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The Allied Powers and Their "Sacred Trust"

The policy followed by Germany in her Protectorates was of an altogether different character from that represented in the diplomatic Notes, Handbooks, and other propaganda of her enemies, and in certain important particulars, as will be shown, it compares more than favourably with that of the Allied Powers. The real goal of that policy has been repeatedly made clear by the responsible German authorities and spokesmen in this field, both in speeches in the Reichstag and in print. Dr. Dernburg, one of the later Secretaries of State for the Colonies, emphatically declaring that "the native was the most valuable asset of our colonies," continually urged that all the efforts of German colonization must be directed first towards providing for and preserving him. Among his successors, Dr. von Lindequist also made it clear that benevolent treatment of the native population was a sine qua non of German colonial policy. Dr. Solf, who was Secretary for the Colonies before and during the World War, plainly promulgated his ideals in Reichstag speeches and in books in the expressive phrase: "Colonizing means missionizing." "An active colonial policy," he said long before the war, "does not mean only the exploitation of such countries according to the measure of the home country's needs, but also co-operation in a great task which cultured humanity is obliged to fulfil towards the tribes of these territories - the task of training them morally and intellectually, and of creating the conditions for their economic development as well as being helpful to them in obtaining a higher degree of human development."

Again, in a speech made in the Reichstag as late as March 6, 1913, he described Germany's attitude towards the natives as follows:

      "The natives are our protégés and the German Government must for their sakes assume the obligation of making the interests of the natives its own. For we do not wish to [93] exterminate the natives, but to preserve them. That is the moral duty which we assumed when we hoisted the German flag in our colonies and in the South Seas. The performance of this duty is also in accordance with wisdom. For this alone gives us the possibility of a rational economic policy, and thereby the basis for our participation in the same."

All the foregoing sentiments and many others like them in humane tendency were uttered and acted on before the war broke the continuity of administration in the German colonies, and that is why Dr. Solf was able with a good conscience to nail to the counter the many misstatements which were circulated as part of a nefarious war propaganda with a view to discrediting his country in the eyes of the world and paving the way for the annexation of these territories if the fortunes of war went against it. Defending German colonial policy in 1915 against the calumnies which had already begun, he wrote:

      "In all the colonies in Africa and in the South Seas, the German Government has established other and more liberal principles in the field of administration as well as in commercial life, in the matter of military occupation, in trade and transportation, in the railway system, in agriculture, etc., than was possible in the mother country. Not a single colony of ours is subject to a military administration. If militarism were the ideal of the Germans, if the Germans had the warlike qualities and the ambitions of the conquistadores, which have been attributed to them, then our colonies would furnish a natural proof of this, for they would have been a welcome breeding-ground for the alleged militarism and wanton soldiery. It is more than remarkable that this is not so, that we have introduced a peaceful civilian régime, and that we have not transplanted those institutions and restrictions, which have become a historic necessity in Germany for protecting our frontiers, to those new countries which we now govern and in which we have allowed everything to develop in a spirit of freedom."1

Native laboratory assistants.
[64b]      Native laboratory assistants
in the Institution for Epidemic Research,
Dar-es-Salam, German East Africa.
[94] If I may be permitted to add my own verdict to the voices of those other men who were appointed to govern the colonies, then as the last Governor of German East Africa, the largest of Germany's colonies, I would say that both before and during the war it was always my policy, as it was that of my predecessors, to make the welfare of the natives entrusted to my care the dominant feature of my administration. This was manifested not only in protecting the natives against all oppression by whites or blacks, and in giving them the benefit of social welfare laws relating to employment, but also in extensive sanitary measures, in campaigns against epidemics, and in a system of scientific hygiene. The same thing applied to the mental and moral improvement of the blacks by means of good schools and by inducing them to improve their agricultural methods. I doubt whether any English or French colony with the same natural conditions and the same kind of population could boast of excelling or even equalling us in this field. The same system prevailed in the other German colonies, and in most of them great things were achieved precisely in the spheres of hygiene and of education.

Native hospital, Duala, The Cameroons.
[56b]      Native hospital, Duala, The Cameroons.

An objective description of German colonial policy will be found in the Deutsches Koloniallexikon, a work which could not appear until after the end of the war, but which was already complete for publication at the outbreak of the war, and was published afterwards without alterations. In that work the late Professor Rathgen, a distinguished expert, famous alike for his scientific eminence and his absolute objectivity, writes as follows with regard to the German policy of treating the natives:

      "Not only is the native in need of guardianship, but he must be especially protected against exploitation, usury, and proletarization, just as much as against disease and famine. It is, of course, in its own interest that a far-seeing colonial policy should treat the natives with care and consideration. The necessity of there being some higher authority, standing above the possible conflict of interests between the white and the native population, is the principal argument against the [95] granting of absolute autonomy to the white population of colonies with a mixed population."2

Are not these principles, proclaimed by the most influential colonial politicians of Germany, leading statesmen, as well as representatives of the sciences, such as might be set up by any progressive modern nation? Is there anything in them which the authors of the libellous pamphlets on Germany's colonial record could regard as an excuse for their language? Do they promulgate or countenance purposes and aims which are not in perfect agreement with those laid down in the articles of the League of Nations?

And now let us consider how the Allied Powers, after proclaiming to the world their recognition of responsibility for the welfare of the natives as a "sacred trust of civilization," have fulfilled that trust in the case of Germany's colonies. In callous disregard of every consideration of humanity, and in violation of the very principles of the League of Nations, France has been given carte blanche to carry on her militarizing policy in the native territories entrusted to her by Mandate! Do all British and American friends of the League of Nations know this, and understand what it means? The story of this pitiful episode must be briefly told. How Germany would have been accused of barbarity and fiendishness had she been guilty of such conduct!

According to the rules of the League of Nations all militarization of the German colonies should be prohibited in the interests of the native population. How, in spite of this fact, France succeeded in securing a clause in her Mandates over the Cameroons and Togoland entitling her to employ the black inhabitants of these territories for her military ends, even in Europe, is one of the blackest chapters in the history of the Versailles Treaty. This betrayal of great native populations, which have been handed over body and soul to French militarism, has also unquestionably shaken the faith of thousands in the League of Nations, and has struck a fatal blow at the enthusiasm of even the credulous idealists of Germany, who had really believed in the pure motives of the League, and were [96] prepared to regard it as indicating a move forward in the march of humanity and of public morality.

Mr. Baker's book on Wilson, from which quotations have already been made, throws light on the incident. According to his explicit account, Pichon, the French representative on the Council of Ten, demanded on January 10, 1919, the right to conscript colonial troops in the territories to be placed under French Mandate. Lloyd George replied,

      "What is forbidden by the documents would be a mode of procedure such as the Germans would probably employ, that is to organize great black armies in Africa, in order to drive everyone else out of the country.3 There is nothing in these documents which would prevent France from conscripting an army for the defence of her territory" (i.e. the mandated territory).

Clemenceau declared that he would be satisfied if France had the right, in the event of a great war, to conscript troops in the African territories under her rule. Lloyd George said that as long as Clemenceau did not recruit large negro armies for purposes of aggression, this was all that the clause was intended to prevent! Clemenceau, of course, replied that the latter was not his intention. He would, therefore, assume that Lloyd George's interpretation was correct, and he declared himself perfectly satisfied.4

Nevertheless, in the Committee for the League of Nations, the French again attempted to force through their original demands, but the wording proposed by General Smuts was accepted and became part of the statutes of the League.

Three days before the Peace Treaty was handed to the Germans, when everything was in great confusion and all hands busily occupied in completing the document, Clemenceau arbitrarily and without consulting his colleagues of the Big Four, or the members of the Committee for the League of Nations, who had charge of the statutes of the League, gave orders to the copyists through their colleague, M. Fromageot, to alter [97] the wording of the statute of the League of Nations in such a way that the Mandatories of the colonies should be expressly permitted to recruit troops, not only in order to uphold order in the colonies, but also, if need be, for use in defence of the mother country.5

On May 5th renewed discussions took place on this point between Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George. Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary of the Copying Bureau, read the following report: "The alteration in Article 22 (Statutes of the League of Nations, treating of colonies and mandates) was made under instructions given personally to M. Fromageot by M. Clemenceau, the President of the Conference." Upon this Clemenceau declared it to be of the utmost importance for France that a few words should be inserted "to enable France to use coloured troops for the defence of French territory, just as in the present war." President Wilson called attention to the discussion which had taken place on January 30th in the Council of Ten, when it was agreed that precisely the same wording in the Resolution on the Mandates, namely, prohibition of the military training of the natives "for other than for police purposes and for the defence of territories," would suffice France's needs.6

It was determined not to use the unauthorized French wording, but to restore the clause in its original form, as in the statutes of the League of Nations. Even now the French did not give way, but transferred their operations to the Commission appointed to work out the rules for the Mandates and to the League of Nations. Accordingly when the plan for the French Mandate over the Cameroons and Togoland was laid before the Council of the League on December 20, 1920, the following condition was inserted in Article 3: "It is understood, however, that the troops so raised (in the French Cameroons and Togoland) may, in the event of a general war, be utilized to repulse an attack or for defence of territory outside that over which the Mandate is administered."

[98] When this condition was made known to the Secretariat of the League of Nations in Geneva, the commentary on the official report contained these words: "The Secretariat quotes the clause appertaining to Article 22 of the Treaty of the League, which appears to be in contradiction to the foregoing permission."

In point of fact, the French Mandates - and only these - were fitted with this additional clause and so came into operation. Thus the intentions of the explicit principles of the League of Nations were vitiated by being converted into their exact opposite. The French are authorized to militarize the native population of their mandated territory, the Cameroons and Togoland, precisely in the same manner as the inhabitants of their own colonies, and this they have lost no time in doing. For already they have introduced the French military laws of Equatorial Africa and West Africa, prescribing the conscription of native soldiers and compulsory service in foreign countries into the mandated territories, the Cameroons, and Togoland.7 In the Report of the Army Commission of March 18, 1924, to the French Chamber of Deputies it is stated (page 809) that " the future international situation of this possession (the Cameroons) should enable us to make it participate in the military efforts which we expect from our African Empire." ("La situation internationale future doit nous permettre de la faire participer à l'effort militaire que nous réclamons de notre empire africain.")8

How the recruiting is carried out is described in the same Report in the words: "The manner of recruiting was not free from grave mistake, and the methods practised provoked troubles of the first order, which led to rebellions in some quarters." Light was thrown upon these vile methods in December, 1924, when the law suit of Diagne (native member of the French Chamber of Deputies for Senegal) against the chief editor of the journal Les Continents was being heard. In this process it was proved that a French Governor needed [99] a whole arsenal to enforce "voluntary recruiting." His requisitions included 15,000 hand grenades, 30,000 various gas grenades, four aeroplanes, and numerous white troops! Such methods are henceforth to be used against the poor natives of the former settled and prosperous German colonies of the Cameroons and Togoland with the authority of the League of Nations, and the passive assent, to say the least, of Great Britain and America.

Henceforth, until the conscience of the world awakens in righteous indignation, France will be able to employ the natives of the German colonies, so long as they remain under her rule, as of her other colonies, in warfare of any kind, aggressive or defensive, in any part of the globe, including the European Continent. That is the point of the boast of General Mangin, the author of the scheme of a great French black army, and repeated by ex-President Poincaré, that "France is a nation no longer of forty, but of one hundred millions," the male section of which is liable to military service anywhere and everywhere. The drafting of late German native subjects into the French army has already begun. A private letter on the conditions prevailing in the Cameroons since the French occupation states that a number of natives who were recruited as soldiers by the French in 1919 and 1920 have returned wounded to that territory, reporting that they fought in Morocco and that many others are believed to have fallen there.

Such proceedings turn the whole Mandate project into a horrible mockery. They are in crassest contradiction to all that the League of Nations claims to stand for, above all to that "sacred trust of civilization," to the fulfilment of which the mandatory Powers solemnly pledged themselves.

This militarization of the blacks, however, is also a crime against both races, the white and the black. The training in course of time of hundreds of thousands of blacks in European methods of warfare and the use of modern weapons, putting them in positions of authority over whites of a vastly higher stage of culture, such as was done in war-time in West Africa with German prisoners of war, cannot but involve the gravest danger to the future of the white race. But this is not the worst. [100] The blacks were actually given such positions of authority on European soil, on the Rhine and in the Ruhr district. German women were violated by blacks in these regions, and German local administrative authorities were forced to institute brothels with white women for the use of the black troops! All these unspeakable outrages upon the white race, which will never be forgotten or forgiven by Germans, were instituted by the French; and, disregarding considerations of morality, which nowadays do not count as they once did, a more short-sighted piece of criminal folly could not well be imagined. The prestige of the white race, upon which, for the greater part, the white man's rule in Africa depends, has thus been permanently undermined, and to-day it is in the direst peril. Even the native population of the colonies under the ban of French militarism is subjected to grave dangers. Many black soldiers shipped to Europe fall victims to the unaccustomed climate, while others, as a Frenchman himself has written, "lose their native virtues and bring home new vices, such as drunkenness. They lose their mental and moral balance, since they have outgrown their natural sphere of action; they become shy of work, and form an element that succumbs easily to political agitation and becomes the cause of riot and rebellion." "One day or other," adds this writer, "the older natives, discontented, and the young ones, torn up by the roots, will unite against us, and we shall pay dearly for our imprudence. The reports of the British authorities are unanimous in declaring that the sending to Europe of Hindoo troops was one of the initial causes of the movement which at the present time imperils British domination in India."9

1Cf. Solf's essay, "Militarism and Colonial Policy," in the Süddeutsche Monatshefte of Munich (August, 1915). ...back...

2Deutsches Koloniallexikon, vol. ii, p. 337. ...back...

3This gratuitous and unwarranted insinuation was the more ungenerous since Mr. Lloyd George had before him Germany's thirty-five years' record to inform him better. ...back...

4Secret Protocol of the Council of Ten of January 30, 1919, quoted in Baker, vol. i, p. 426. ...back...

5Baker, vol. i, p. 429. ...back...

6Secret Minutes of the Council of Four, May 5th, in Baker, vol. i, p. 430. ...back...

7Cf. Décret of July 30, 1919, Arrêts for the Cameroons of January 1, 1920, and Instruction ministérielle of February 21, 1922. ...back...

8Documents parlamentaires - Journal officiel de la République française, 1924, pp. 769-813. ...back...

9M. Delafosse, already mentioned, in La Dépêche Coloniale et Maritime of February 16, 1922. ...back...

German Colonization Past and Future:
The Truth about the German Colonies.

Dr. Heinrich Schnee
Late Governor of German East Africa