German Samoa: Wikis


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German Samoa
German colony
Flag Coat of arms
Brown = German New Guinea; Pink= German Pacific Protectorates; Red= German Samoa
Capital Apia
Language(s) German (official), Samoan, Austronesian languages and Papuan languages
Political structure Colony
Head of State Kaiser Wilhelm II
Historical era German colonization
 - Colonization 1 March 1900
 - Treaty of Versailles 10 January 1920
Currency Goldmark

German Samoa (German: Deutsch-Samoa) was a former German protectorate from 1900 to 1914, consisting of the islands of Upolu, Savai'i, Apolima and Manono, now wholly within the independent state Samoa of today, formerly Western Samoa. Samoa was the last German colonial acquisition in the Pacific, received following the Tripartite Convention signed at Washington on 2 December 1899 with ratifications exchanged on 16 February 1900.[1][2] It was the only German colony in the Pacific, aside from the Kiautschou concession in China, that was administered separately from German New Guinea.



The first European to reach Samoa was the Dutchman Jakob Roggeveen in 1722. An American expedition under Charles Wilkes reached Samoa 1839 and appointed a consul,[3] a British consul was already residing at Apia. German commercial operations in the area began in the 1850s.

Increasing German commercial enterprises in the area saw U.S. interests begin operations at the excellent harbor of Pago Pago on Tutuila in 1877.

Tensions caused in part by the three separate interest groups led to the Samoan Civil Wars. After the second Samoan civil war there was no longer any pretense whereby Samoans could govern themselves and the islands were divided in 1899 by the three involved powers. The Tripartite Convention gave control of the islands west of 171 degrees west longitude to Germany, the eastern islands to the United States (present-day American Samoa) and Great Britain to be compensated with other territories in the Pacific and west Africa.

Economic development

Saluafata harbor (1908), c. 10 miles east of Apia

During the early period of a half-century of German influence, large scale plantation operations were introduced for coconut, cacao and hevea rubber cultivation. During the colonial years new companies were formed to greatly expand agricultural activities which in turn increased tax revenues for public works that further stimulated economic growth; “... over all, the period of German rule was the most progressive, economically, that the country has experienced.”[4] J. C. Godeffroy, as the leading trading and plantation company on Samoa, maintained communications among its various subdivisions and branches and the home base at Hamburg with its own fleet of ships.[5] Since the Samoan cultural envelope did not include “labor for hire,” the importation of Chinese (coolie) laborers (and to a lesser extent Melanesians from New Guinea working for DHPG) was implemented,[6] and “ ... by 1914 over 2,000 Chinese were in the colony, providing an effective labor force for the [German] plantations.”[7]

Major plantation enterprises on Samoa:

  • J. C. Godeffroy & Son (superseded as Deutsche Handels und Plantagen Gesellschaft or DHPG)
  • Deutsche Samoa Gesellschaft
  • Safata-Samoa-Gesellschaft
  • Samoa Kautschuk Kompagnie

Colonial administration

Governor Wilhelm Solf at Apia in 1910

The colonial period officially began with the raising of the imperial flag on 1 March 1900. Wilhelm Solf became the first governor. In its political relations with the Samoan people, Solf’s government showed similar qualities of intelligence and care as in the economic arena.[8] He skillfully grafted Samoan institutions into the new system of colonial government by the acceptance of native customs.[9] However, when a dissident Samoan matai (chief) exceeded the limits of his considerable tolerance, Solf stepped in assertively, pronouncing that “... there was only one government in Samoa,” and it was him.[10] “German rule brought peace and order for the first time ... Authority, in the person of the governor, became paternal, fair, and absolute. Berlin was far away; there was no cable or radio.”[11] Energetic efforts by colonial administrators established the first public school system; a hospital was built and staffed and enlarged as needed, and Samoan women were trained as nurses. Of all colonial possessions of the European powers in the Pacific, German Samoa was by far the best-roaded;[12] all roads up until 1942 had been constructed under German direction. The imperial grants from the Berlin treasury which had marked the first eight years of German rule were no longer needed after 1908. Samoa had become a self-supporting colony.[13] Wilhelm Solf left Samoa in 1910 to be appointed Colonial Secretary at Berlin; he was succeeded as governor by Erich Schultz, the former chief justice in the protectorate.

Germany ruled western Samoa for 14 years.

The achievement of the German regime in Samoa was not only that it inaugurated a central government and established peace and order. It constantly reminded the people that individual effort is essential for prosperity. The increase in agricultural production in the German period [that made possible public works] ... was remembered with gratitude for long afterwards.[14]

Occupation of German Samoa

SMS Geier

Other than native Samoan police, Germany had no permanent armed force stationed in the islands. The small gunboat SMS Geier and the survey ship Planet were assigned to the so-called "Australian Station" (encompassing all German South Seas protectorates, not the British dominion Australia) and made routine calls on the Samoan protectorate, thus Geier represented only an occasional military presence. At the beginning of the Great War, Geier was in Dutch colonial waters on a courtesy visit.[15]

At the behest of Great Britain the colony was invaded unopposed on the morning of 29 August 1914 and occupied by troops of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force through to 1920. New Zealand then governed the islands from 1920 to independence in 1962 as a (1) League of Nations Class C Mandate[16] and (2) United Nations Trust Territory after 1945.

See also


  1. ^ Ryden, The Foreign Policy of the United States in Relation to Samoa, p. 574
  2. ^ Flag raising at Mulinu'u Point was 1 March 1900
  3. ^ Ryden, p. 19; this Wilkes appointment of Englishman John C. Williams as acting US consul was never confirmed by the U.S. State Department; he was merely recognized as “Commercial Agent of the United States”
  4. ^ Davidson, Samoa mo Samoa, p. 82
  5. ^ Washausen, Hamburg und die Kolonialpolitik des Deutschen Reiches, p. 56
  6. ^ Spoehr, White Falcon, p. 40-42
  7. ^ Davidson, p. 77
  8. ^ Davidson, p. 78
  9. ^ Lewthwaite, in Western Samoa, p. 130
  10. ^ Lewthwaite, p. 148
  11. ^ McKay, Samoana, p. 18
  12. ^ Lewthwaite, p. 153
  13. ^ Schultz-Naumann, Unter Kaisers Flagge, p. 163, the only other German protectorate in this category was Togoland
  14. ^ McKay, p. 38
  15. ^ Geier met the light cruiser SMS Emden south-west of the German Caroline Islands and Geier’s captain was informed of the outbreak of war. The gunboat initially stayed on its assigned station, but the 20-year old 'orphan' ship had no military value as a naval combatant and was shadowed by the Japanese. Geier, short on coal and provisions, proceeded in October 1914 to Honolulu in the United States Territory of Hawaii and was interned.
  16. ^ date of ratification by the League of Nations was 10 January 1920; Class C mandates were designed for populations considered incapable of self-government


  • Davidson, J. W. Samoa mo Samoa [Samoa for the Samoans], The Emergence of the Independent State of Western Samoa. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. 1967. OCLC 222445762
  • Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft. Kleiner Deutscher Kolonialatlas. Berlin: Verlag Dietrich Reimer. 1899. OCLC 37420819
  • Gerlach, Hans-Henning & Birken, Andreas. Die Südsee und die deutsche Seepost, deutsche Kolonien und deutsche Kolonialpolitik. Volume 4. Königsbronn. 2001. ISBN 3931753263 OCLC 49909546
  • Graudenz, Karlheinz & Schindler, Hanns-Michael. Die deutschen Kolonien. Augsburg: Weltbildverlag. 1994. ISBN 3893507019
  • Lewthwaite, Gordon R. “Life, Land and Agriculture to Mid-Century,” in Western Samoa. Edited by James W. Fox and Kenneth Brailey Cumberland. Christchurch, New Zealand: Whitcomb & Tombs Ltd. 1962. OCLC 512636
  • McKay, Cyril Gilbert Reeves. Samoana, A Personal Story of the Samoan Islands. Wellington and Auckland: A.H. & A.W. Reed. 1968. OCLC 32790
  • Schultz-Naumann, Joachim. Unter Kaisers Flagge, Deutschlands Schutzgebiete im Pazifik und in China einst und heute [Under the Kaiser’s Flag, Germany’s Protectorates in the Pacific and in China then and today]. Munich: Universitas Verlag. 1985. ISBN 380041094X OCLC 14130501
  • Ryden, George Herbert. The Foreign Policy of the United States in Relation to Samoa. New York: Octagon Books, 1975. (Reprint, originally published at New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928.) OCLC 185595285
  • Spoehr, Florence Mann. White Falcon, The House of J.C. Godeffroy and its Commercial and Scientific Role in the Pacific. Palo Alto: Pacific Books. 1963. OCLC 3149438
  • Washausen, Helmut. Hamburg und die Kolonialpolitik des Deutschen Reiches [Hamburg and Colonial Politics of the German Empire]. 1968. Hamburg: Hans Christians Verlag.

External links



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