Centenary of German Annexation of the Carolines
by Dirk H.R. Spennemann
With these words the Eastern Carolines, comprising Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk, were formally annexed by Rudolf von Bennigsen, Governor of German New Guinea and the Islands Territory. Earlier, ending several hundred years of Spanish 'possession' of Micronesia, the Spanish flag had been hauled down and the German flag raised. The ceremony was witnessed by the Spanish garrison, a detachment of German soldiers from the warship Jaguar and the outgoing Spanish and incoming German administrators. 'In addition, a considerable number of Europeans and natives had assembled as onlookers,' as the hand-over report states.
What remained, was to work out an administrative structure for the new area, and to actually take possession of the islands. The first was somewhat tricky. Germany's other Pacific colonies, the Protectorate of the Marshall Islands and the Protectorate of New Guinea, had been administered by concession companies. That is, the German Empire provided political and military protection, but the day-to-day management was handled by a German trading conglomerate, which also paid for and housed the German civil servants administering the territory. Not surprisingly, this system was particularly prone to conflict of interest and some of the actions of the administrators bizarre and at best erratic. The German colonial office had already discontinued the concession for New Guinea; it was in no mood to create in Micronesia a kind of administration that was, in effect, a run-out model.
Thus, Micronesia was made subordinate to the German New Guinea. To avoid the new acquisition being swamped by the larger administration in New Guinea, a Vice-Governorship was created, with seat in Pohnpei. The 31-year old Dr. Albert Hahl was appointed Vice-Governor. A civil servant in the Colonial Section of the Foreign Office since 1895, he had distinguished himself as Imperial Magistrate and Deputy Governor of German New Guinea from 1896 to 1899.
Coming from Germany via Singapore, the German administrative centre in Herbertshřhe (on New Britain, New Guinea), Jaluit, and Kosrae the German contingent landed on Pohnpei. It was agreed with the Spanish hand-over commission that a separate formal hand-over ceremony should be conducted for the Eastern Carolines (on Pohnpei 12 October), for the Western Carolines and Palau (on Yap, 3 November) and for the Marianas (on Saipan, 17 November).
Immediately after the hand over was completed, the German administration decreed a large range of regulations, including the prohibition of the sale of firearms and alcohol to the local population. While this may strike as unnecessary eagerness to create German law in Micronesia, it was actually a necessity, required to fill the administrative power vacuum that had been created by the hand-over.
Bibliographic citation for this document
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2000). Centenary of German Annexation of the Carolines.
Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
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