Protection force

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Uniforms of the German protection forces , from: The German Army , around 1912
Members of the East Africa Protection Force
Members of the protection force for South West Africa

Schutztruppe was the official name of the military units in the German colonies in Africa from 1891 until the decree of dissolution in October 1919. They were subordinate to the Reichsmarineamt until 1896 , from 1896 to the colonial department of the Foreign Office and since its establishment in 1907 to the Reichskolonialamt . The term “Schutztruppe” goes back to the decision of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to use the term “protected area” instead of colony for the acquired or conquered overseas territories , because he wanted to protect German trade with and in the colonies.

The German colonies of German East Africa , Cameroon and German South West Africa had their own protection troops whose task it was to maintain public order and internal security. Her tasks included conquering colonial territories that were not contractually acquired, suppressing uprisings, securing borders and securing expeditions. They were neither trained nor equipped to wage war against other colonial forces.

In the colonial areas of German New Guinea , Samoa and Togo there were only police units , as no extensive resistance against the German colonial power was expected here. The German military in Kiautschou , China, consisted of marines from the Imperial Navy , as this colony was subordinate to the Imperial Navy Office .

Origin and legal relationships of the protection troops

This is how the painter Rudolf Hellgrewe imagined a German Sudanese company belonging to the Wissmann troop.
Bali soldiers in Cameroon (around 1890)

In the German colonies, the protection troops were formed from units that were originally set up either as police forces or as military associations under private law.

  • East Africa : When in 1888, in what was later to become German East Africa, the uprising of the coastal population against claims to rule by the German East African Society broke out, which had no armed forces of its own, the government initially reacted by creating the " Wissmann Troop ", a mercenary army personally recruited by Reich Commissioner Wissmann. This unit under private law was converted into a protective force for German East Africa by the Reich law of March 22, 1891 and initially assigned to the Naval Office.
  • South West Africa : the German Colonial Society for South West Africa formed a small police unit, but by 1889 it was no longer able to assert itself against the resistance of the Herero. The Reich then set up its own police force under Captain Curt von François . With the law of June 9, 1895, this was transferred to the protection force for German South West Africa.
  • Cameroon : In Cameroon, too, a police force was initially set up in 1891, which was transformed into a protection force by the law of June 9, 1895.

The protection troops formed a part of the military of the German Empire , independent of the Imperial Army and the Imperial Navy, under the command of the German Emperor . The local supreme command lay with the governor, to whom the commander of the respective protection force was subordinate. With the exception of German South West Africa, these units consisted mainly of local soldiers under the orders of German officers and NCOs .

The comprehensive regulation of the legal relationships of the protection troops in the African colonies was carried out by the Reich Law of 7/18. July 1896 (Protection Troops Act).

In 1907 the administration of the Schutztruppe was incorporated into the newly created Reich Colonial Office. The high command of the protection forces was housed in Mauerstraße 45/46 (Berlin-Mitte), in the immediate vicinity of the Reich Colonial Office.

East Africa

Askari trumpeter of the protection force in German East Africa

In German East Africa , separate military units were formed for a German colony for the first time. Here in 1889 the Reich Commissioner Wissmann set up a private mercenary army on behalf of the German government to fight the uprising of the East African coastal population . In 1891 this so-called Wissmann troop was converted into an armed force of the German Empire .

The troops consisted of German officers , medical and veterinary officers, NCOs and civil servants who left the army for this activity and switched to the service of the protection force with the option to return. The enlisted men in East Africa were initially with mercenaries from Sudan and Mozambique later consistently staffed with hired locals who Askari were called. There were also "colored" NCOs and officers who were named with Egyptian-Ottoman rank designations such as Schausch or Effendi . Furthermore, the protection force in German East Africa was occasionally supplemented by local auxiliary troops, the so-called rugaruga .

South West Africa

The protection force for German South West Africa consisted almost exclusively of soldiers from the army and navy (and also Austrians ) who had volunteered for the force from their regiments. There were no African soldiers here. Before being shipped to Africa, the volunteers were prepared for their special tasks at German training bases. After the outbreak of war, a small number of African auxiliary troops were deployed to guard prisoners of war, such as the "Cameroon Company" and the "Baster Company".

Department of the Cameroon Company in South West Africa, 1914/15


Members of the Cameroon Protection Force on the Yaounde-Jabassi Expedition April to June 1901 From Oscar Zimmermann Durch Busch und Steppe Berlin 1909, page 139
Captain von Raben of the Cameroon Protection Force
Protection force Cameroon. Sergeant around 1910

The Cameroon Defense Force emerged from the police force formed three years earlier in the course of a reorganization of the armed forces after the " Dahomé uprising " in 1894 . The first in command was Max von Stetten . As in East Africa, it also consisted of African soldiers who were led by German officers and NCOs. In the period from December 14 to 22, 1884, there were fights with the local population, including those in the Prussian official press under the title The Fights in Cameroon. (Volume IV. No. 12. Latest communications. Responsible editor: Dr. H. Klee. Berlin, Thursday, January 29, 1885) a detailed report is available.

In the twenty years of its existence, the troop has been gradually expanded, most recently by two companies to incorporate New Cameroon . When the First World War broke out, it consisted of twelve companies .

Troop strength

In 1913 the protection forces in German East Africa consisted of 410 Germans and 2,682 Askari , in German South West Africa of 1,967 Germans and in Cameroon of 185 Germans and 1,560 locals.

Criminal law

For the German members of the protection forces, the German military laws and the German military disciplinary rules applied. The military criminal jurisdiction over them was administered according to the ordinance of July 26, 1896 by the court of the high command of the protection troops (Reich Chancellor and a lecturing council) and departmental courts (commander of the department and an investigative officer). The procedure was that of the German Military Criminal Court Code of December 1, 1908.

For the majority of the native soldiers, however, provisions of the so-called indigenous law could also be applied, which allowed, for example, flogging and the use of chains.

High command of the protection forces Mauerstrasse 45/46

Formation of the protection troops

German East Africa

German East Africa - Dar es Salaam Command
  • Strength: 68 officers, 42 doctors, 150 German officials, fireworkers and NCOs, 2472 African soldiers

For details on the formation of the 14 companies before the start of the World War, see the main article Schutztruppe für Deutsch-Ostafrika

German South West Africa

Protection troops in Swakopmund
German South West Africa - Windhoek Command
  • Strength: 90 officers, 22 doctors, 9 veterinarians, 59 officials, fireworkers, 342 NCOs, 1,444 German soldiers


Approximate company locations of the protection force for Cameroon, 1914 (before the First World War)
Cameroon - Soppo Command
  • Strength: 61 officers, 17 doctors, 23 officials, fireworkers, 98 German NCOs, 1,550 African soldiers

Culture of remembrance

Today's anti-colonial monument in Bremen

The members of the protection troops who fell in the German colonies in the First World War were commemorated in Bremen from 1931 onwards in the form of the Reich Colonial Honorary Monument, which was rededicated in 1989 as an anti-colonial monument. In the time of National Socialism , the culture of remembrance was further promoted in order to use the colonial revisionist attitude in parts of the Nazi supporters. The cult of the Schutztruppe reached its climax in August 1939 when the “Schutztruppen-Ehrenmal” was inaugurated in Hamburg . Efforts to revive the Colonial Warrior Association after the Second World War led to the founding of the “Association of Former Colonial Troops” in Hamburg in 1955, from which the “ Traditional Association of Former Protection and Overseas Troops ” arose. In today's historical research, however, the protection force is judged very critically: With regard to its role in the violent suppression of aspirations for independence - including participation in genocide - the term “protection force” is interpreted as a colonialist euphemism .

Police troops

Police troops in the German colonies
Police askaris in German East Africa

In Africa and the South Seas these were subordinate to the civil authorities, in Kiautschou to the government. They were not part of the military administration until the First World War. (The numbers given about police forces are often nominal strengths.)

German East Africa
  • Strength: 4 officers, 61 German sergeants , 147 African NCOs, 1,863 askari (without so-called "stick askaris")
  • Strength: 4 officers, 37 other German personnel, 1,255 men (excluding customs)
German South West Africa
  • Strength: 7 officers, 9 heads of administration, 68 police sergeants, 432 police officers, 50 contract police officers, plus local police officers
  • Strength: 2 officers,? Police chief, 530 African soldiers
German New Guinea
  • Strength: 19 German police officers, 670 local police officers in New Guinea and on the islands; a local police chief
German Samoa
  • Strength: 30 Fitafita and 20-25 state police officers. The Fitafita consisted of chief sons and was mainly intended for the orderly service, the service as a boat crew, auxiliary policeman, honor guard and postman. The state police, on the other hand, were intended for normal police service.
  • so-called Chinese police (was part of the civil administration and consisted exclusively of Chinese)
  • European staff and 60 Chinese

In contrast to the mounted police of the other colonies, the mounted police of German South West Africa consisted exclusively of Germans.

Modern protection forces

In today's parlance, the term “ Schutztruppe ”, which originated in colonial times , describes (mostly international) troops that are supposed to guarantee public order and security in other countries after a war or the like. An example of such a protection force is ISAF in Afghanistan or KFOR in Kosovo .

Movie and TV

See also


  • Hans Schinz : German South West Africa. Research trips through the German protected areas Gross-Nama- and Hereroland, to the Kunene, the Ngami-See and the Kalaxari 1884-1887. With map, pictures and illustrations. Schulzesche Hofbuchhandlung, Oldenburg et al. 1891.
  • Kurd Schwabe: With sword and plow in German South West Africa. Four years of war and wandering. With numerous maps and sketches as well as illustrations and tables. Ernst Siegfried Mittler u. Son, Berlin 1899.
  • Kurd Schwabe: Service and warfare in the colonies and on overseas expeditions. Berlin 1903, Reprint Saarbrücken 2011 (Fines Mundi GmbH).
  • Protection troops . In: German Colonial Lexicon. Volume 3. Quelle & Meyer, Leipzig 1920, p. 321ff. (Reprint: Fines Mundi, Saarbrücken 2010).
  • David Killingray, David E. Omissi (Eds.): Guardians of empire. The armed forces of the colonial powers c. 1700-1964. Manchester University Press, Manchester 1999, ISBN 0-7190-5734-5 ( Studies in Imperialism ).
  • Wolfgang Reith: The command authorities of the Imperial Protection Force at home. 2 parts. In: German Soldier Yearbook. 48/49, 2000/2001, ISSN  0417-3635 , pp. 228-235 and 50, 2002, pp. 64-73.
  • Wolfgang Reith: The Imperial Protection Troops - Germany's Colonial Army 1889-1919. Glanz & Gloria Verlag, Windhoek 2017, ISBN 978-99916-909-6-4 .
  • Werner Haupt : The German Schutztruppe 1889-1918. Mission and history. Edition Dörfler im Nebel-Verlag, Utting 2001, ISBN 3-89555-032-9 ( Dörfler Zeitgeschichte ). Online here at
  • Florian Hoffmann: Occupation and military administration in Cameroon. Establishment and institutionalization of the colonial monopoly of force. 1891–1914, Part I: Establishment and institutionalization of the colonial monopoly of violence. Part II: The Imperial Protection Force and its Officer Corps. Cuvillier, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-86727-472-2 (Vol. 1), ISBN 978-3-86727-473-9 (Vol. 2), (also: Münster, Univ., Diss., 2006) .
  • Dirk Rottgardt: German Armies' establishments 1914/18. Volume 8: Schutztruppen and other overseas troops. Nafziger Collection, West Chester OH 2007, ISBN 978-1-58545-179-1 .
  • Thomas Morlang: Askari and Fitafita. “Colored” mercenaries in the German colonies. Links, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-86153-476-1 ( Highlights of Colonial History 8).
  • André Tiebel: The emergence of the protection force laws for the German protected areas German East Africa, German South West Africa and Cameroon (1884–1898). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-631-57096-8 ( legal history series 358), (also: Berlin, Humboldt-Univ., Diss., 2007).
  • Jürgen Kraus , Thomas Müller : The German colonial and protection troops. From 1889 to 1918. History, uniforms and equipment (= catalogs of the Bavarian Army Museum Ingolstadt , Volume 7). Verlag Militaria, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-902526-24-3 .
  • Eva Maria Laederach: The emergence of the German protection force in East Africa. A genesis with a view to the political debates in the Reichstag. VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken 2009, ISBN 978-3-639-17854-8 .
  • Stefanie Michels: Black German colonial soldiers. Ambiguous representation rooms and early cosmopolitanism in Africa. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2009, ISBN 978-3-8376-1054-3 .
  • Protection troops order for the imperial protection troops in Africa 1898/1908. Organizational regulations and uniforms , Melchior-Verlag, Wolfenbüttel 2011, ISBN 978-3-942562-52-2 .
  • Sven Schepp: Under the Southern Cross. On the trail of the Imperial State Police of German South West Africa. Frankfurt am Main (Publishing House for Police Science) 2009, ISBN 978-3-86676-103-2 .
  • Jakob Zollmann: Colonial rule and its limits. The Colonial Police in German South West Africa 1894–1915 (= Critical Studies in History . Volume 191). Göttingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-525-37018-6 , also Phil. Diss. Of the Free University of Berlin.
  • Alejandro Quesada, Stephen Walsh: Imperial German Colonial and Overseas Troops 1885-1918 (Osprey Publishing, Men-at-Arms-Series, Volume 490) 2013, ISBN 978-1-78096-164-4 .
  • Matthias Häußler: Soldier hillbilly or avant-garde? About the Imperial Protection Force in "German South West Africa" , in: Military History Journal , 71, no. 2, pp. 309–327.
  • Edgar Graf von Matuschka: Organizational History of the Army 1890 to 1918 , in: Military History Research Office (ed.): German Military History in Six Volumes 1648-1939 , Volume 3, Section V, Herrsching (Manfred Pawlak Verlagsgesellschaft) 1983, pp. 157-282. ISBN 3-88199-112-3

Web links

Commons : Schutztruppe  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Schutztruppe  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Uwe Schulte-Varendorff: "Schutztruppe", in: Ulrich van der Heyden and Joachim Zeller (eds.): Colonialism in this country - A search for traces in Germany. Sutton Verlag, Erfurt 2007, ISBN 978-3-86680-269-8 , pp. 386-390 (here: p. 389).
  2. Bismarck was originally against the acquisition of colonies; He had in mind that private companies should carry out economic ventures in the overseas territories under the protection of the German Reich, which is not described in detail. These German colonial societies, however, were not able to assert themselves against the resistance of the local population, so that the imperial government gradually took control and the "protected areas" became colonies
  3. ^ Art. Colonial Society for South West Africa in German Colonial Lexicon
  4. ^ Art. Police troops in the German Colonial Lexicon
  5. so-called Dahome uprising 1893 - see Golf Dornseif, years of establishment of the Cameroonian protection force and their consequences t ( Memento from June 10, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 973 kB)
  6. Tanja Bührer: The Imperial Protection Force for German East Africa: Colonial Security Policy and Transcultural Warfare, 1885 to 1918 . Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-486-70442-6 .
  7. ^ After the beginning of the First World War in South West Africa , the "Cameroon Company", consisting of Africans, was founded on October 26, 1914. It consisted of a few Liberian dockworkers, but mostly of almost 50 former mercenaries from the Cameroon Defense Forces. The latter had been banished to South West Africa due to a mutiny , where they had to do forced labor . Governor Theodor Seitz promised them that they would be allowed to return to their homeland after their military service. The "Cameroon Company" in turn had to guard African forced laborers in the north of the colony and repair railways. Since the Germans had doubts about its reliability, the company was disbanded on March 24, 1915. Cf. Thomas Morlang: Askari and Fitafita: "Colored" mercenaries in the German colonies . Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-86153-476-1 , p. 69 ff book at Google Books . Furthermore, a small unit from the Baster ethnic group was set up to guard prisoners of war.
  8. Official Press Prussia, The fights in Cameroon (... IV Year No. 12. Recent communications Editor: Dr. H. Klee Berlin, Thursday, 29 January 1885.) , In the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation [1] ( accessed on September 20, 2010)
  9. cf. the articles "Native Law" and "Military Criminal Laws" in the German Colonial Lexicon .
  10. the term "Oberkommando", which is often encountered, is incorrect - cf. Art. Protection troops in the Colonial Lexicon 1914.
  11. Status: 1914.