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The Future - the Way of Peace

Little remains of my task except to gather up the loose threads of my narrative and to draw conclusions. As a German suffering from an intolerable sense of wrong, and that all the more keenly because of the years of arduous labour directly given to the welfare of the natives of our colonies as well as to the interests of our country, I have written strongly yet, I believe, moderately - probably far more moderately than most of my readers would have written in the same circumstances. I would urge our late antagonists to remember that they have no monopoly of patriotism, pride of country and race, and attachment to colonial settlements and enterprises created by untold sacrifice both of blood and treasure. I would ask them also: "Do you want our co-operation in the tasks of civilization, or do you prefer that we should seek our own ways of carrying on those tasks without regard for you? Do you want us to be co-workers with you for the maintenance of peace in the world, or would you rather perpetuate the rancours and resentments caused by the war and prolonged even more acutely by the peace?" It is for you, not for us, to choose and decide.

The German people urgently need and ardently desire peace - not temporary but permanent peace; but such a peace must be compatible with national honour, or it will be unreal, illusory, and will not endure. What their honour calls for, and will compel them to claim until the need for so doing exists no longer, is that in this matter of the colonies the Powers now in possession of our oversea territories will observe faithfully and honourably the conditions of peace as proposed to us by the American Government, endorsed by its Allies, and thereafter accepted by Germany prior to her relinquishment of the late struggle. The Allies have failed to keep their word, and have set at naught the basis of peace originally agreed upon. I have shown in the foregoing pages how, ignoring President Wilson's Point 5, they divided the German colonies among themselves, without any consideration either for us [173] as a nation or for the interests of the natives, and solely from the point of view of Macht-Politik1 and partly in accordance with secret treaties concluded during the war.

Later they put forward moral and altruistic reasons for the seizure and appropriation of these territories, and set up the baseless and ludicrous thesis that Germany had proved herself incapable and unworthy of colonization, and had wickedly planned to establish naval bases from which to threaten the security of other nations. All these untrue and untenable charges have been disproved, and disproved without difficulty. It must be clear to the minds of all unprejudiced persons that the objectives of Germany's colonial policy were confined to the economic development of her Protectorates and to the preservation and cultural advancement of the natives.

Furthermore, it has been made equally clear that no military or naval bases have been established in the colonies, and that such were not even planned, and also that only small bodies of police troops were maintained at the various stations. Nor can it be denied that the war was carried into the colonies, not by Germany, but by her enemies, and that some of her territories were invaded by them in direct violation both of the spirit and the letter of the Congo Act. It is also manifest that the militarization of German colonies has been accomplished not while these colonies were in the hands of their rightful owners, the Germans, but only since they have been under the mandate of the French.

The accusations levelled against the German colonial administration on the score of misgovernment, of cruel oppression of the natives, of "wanton requisitions," of an unfair code of laws, and of depopulation due to forced labour, have similarly been exposed as mere propagandist fictions. It has been conceded that abuses and mistakes occurred in the German as they have done in all other colonies and still do in some, and that individual whites at times egregiously overrode the rights of individual blacks, and committed acts unworthy of their country; though here, again, the colonial record of other [174] Powers is not free from the same reproach. At the worst, however, these cases of wrong-doing were sporadic, and the German Government was honestly striving in every way to prevent them.

Sufficient evidence has also been furnished to prove how extensive and efficacious were the cultural achievements of Germany in her colonies, especially in relation to the welfare of her black charges, and that the administration of the Mandates has not been able even to preserve the work or maintain the standards which Germany had created, much less improve upon them. It is also clear that the natives at no time desired the abolition of the German rule, but that, on the contrary, they have longed for the return of the Germans, after experiencing all the rigours and disadvantages incidental to Mandate government.

What conclusions follow from these facts? What inference must be drawn after this exposure of so much deliberate mis-statement and misrepresentation? Surely it is abundantly evident that a great and indefensible wrong has been committed against the German people in robbing them of their colonial possessions; and not only against the German people, but against the whole white race, and no less against the black race to whose improvement and elevation Germany had for a generation so sincerely, assiduously, and successfully devoted herself. The spurious reasons advanced for the seizure of Germany's colonies, though they may hitherto have been deemed conclusive by the indifferent, the prejudiced, and the uninformed, cannot stand serious examination; brought into contact with the truth, they are seen to be hollow, unsubstantial fictions, and with their exposure falls to the ground the entire structure of calumny and defamation in which the annexationist Powers have hitherto succeeded in concealing the real motives of their illegal action.

I am not without hope of carrying with me no small section of the fair-minded among my readers, even those who have lately been the enemies of my country, in the conclusion that Germany has an incontrovertible right to claim the return of her colonies - to claim and receive them. Whether, when the [175] question is practically faced - as faced it assuredly will be sooner or later - the claim should or will be pressed with literal exactitude may be a matter for careful consideration; but though many Germans might now be disposed to favour a policy of compromises and readjustments, always within measure, it would show a lack of candour not to avow the conviction that the longer the settlement of this question is delayed the more difficult must be the task of conciliating divergent views and interests. No menace should be read into these words, for none is intended. What is said is no more than an expression of political wisdom and common sense, and the man or woman who does not recognize this has yet to learn the elements of statesmanship.

The claim that Germany shall be reinstated in the ranks of colonizing Powers, with a status equal to that which she won for herself by untold exertions and sacrifices during a struggle lasting over thirty years, is not merely one that concerns the German people. It concerns all nations engaged in colonization; indeed, it concerns all humanity and civilization at large. For the issue involved is plainly this - whether a whole continent and an entire race are to suffer from the fact that the German colonies have been handed over to nations already satiated with such possessions and who, burdened with immense and formidable colonial problems, have neither the inclination nor the necessary forces to devote themselves to the great constructive tasks which modern colonization implies. Shall the unhappy native people of our Protectorates continue to be exposed to decimation by plagues and diseases with which the British, French, and Belgians have shown inability to cope adequately alone? Shall a great, highly cultured, and efficient nation like the Germans, a nation which, by the testimony of the whole world, has performed such wonders in the domain of science, medicine, hygiene, education, and industry, which has sent forth into the dark places of the earth so many skilled, conscientious, and self-sacrificing physicians, missionaries, and teachers, be excluded from this great cultural work, for which it is so remarkably fitted? To answer this question is to deny it, and to deny it with the utmost possible emphasis.

[176] If Europe remains sick under the curse of the calumnies and brute force embodied in the Treaty of Versailles, Africa will remain sick and undeveloped for the same reason. This interaction is inherent in the operation of an inexorable moral law, which neither nations nor Governments, which are nations in miniature, can violate without harming all mankind. Untruth has triumphed for a time, and its results are seen in a Europe that is rotting and in an Africa that has gone backward in many ways. But the destruction of cultural values and the obstruction of progress are acts which will assuredly avenge themselves upon those who have either committed, approved, or still persist in tolerating them.

Even now this is what is actually taking place, as all who have eyes to see, minds to understand, and human hearts to feel can perceive for themselves. The men, whoever they were, who in their hatred, cupidity, and blindness wrecked the prestige of the white man in Africa by unloosing the dogs of war in the sight of undeveloped peoples, peoples gifted, however, with keen instincts and powers of observation, will yet bitterly rue the day that saw the perpetration of this unexampled blunder and crime against humanity and civilization. The wise of all nations, whether neutral or combatant, have known this from the beginning, and have feared exceedingly because they knew it. Happily there are signs that the truth is beginning to dawn upon others, whose minds have returned to a normal temper and are no longer closed to the influences of reflection and reason.

But, finally, while Germany claims the opportunity and the right to take her part again permanently in the civilizing mission of the white races, now so much more urgent than ever before owing to the ground lost for the reasons just stated, she makes this claim also for her own sake and in the interest of her own national development and progress. Falsehood may for a time resist, but it cannot successfully overcome, the inexorable demands of Truth and Justice, nor thwart the will to live and the right to grow and prosper of a great, cultured, industrious, and peace-loving people.

1Literally "policy of power," meaning here the assertion of the doctrine of Might before Right. - W. H. D. ...back...

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

Dr. Heinrich Schnee
Late Governor of German East Africa