside militarised areas. Detzner claimed to have penetrated the interior of the German portion (Kaiser Wilhelmsland) in his 1920 book Vier Jahre unter Kannibalen ("Four Years Among Cannibals"). These claims were heavily disputed by various German missionaries, and Detzner recanted most of his claims in 1932.

After the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, Germany lost all its colonial possessions, including German New Guinea. In 1923, the League of Nations gave Australia a trustee mandate over Nauru, with the United Kingdom and New Zealand as co-trustees.[29] Other lands south of the equator became the Territory of New Guinea, a League of Nations Mandate Territory under Australian administration until 1949 (interrupted by Japanese occupation during the New Guinea campaign) when it was merged with the Australian territory of Papua to become the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which eventually became modern Papua New Guinea. The islands north of the equator became the Japanese League of Nations Mandate for the South Seas Islands. After Japan's defeat in World War II, the former Japanese mandate islands were administered by the United States as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trust territory.


Territory Period Area (circa) Current countries
Kaiser-Wilhelmsland 1884–1919 181,650 km²[30]  Papua New Guinea
Bismarck Archipelago 1899–1919 49,700 km²  Papua New Guinea
Buka Island 1899–1919 492 km²[31]  Papua New Guinea
Bougainville Island 1899–1919 9,318 km²  Papua New Guinea
Palau 1899–1919 466 km²[30]  Palau
Caroline Islands 1899–1919 2150 km²[32]  Federated States of Micronesia
Nauru 1899–1919 21 km²  Nauru
Mariana Islands 1899–1919 461 km²  Northern Mariana Islands
Marshall Islands 1899–1919 181 km²  Marshall Islands

Planned symbols for German New Guinea

In 1914 a series of drafts were made for proposed Coat of Arms and Flags for the German Colonies. However, World War I broke out before the designs were finished and implemented and the symbols were never actually taken into use. Following the defeat in the war, Germany lost all its colonies and the prepared coat of arms and flags were therefore never used.

Flag of Deutsch-Neuguinea

Proposed Flag

Proposed Coat of Arms New Guinea 1914

Proposed Coat of Arms

See also


  1. ^ a b William Churchill, 'Germany's Lost Pacific Empire' (1920) Geographical Review 10 (2) pp84-90 at p84
  2. ^ '[1]'. Deutsche Schutzgebiete page on New Guinea.
  3. ^ Chronology of Germans in Australia Archived 30 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Gutenberg Australia Abel Janszoon Tasman's Journal, edited by J E Heeres (1898), see descriptive note.
  5. ^ Townsend, M. E. (1943) "Commercial and Colonial Policies" The Journal of Economic History 3 pp 124–134 at p 125
  6. ^ Hans-Jürgen Ohff (2008) Empires of enterprise: German and English commercial interests in East New Guinea 1884 to 1914 Thesis (PhD University of Adelaide, School of History and Politics) at p 10.
  7. ^ "Godeffroy and Son possibly controlled as much as 70 per cent of the commerce of the South Seas" Kennedy, P. M. (1972) Bismarck's Imperialism: The Case of Samoa, 1880–1890 The Historical Journal 15(2) pp 261–283 citing H. U. Wehler Bismarck und der Imperialismus (1969) pp 208–15; E. Suchan-Galow Die deutsche Wirtschaftstätigkeit in der Südsee vor der ersten Besitzergreifung (1884) (Veröffentlichung des Vereins für Hamburgische Geschichte, Bd. XIV, Hamburg, 1940).
  8. ^ Romilly, H. H. (1887) "The Islands of the New Britain Group" Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, New Monthly Series 9(1) pp 1–18 at p 2.
  9. ^ Townsend, M. E. (1943) "Commercial and Colonial Policies" The Journal of Economic History 3 pp 124–134 at p 125.
  10. ^ Hans-Jürgen Ohff (2008) Empires of enterprise: German and English commercial interests in East New Guinea 1884 to 1914 Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Adelaide, School of History and Politics p 26 quoting Schleinitz to Admiralty, 28 December 1875, Drucksache zu den Verhandlungen des Bundesrath, 1879, vol. 1, Denkschrift, xxiv–xxvii, p. 3.
  11. ^ Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann, "Domestic Origins of Germany's Colonial Expansion under Bismarck" (1969) Past & Present 42 pp 140–159 at p 144 citing R. V. Pierard, "The German Colonial Society, 1882–1914" (Iowa State University, PhD thesis, 1964); K. Klauss, Die Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft und die deutsche Kolonialpolitik von den Anfangen bis 1895 (Humboldt Universitat, East Berlin, PhD thesis, 1966); F. F. Müller, Deutschland-Zanzibar-Ostafrika. Geschichte einer deutschen Kolonialeroberung (Berlin (GDR), 1959).
  12. ^ Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann, "Domestic Origins of Germany's Colonial Expansion under Bismarck" (1969) Past & Present 42 pp 140–159 at p 144 citing Deutsches Zentralarchiv Potsdam, Reichskanzlei 7158.
  13. ^ Hans-Jürgen Ohff (2008) Empires of enterprise: German and English commercial interests in East New Guinea 1884 to 1914 Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Adelaide, School of History and Politics p 62. "It is the aim of this thesis to demonstrate that specific and identifiable commercial interests, rather than politicians, defence or strategic concerns, ideology or morality were the driving forces behind what did or did not happen in the first 50 years of European settlement in East New Guinea and adjacent islands." at p 10.
  14. ^ Hans-Jürgen Ohff (2008) Empires of enterprise: German and English commercial interests in East New Guinea 1884 to 1914 Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Adelaide, School of History and Politics p 62-63 citing R. M. Smith (tr.) (1885) German Interests in the South Sea, abstracts of the White Book presented to the Reichstag, December 1884 and February 1885 and pinpoint reference 1884, Wb no. 19, p. 37; he adds "a full translation of Bismarck's speech was published by The Times on 25 June 1884 under the rubric 'German Colonial Policy', pp. 10–3."
  15. ^ a b Donald C. Gordon, 'Beginnings of an Australasian Pacific Policy' (1945) Political Science Quarterly 60 (1) pp 79–89 at p 84
  16. ^ Donald C. Gordon, 'Beginnings of an Australasian Pacific Policy' (1945) Political Science Quarterly 60 (1) pp 79–89 at p 84 citing statistics from Queensland Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings 1883 p 776
  17. ^ a b c Donald C. Gordon, 'Beginnings of an Australasian Pacific Policy' (1945) Political Science Quarterly 60 (1) pp 79–89 at p 85
  18. ^ Donald C. Gordon, 'Beginnings of an Australasian Pacific Policy' (1945) Political Science Quarterly 60 (1) pp 79–89 at p 85 citing Queensland Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings 1883 p 776
  19. ^ William Churchill, 'Germany's Lost Pacific Empire' (1920) Geographical Review 10 (2) pp 84–90 at p 84
  20. ^ I. M. Cumpston 1963 The Discussion of Imperial Problems in the British Parliament, 1880–85 Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series 13 pp 29–47 at p 42 citing Hansard, Parliamentary Debates 3rd Series cclxxxi 19
  21. ^ P. G. Sack 'Finsch, Otto (1839–1917)' Australian Dictionary of Biography
  22. ^ Peter By: Biskup, "Dr. Albert Hahl – Sketch of a German Colonial Official," Australian Journal of Politics and History (1968) 14#3 pp342-357
  23. ^ Klaus-J. Bade. "Colonial Missions And Imperialism: The Background to the Fiasco of the Rhenish Mission in New Guinea," Australian Journal of Politics and History (1975) 21#2 pp 73–94.
  24. ^ Hempenstall, Peter J. (1975). "The Reception of European Missions in the German Pacific Empire: The New Guinea Experience". Journal of Pacific History. 10 (1): 46–64. doi:10.1080/00223347508572265.
  25. ^ Winter, Christine (2012). Looking after one's own: the rise of Nationalism and the Politics of the Neuendettelsauer Mission in Australia, New Guinea and Germany (1921-1933). Peter Lang Verlag. Details of table see page 26. This table is a selection of the most common names and variations used by archival documents and published sources for those mission societies which worked in the Bismarck Archipelago and Kaiser Wilhelmsland at the beginning of WWI. These missions were initially referred to by the Australian Administration as ‘German’ missions. Some of these mission operations in the field were, however, only loosely linked to Germany and German motherhouses. Some had a variety of transnational connections, especially to Australia, France, and Switzerland. Note also that mission societies such as the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were part of a wide family of related organisations and sub-organisations.
  26. ^ Caroline Islands Timeline
  27. ^ Firth, Stewart (1976). "The Transformation of the Labour Trade in German New Guinea, 1899-1914". Journal of Pacific History. 11 (1): 51–65. doi:10.1080/00223347608572290.
  28. ^ Varnava, Andrekos (2015-09-01). Imperial expectations and realities: El Dorados, utopias and dystopias. ISBN 9781784997090.
  29. ^ Hudson, WJ (April 1965). "Australia's experience as a mandatory power". Australian Outlook. 19 (1): 35–46. doi:10.1080/10357716508444191.
  30. ^ a b "Rank Order – Area". CIA World Fact Book. Retrieved 12 April 2008.
  31. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica: Buka Island". Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  32. ^ "The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 22 September 2016.

Further reading

  • Peter Biskup: Hahl at Herbertshoehe, 1896–1898: The Genesis of German Native Administration in New Guinea, in: K. S. Inglis (ed.): History of Melanesia, Canberaa – Port Moresby 1969, 2nd ed. 1971, 77–99.
  • Firth, Stewart: Albert Hahl: Governor of German New Guinea. In: Griffin, James, Editor: Papua New Guinea Portraits: The Expatriate Experience. Canberra: Australian National University Press; 1978: 28–47.
  • Firth, S. G.: The New Guinea Company, 1885–1899: A Case of Unprofitable Imperialism. in: Historical Studies. 1972; 15: 361–377.
  • Firth, Stewart G.: Arbeiterpolitik in Deutsch-Neuguinea vor 1914. In: Hütter, Joachim; Meyers, Reinhard; Papenfuss, Dietrich, Editors: Tradition und Neubeginn: Internationale Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert. Köln: Carl Heymanns Verlag KG; 1975: 481–489.
  • Noel Gash – June Whittaker: A pictorial history of New Guinea, Jacaranda Press: Milton, Queensland 1975, 312 p., ISBN 186273 025 3.
  • Whittaker, J L; Gash, N. G.; Hookey, J. F.; and Lacey R. J. (eds.) : Documents and Readings in New Guinea History: Prehistory to 1889, Jacaranda Press: Brisbane 1975/1982
  • Firth, Stewart (1973). "German Firms in the Western Pacific Islands". Journal of Pacific History. 8 (1): 10–28. doi:10.1080/00223347308572220.
  • Firth, Stewart G.: German Firms in the Pacific Islands, 1857– 1914. In: Moses, John A.; Kennedy, Paul M., Editors. Germany in the Pacific and Far East, 1870–1914. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press; 1977: 3–25
  • Firth, Stewart (1985). "German New Guinea: The Archival Perspective". Journal of Pacific History. 20 (2): 94–103. doi:10.1080/00223348508572510.
  • Firth, Stewart: The Germans in New Guinea. In: May, R. J.; Nelson, Hank, Editors: Melanesia: Beyond Diversity. Canberra: Australian National University, Research School of Pacific Studies; 1982: 151–156.
  • Firth, Stewart (1976). "The Transformation of the Labour Trade in German New Guinea, 1899-1914". Journal of Pacific History. 11 (1): 51–65. doi:10.1080/00223347608572290.
  • Firth, Stewart. Labour in German New Guinea. In: Latukefu, Sione, Editor. Papua New Guinea: A Century of Colonial Impact 1884–1984. Port Moresby: The National Research Institute and the University of Papua New Guinea in association with the PNG Centennmial Committee; 1989: 179–202.
  • Moses, John, and Kennedy, Paul, Germany in the Pacific and Far East 1870–1914, St Lucia Qld: Queensland University Press, 1977. ISBN 9780702213304
  • Sack, Peter, ed., German New Guinea: A Bibliography, Canberra ACT: Australian National University Press, 1980, ISBN 9780909596477
  • Firth, Stewart: New Guinea Under the Germans, Melbourne University Press : International Scholarly Book Services: Carlton, Vic. 1983, ISBN 9780522842203, reprinted by WEB Books: Port Moresby 1986, ISBN 9980570105.
  • Foster, Robert J. (1987). "Komine and Tanga: A Note on Writing the History of German New Guinea". Journal of Pacific History. 22 (1): 56–64. doi:10.1080/00223348708572551.
  • Mary Taylor Huber: The Bishops’ Progress. A Historical Ethnography of Catholic Missionary Experience of Catholic Missionary Experience on the Sepik Frontier, Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington and London 1988, 264 pp., ISBN 0-87474-544-6.
  • Mary Taylor Huber: The Bishops’ Progress: Representations of Missionary Experience on the Sepik Frontier, in: Nancy Lutkehaus (ed.): Sepik Heritage. Tradition and Change in Papua New Guinea, Crawford House Press: Bathurst, NSW (Australia) 1990, 663 pp. + 3 maps, ISBN 1-86333-014-3., pp. 197–211.
  • Keck, Verena. "Representing New Guineans in German Colonial Literature," Paideuma: Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde (2008), Vol. 54, pp 59–83.

External links

Coordinates: 4°12′S 152°11′E / 4.200°S 152.183°E

Battle of Bita Paka

The Battle of Bita Paka (11 September 1914) was fought south of Kabakaul, on the island of New Britain, and was a part of the invasion and subsequent occupation of German New Guinea by the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. Similar to New Zealand's operation against German Samoa in August, the main target of the operation was a strategically important wireless station—one of several used by the German East Asiatic Squadron—which the Australians believed to be located in the area. The powerful German naval fleet threatened British interests and its elimination was an early priority of the British and Australian governments during the war.

After an unopposed landing, a mixed force of German reservists and half-trained Melanesian police mounted a stout resistance and forced the Australians to fight their way to the objective. After a day of fighting during which both sides suffered casualties, Australian forces captured the wireless station at Bita Paka. The battle was Australia's first major military engagement of the war and the only significant action of the campaign; in its aftermath the remaining German forces on New Britain fled inland to Toma. Following a brief siege there the German garrison capitulated, ending resistance to the Australian occupation of the island.

Bismarck Archipelago

The Bismarck Archipelago is a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea in the western Pacific Ocean and is part of the Islands Region of Papua New Guinea. Its area is about 50,000 square km.

Bougainville Island

Bougainville Island is the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea. This region is also known as Bougainville Province or the North Solomons. Its land area is 9,300 km2 (3591 sq miles). The population of the province is 234,280 (2011 census), which includes the adjacent island of Buka and assorted outlying islands including the Carterets. Mount Balbi at 2,700 m is the highest point.

Bougainville Island is the largest of the Solomon Islands archipelago, forming part of the Northern Solomon Islands, which is politically separate from the sovereign country also called Solomon Islands.

Caroline Islands

The Caroline Islands (or the Carolines) are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end. Historically, this area was also called Nuevas Filipinas or New Philippines as they were part of the Spanish East Indies and governed from Manila in the Philippines.

The Carolines span a distance of approximately 3540 kilometers (2200 miles), from Tobi, Palau at the westernmost point to Kosrae at the easternmost.

German New Guinea Company

The German New Guinea Company (German: Deutsche Neuguinea-Kompagnie) was a German Chartered Company which exploited insular territory in and near present Papua New Guinea.

German–Spanish Treaty (1899)

The German–Spanish Treaty of 1899, (Spanish: Tratado germano-español de 1899; German: Deutsch-Spanischer Vertrag 1899) signed by the German Empire and the Kingdom of Spain, involved Spain selling the vast majority of its remaining Pacific Ocean islands to Germany for 25 million pesetas (equivalent to 17 million Marks).

Hermann Detzner

Hermann Philipp Detzner (16 October 1882 – 1 December 1970) was a German engineer and surveyor, who served as an officer in the German colonial security force (Schutztruppe) in Kamerun (Cameroon) and German New Guinea. He gained fame for evading capture after Australian troops invaded German New Guinea at the start of World War I.

In early 1914, the German government sent Detzner to explore and chart central Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, the imperial protectorate on the island of New Guinea. When World War I broke out in Europe, he was far from civilisation and without radio contact. He refused to surrender to Australian troops when they occupied German New Guinea, concealing himself in the jungle with a band of approximately 20 soldiers. For four years, Detzner and his troops provocatively marched through the bush, singing "Watch on the Rhine" and flying the German Imperial flag. He led at least one expedition from the Huon Peninsula to the north coast, and a second by a mountain route, to attempt an escape to the neutral Dutch colony to the west. He explored areas of the New Guinea's hinterland formerly unseen by Europeans.

After finding out that the war had ended, Detzner surrendered in full dress uniform, flying the Imperial flag, to Australian forces in January 1919. He received a hero's welcome when he returned to Germany. He wrote a book about his adventures — Four Years Among the Cannibals in the Interior of German New Guinea under the Imperial Flag, from 1914 until the Armistice — that sold well in Great Britain and Germany, entered three printings, and was translated into French, English, Finnish and Swedish. He received a position in the Imperial Colonial Archives, and appeared frequently on the lecture circuit throughout the 1920s. In the late 1920s, scientific portions of his book were discredited. In 1932, he admitted that he had mixed fact and fiction and, after that time, eschewed public life.


Kaiser-Wilhelmsland formed part of German New Guinea (German: Deutsch-Neuguinea), the South Pacific protectorate of the German Empire. Named in honour of Wilhelm I,

who reigned as German Emperor (Kaiser) from 1871 to 1888, it included the northern part of present-day Papua New Guinea. From 1884 until 1920 the territory was a protectorate (German: Schutzgebiet) of the German Empire. Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, the Bismarck Archipelago (including New Mecklenburg and New Pomerania), the northern Solomon Islands, the Caroline Islands, Palau, Nauru, the Mariana Islands, and the Marshall Islands comprised German New Guinea.

Most of the German settlers in Kaiser-Wilhelmsland worked as plantation owners, miners, or government functionaries; the number of European settlers, including non-Germans, was never very high. In 1885, Lutheran and Catholic congregations sent clergy to establish missions; they experienced moderate, but very slow, success with the indigenous peoples. Missionaries and plantation owners alike were limited by tropical diseases and by travel and communication barriers.

The Germans never fully explored the protectorate, though in 1914 the Imperial German Government mounted an expedition to explore and map the interior. Lutheran missionaries were frequently the first Europeans to explore the interior and to examine the different fauna and flora.

Following the outbreak World War I in July 1914, Australian troops quickly overran the German protectorate (September to November, 1914) and it came under Australian military administration. In accordance with the settlements ending World War I, from 1920 the Commonwealth of Australia, a British dominion, administered Kaiser-Wilhelmsland as part of the Territory of New Guinea, a League of Nations mandate.


Kokopo is the capital of East New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The capital was moved from Rabaul in 1994 when the volcanoes Tavurvur and Vulcan erupted. As a result, the population of the town increased more than sixfold from 3,150 in 1990 to 20,262 in 2000.Kokopo was known as Herbertshöhe (Herbert's Heights) during the German New Guinea administration which controlled the area between 1884 and formally until 1919. Until 1910 it was the capital of German New Guinea.

On Sunday, March 29, 2015, a strong earthquake, of a preliminary magnitude of at least 7.5, which if confirmed would be the largest earthquake in the world up to that point for 2015, was recorded near Kokopo, and a tsunami warning was issued. This was surpassed a month later by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, which measured a magnitude 7.8.

A research and conservation project has been suggested to study and protect spinner dolphins living around Kokopo beach, as this population may be threatened if constructions of new port for larger shipping lanes is conducted.

List of colonial governors of Papua New Guinea

This article lists the colonial governors of Papua New Guinea, from the establishment of German New Guinea in 1884 until the independence of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in 1975.

Morobe Province

Morobe Province is a province on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. The provincial capital, and largest city, is Lae. The province covers 33,705 km², with a population of 674,810 (2011 census), and since the division of Southern Highlands Province in May 2012 it is the most populous province. It includes the Huon Peninsula, the Markham River, and delta, and coastal territories along the Huon Gulf. The province has nine administrative districts, and 101 languages are spoken, including Kâte and Yabim. English and Tok Pisin are common languages in the urban areas, and in some areas forms of Pidgin German are mixed with the native language.

New Britain

New Britain (Tok Pisin: Niu Briten) is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. It is separated from the island of New Guinea by the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel. The main towns of New Britain are Rabaul/Kokopo and Kimbe. The island is roughly the size of Taiwan. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neupommern ("New Pomerania").

New Guinean mark

The Mark (German plural: Mark, English plural: marks) was the currency of the colony of German New Guinea between 1884 and 1911. It was equal to the German Mark, which was also legal tender in the colony.

Initially, only German currency circulated. This was supplemented in 1894 by coins issued specifically for New Guinea. These coins were demonetized on April 15, 1911, in exchange for the German Mark, the only legal tender after that date.

In 1914, during World War I, German New Guinea was quickly occupied by Australia. That year, the Australian authorities issued Treasury notes denominated in marks. In 1915, the Mark was replaced by the Australian pound.

New Ireland (island)

New Ireland (Tok Pisin: Niu Ailan) or Latangai, is a large island in Papua New Guinea, approximately 7,404 km2 (2,859 sq mi) in area with ca. 120,000 people. It is the largest island of New Ireland Province, lying northeast of the island of New Britain. Both islands are part of the Bismarck Archipelago, named after Otto von Bismarck, and they are separated by Saint George's Channel. The administrative centre of the island and of New Ireland province is the town of Kavieng located at the northern end of the island. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neumecklenburg ("New Mecklenburg").

North Solomon Islands

The Northern Solomons were the more northerly group of islands in the Solomon Islands archipelago over which Germany declared a protectorate in 1885. Initially the German Solomon Islands Protectorate included Choiseul, Santa Isabel, the Shortlands and Ontong Java Islands, but in 1900 these islands were transferred to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate. The largest of the Solomon Islands, Bougainville, continued under German administration until World War I when it fell to Australia, and after the war, it formally passed to Australian jurisdiction under a League of Nations mandate.

Today, what were the North Solomon Islands are split between Bougainville (an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea) and the sovereign state of Solomon Islands, which is the successor state to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate renamed in 1975 prior to achieving independence in 1976.


Rabaul is a township in East New Britain province, on the island of New Britain, in the country of Papua New Guinea. It lies about 60 kilometres to the east of the island of New Guinea. Rabaul was the provincial capital and most important settlement in the province until it was destroyed in 1994 by falling ash of a volcanic eruption in its harbor.

During the eruption, ash was sent thousands of metres into the air and the subsequent rain of ash caused 80% of the buildings in Rabaul to collapse. After the eruption the capital was moved to Kokopo, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) away. Rabaul is continually threatened by volcanic activity because it is on the edge of Rabaul caldera, a flooded caldera of a large pyroclastic shield.

Rabaul was planned and built around the harbor area known as Simpsonhafen (Simpson Harbour) during the German New Guinea administration which controlled the region between 1884 and formally through 1919. From 1910 Rabaul was the headquarters of German New Guinea until captured by the British Empire during the early days of World War I. It became the capital of the Australian mandated Territory of New Guinea until 1937 when it was first destroyed by a volcano.

During World War II it was captured by Japan in 1942, and became its main base of military and naval activity in the South Pacific. Settlements and military installations around the edge of the caldera are often collectively called Rabaul, although the old town of Rabaul was reduced to practical insignificance by the volcanic eruption in 1937.

As a tourist destination, Rabaul is popular for its volcanoes, scuba diving and for snorkeling sites, spectacular harbour and other scenery, World War II history, flora and fauna, and the cultural life of the Tolai people. Before the 1994 eruption, Rabaul was a popular commercial and recreational boating destination; fewer private small craft visit now, but 10 to 12 cruise ships visit Rabaul each year, including the Queen Elizabeth carrying up to 2000 passengers. Tourism is a major industry in Rabaul and East New Britain generally.

Seeadler Harbor

Seeadler Harbor, also known as Port Seeadler, is located on Manus Island, Admiralty Islands, Papua New Guinea and played an important role in World War II. In German, "Seeadler" means sea eagle, pointing to German colonial activity between 1884 and 1919 in that area. The bay was named in 1900 after the German cruiser SMS Seeadler.

Siege of Toma

The Siege of Toma was a bloodless action during the First World War on the island of New Pomerania (now New Britain) between 14–17 September 1914 as part of the occupation of German New Guinea by the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF). Australian forces had been dispatched to seize and destroy German wireless stations in the south-west Pacific because they were used by the German East Asian Cruiser Squadron of Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee which threatened merchant shipping in the region. New Zealand provided a similar force for the occupation of German Samoa. Ultimately the German colonial government was forced to surrender after being surrounded, ending the last significant resistance in the territory.

Territory of New Guinea

The Territory of New Guinea was an Australian administered territory on the island of New Guinea from 1920 until 1975. In 1949, the Territory and the Territory of Papua were established in an administrative union by the name of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. That administrative union was renamed as Papua New Guinea in 1971. Notwithstanding that it was part of an administrative union, the Territory of New Guinea at all times retained a distinct legal status and identity until the advent of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

The initial Australian mandate was based on the previous German New Guinea, which had been captured and occupied by Australian forces during World War I.

Most of the Territory of New Guinea was occupied by Japan during World War II, between 1942 and 1945. During this time, Rabaul, on the island of New Britain, became a major Japanese base (see New Guinea campaign). After World War II, the territories of Papua and New Guinea were combined in an administrative union under the Papua New Guinea Provisional Administration Act (1945–46).

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