Skip to main content

Dealing with the colonial heritage in Germany

14.10.15: Protest vor Bundestag: Völkermord verjährt nicht!

Colonial revisionism, nostalgia and concealment are three characteristics of the way colonial heritage is dealt with in Germany. Although there has recently been a Maji-Maji-Allee (Berlin), colonialism otherwise plays a minor role in history lessons and in public reappraisal and commemoration.

However, civil society groups, local postcolonial initiatives, Afro-German, African Black and BiPoC actors as well as scientific or church projects have also been engaged in post/anti/colonial education, remembrance, anti-racism and educational work for a long time. They organize city walks, readings, film nights or panel discussions, create films, podcasts, newspaper articles and books, hold demonstrations and art projects, and demand apologies, reparations, street renamings and restitution. Some monuments (the Wissmann Monument in Hamburg or even the head of the Carl Peters statue in the North Sea Museum Helgoland,) eke out an existence in museum basements and depots. In recent years, controversial debates about how to deal with these objects and other places of remembrance have flared up again:

  • The collective Göttingen Postcolonial campaigns for a colonial-critical classification of the Wissmann Monument in Bad Lauenburg
  • Activists in Hanover argue for the removal of the Carl Peters Monument
  • The Carl Peters Memorial Stone in Neuhaus an der Elbe, after it was removed by the GDR regime in 1951 and reinstalled in 1994, is again a subject of discussion
  • The replica of the Bismarck Rocks in the Mwanza Garden in Würzburg is criticized and renamed. a renaming demanded.
  • Last but not least, the topic finds its place in German museums and exhibitions.

After the 2018 federal election, the topic of colonialism was mentioned for the first time in the coalition agreement. In it, it is stated that next to the historical heritage of the GDR and the Nazi past, the colonial heritage should find a place in the collective memory (CDU, CSU & SPD 2018: line 7953-8085). Until then, the colonial past was largely ignored. Frederik Haug, who has researched the German government's stance regarding acts of violence in German East Africa, describes a distance that uses statements such as "common path," "historical events," or "long-standing friendship" to obscure colonial violence and make it difficult to critically come to terms with the past (2018: 37-41).  

An official apology to Tanzania, a colonial history museum, nationwide days of remembrance or a central memorial or place of remembrance for the victims of German colonial rule have not yet been realized by the German side.

Image source: 14.10.15: Protest in front of Bundestag: Genocide has no statute of limitations!, by Uwe Hiksch CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED, Link

Go to: 2005: 100 years Maji-Maji-War