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Former German Colonies and Overseas Territories

Frühere Deutsche Schutzgebiete

Last modified: 2014-06-18 by pete loeser
Keywords: ralik islands | deutsch-ostafrikanische gesellschaft | neuschwabenland |
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Former Protectorates and other Overseas Territories
(Dates when the territories were lost are shown in square brackets)


  • Kiaochao / Tsingtao (Pachtgebiet Kiautschou / Tsingtau), now Qingdao, part of China [1914]

Flags used in the German Colonies

In Schurdel 1995 there is a short chapter, illustrated with some flags used in the former German colonies. When the German colonies were not represented heraldically [i.e. with a particular coat-of-arms to display on the national flag], there were special flags flying:

  • The flag of the authorities of the Reich (Reichsdienstflagge im Bereiche des Auswärtigen Amtes, einschl. der Kaiserl. Behörden und Fahrzeuge in den deutschen Schutzgebieten), with the exception of Kiautschou.
  • The flag of the governors of Kiautschou and East Africa: black over white over red with the Reich eagle on the white stripe without crown.
  • The flags of several Merchant companies operating there. The model of the flag should contain the colours black, white, red. Here are some of them:
  • Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft: white with a black cross and a red canton containing five white stars 2:1:2.
  • Westafrikanische Gesellschaft: white with a red cross fimbriated white and black. In the centre appears a black eagle on a white disc. In each canton there is a letter: D, W, A, G in black.
  • Neu-Guinea-Compagnie: white with a black-white-red flag in the canton and a black lion with a fleur de lys in red in its right hand in the fly.
  • Jaluit Gesellschaft: white with a black-white-red stripped disc in the middle [image in the Marshall Islands page].
  • The flag of the Ralik Islands.
In Schurdel 1995 he also gives a little bibliography on the flags of the former German colonies:
  1. Afrika-Nachrichten 1933.
  2. Die Kolonialreiche seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, David K. Fieldhouse, Fischer Weltgeschichte, Bd 29, 13. Edition, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1993.
  3. Geschichte der deutschen Kolonien, Wilfried Westphal, C. Bertelsmann Verlag, München, 1984.
Pascal Vagnat, 21 Feb 1996

Some comments on the flag usage in the German colonies (Schutzgebiete):

  1. Occupation: The occupation of territories as a German colony usually took place with a ceremonial flag hoisting. This was the case, for instance, in Angra Pequena (Southwest Africa, now Namibia) on 7 August 1884, in Cameroon on 21 July 1884, in Mioko (New Guinea) on 4 November 1884. The flag hoisted was the naval ensign, as the ceremony was done by naval forces, that were to "protect" the newly established "Schutzgebiete" (Protectorates). The drawings of the flag hoisting in Cameroon and New Guinea (p. 218, 269) show only the naval ensign, whereas in the case of Southwest Africa the national flag is also shown, albeit on a minor building (drawing p. 35).
  2. Naval ships: Ships of the German navy show (of course) the naval ensign, for instance the gunboat "Möwe" in Western Africa (Togo and Cameroon) (foto p. 194). Other flags are not visible.
  3. Troops ashore: Military forces ashore (only partially belonging to the navy) used the naval ensign as well. This includes official parades (Kiaochao in 1898, foto p. 296) as well as marches with indigenous troops (Askari in East Africa, painting p. 161). The armed forces (Schutztruppen) in the colonies did not have own military colours, so they used the naval ensign. On the other hand the indigenous police force of New Guinea showed the national flag (foto p. 280).
  4. Civil ships: If visible, the flag used by civil ships is of course the national flag (and civil ensign). A steamboat at Lake Victoria does display it (foto p. 129) as well as a large wooden storage boat in Cameroon (drawing p. 232). The canoe of a local (Cameroon) prince also shows horizontal tricolours, obviously the black-white-red triband (drawing p. 232). A special case in this respect was King Bell of Belltown who was very germanophile, and was one of the first to sign a protection treaty with the Germans. His long canoe used for official, ceremonial purposes proudly displays the German national flag at the bow (painting p. 234).
  5. Official buildings: The official buildings show a wide variety of flags. As there was no "proper" flag for these purposes up to 1892/93, they either used the national flag or the naval ensign. At a postal office at Sansibar (now Tanzania) in 1890, for instance, the naval ensign is on display (foto p. 157). A first official settlement at Sinathal (East Africa) in 1885 shows two national flags (drawing p. 100). After 1893 the proper service flag would have been the foreign office flag (Reichsdienstflagge im Bereiche des Auswärtigen Amtes), which can be seen on a foto of the sultan's palace at Dikoa (Cameroon) (p. 227). On a colour foto from Lome (Togo) there is also a service flag (visible is the white disk in the center), but it is not clear if it is the foreign office flag or the postal flag (p. 209). On a foto dated 1912 from the post office at Kilwa (East Africa) the postal flag can be clearly discerned (p. 157).
  6. Private buildings: Private buildings not too frequently display flags. An indigenous shop in German East Africa (now Tanzania) shows a very short (almost square) example of the national flag (foto p. 161), a beach pavilion in Apia (Samoa) a more or less "normal" national flag (foto p. 272). A colour foto from Lome (Togo) shows a flag of the Hoermann shipping line as well as a flag of Bremen (without any coa) (p. 209).
Source: Graudenz, K & Schindler, H-M (1988) Die deutschen Kolonien. Augsburg (Weltbild Verlag). Flags are not specifically mentioned in this book, but a number of illustrations (drawings or fotos) show the flags in use. Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 24 Nov 2002

Flags of German New Swabia 1937-1945 (flag hoax)
Deutsch Neuschwabenland

False Flag of Republic of New Swabia
(Actually flag of the German East African Company)
Image by Mark Sensen
False Flag of Fascist New Swabia
(Actually flag of the Reich Colonial League)
Image by Mark Sensen

[Editorial Note: These very real flags have become subjects of an urban legend thanks to an alternative history written for a fictitious world. Learn about the real flags by following the links below each, and reading below - pal, 1 July 2012]

In Boudewijn Büch's Eenzaam (Lonely), a book about islands and other geographical oddities, I read that the Nazi government claimed in 1939 a piece of Antarctica which was annexed by an expedition, led by Alfred Ritscher, as Deutsch Neuschwabenland (German New Swabia). This was never recognized by other countries, and especially not by Norway because it was already claimed by them as Dronning Maud Land.
Mark Sensen, 5 Feb 1997

I understand that there was a proposed German flag for the territorial claim on Antarctica (Neuschwabenland) after the 1937-38 German expedition. I have been unable to find the flag, I have it on very good authority that one existed.
Phillip Armijo, 12 Dec 1999

    The question was raised about the proposed boundaries for the 1939 German claim of Neuschwabenland. According to Westermann Lexikon der Geographie, Braunschweig, 1970: "Neuschwabenland is a fringe-area of the Queen-Maud-land, c. between 10 degrees West and 20 degrees East and at 75 degrees South; discovered by the German Antarctic Expedition 1938/39. Area c. 600.000 sq. km2. In how far this claim is real at present is quite doubtful, although on Antarctic maps (in the National Geographic, Hammond's World Atlas e.a. this area is still named 'New Schwabenland.'"
    The amazing thing is that this discovery was preceded by a huge operation involving a shuttle ship between Hamburg and the Antarctica, hydroplanes being catapulted into the air from that ship — and all for a dreadful desert.
Jarig Bakker, 25 Feb 2000

"The Neuschwabenland [expedition ship] left the port of Hamburg on December 17th 1938 (...) and reached the ice on January 19th 1939 at 4° 15' W and 69° 10' S. The following weeks on 15 flights the [hydroplanes] flew across some 600,000 square kilometers and made more than 11,000 pictures of the area. Nearly one fifth of the w[h]ole antarctic area was scanned this way, thus documented for the first time and simultaneous claimed to be German territory. To stress this claim on the outside too, the two planes [disseminated] several thousands of drop-flags, special metal poles with the expedition's insignia on them, the swastika. So it seems that if there was ever a Neuschwabenland flag, that was the swastika flag.
Santiago Dotor, 28 Mar 2001

These are [supposedly] drawings of the proposed flags for Deutsch Neuschwabenland [according to Wikipedia], designed by Ottofried Neubecker himself in 1939.
Chris Kretowicz, 29 March 2001

These are the actual flags of the Reich Colonial League (Flagge des Reichskolonialbundes), or the Reich Colonial Flag (Reich kolonialeflagge), and the German East Africa Company (Deutsch-Ostafrikanische gesellschaft), and it is pure fantasy that they were ever used for Deutsch Neuschwabenland. There were actually three German Antarctic expeditions between 1901 and 1939. The first (1901-1903) was one of the first expeditions to use a hydrogen gas balloon to explore Antarctica, the second (1911–1912) had the goal of crossing Antarctica, but failed even before it began, and the third expedition (1938–1939) was an attempt to find an area in Antarctica for a German whaling station and to scout possible locations for a German naval base. On this third expedition Nazi German flags were placed on the sea ice along the coast, and the Reich kolonialeflagge may possibly have also been used by the 33 members of this third German Antarctica Expedition, but this has never been documented. The expedition returned in 1939 and New Swabia was quickly forgotten in Germany's mad rush to destruction in World War II. It would not be until 1981, that the Germans returned and built Georg-von-Neumayer-Station, a research facility, in Antarctica.
Pete Loeser, 27 June 2012

I think I may have found the actual source for the "False New Swabia Flag" reportedly designed by Ottfried Neubecker, it may come from the world of alternative history, a fictional creation by Devon "NuclearVacuum" Moore.
On a website called ALTHISTORY, a whole fictional history of New Swabia is produced, including the name of the first settlement named "Neumayer" (a possible play on Ottfried Neubecker's name?). The website displays both the German East African Company Flag (presented as the Flag of the Republic of New Swabia) and the flag of the Reich Colonial League (presented as the Flag of Fascist New Swabia 1939-1981) in their fictional account of a German Antarctic settlement. Apparently this is the source of all the current misinformation on the internet.
Pete Loeser, 1 July 2012

     The "Flag of Fascist New Swabia" (Reich Colonial League) is sometimes attributed to the German vexillologist Ottfried Neubecker, but I don't believe this actually was a design by Neubecker. Neubecker was married to a Jewish wife, who was born in the Baltic, and with the German racial laws that existed in 1935, he had been "black Listed" by the Nazis. Although a few Nazis leaders considered the quality of Neubecker's work valuable, and he did received some design orders during this period of time, there is no contemporary documentation to indicate these particular designs were his work.
     The aim of the German Antarctic expedition (interesting article in German) was to stake out the territory of New Swabia which Germany claimed. According to existing documentation the flags used for this purpose were simply the normal national swastika flag. Why create a new design that no one knew when the purpose was to claim the territory for the Third Reich; why not just use the national flag that everybody recognized.
     To conclude, I could not find any contemporary sources for this flag as the Flag of Fascist New Swabia. If there are sources, then these will most likely be found in Neubecker's archives now housed in the United States. Part of these are in the archives of the NAVA or in the archives of Flag Research Center. In 1992, German vexillologists were not particularly well organized and could not prevent the transfer of Neubecker's archives in the United States.
Jens Pattke, 7 July 2012

I would like to clarify that I came across these flag images on Wikipedia many years before I designed my alternate history timeline, so I'm not the original designer of the images. I made a vectorized version of the flags which have become a standard on Wikipedia (although only the Russian Wikipedia appears presently to be using them). Also the name "Neumayer" I use is based on the German Antarctic Station of the same name, not after the person mentioned.
I am a big fan of this site and I simply wish to correct this information for you. Otherwise, thank you so much for mentioning my alternate history. I feel honored.
Devon "NuclearVacuum" Moore, 17 June 2014

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