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Cabinet Photograph
R. Schubert - Photographer
No. 3 W. Potsdamerstrasse, Berlin, Germany
c. 1904

Germany, like all major powers in the late 19th Century, joined in the scramble for overseas colonies albeit rather late when compared to the old hands at empire building like Britain and France.

The imperial pickings had grown rather thin by the time this photograph was taken and Germany had only managed to acquire areas a Southwest and East Africa, a few concessions in China, and some remote Pacific islands. This remarkable uniformed
soldier was a volunteer for service in Deutsch Südwest Afrika or German Southwest Africa. These troops were known singularly as schutztruppe and schutztruppen in the plural. Schutztruppen can be literally translated into “Protection Troops”.

This photograph bears the caption “Auf Wiedersehn!” and is typical of the images taken of these volunteers just before their departure to Southwest Africa with this specific example dating from the 1904-07 time period. This coincides with the rebellion of the Herero people against their German overlords which was suppressed with great brutality by Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha.

Wearing the Shutztruppe’s characteristic gray 1896 pattern Kord Waffenrock uniform which was piped and trimmed in blue. On his head, he wears a gray felt Südwester hat with its distinctive upturned right-hand brim which was held in place by a large
cockade bearing the Imperial German colors of red, white, and black. Since all schutztruppen acted as mounted infantry his boots are outfitted with spurs. Held at the ready is his Mauser Infanteriegewehr 98 rifle, an outstanding weapon versions of which had been used to great effect by the Boers against the British during the recently ended Anglo-Boer War and by the Spanish against the United States during the Spanish-American War of 1898. His ammunition pouches are leather and of the pattern common with troops deployed as reinforcements to Southwest Africa in 1904.

The painted backdrop depicts a rather romanticized view of Southwest Africa and shows what appears to be Herero warriors at the left beginning an attack on a German encampment. The painted stone bears the name of the colonial capital of Veste Windhoek. The numbered card to the right of the soldier was probably a reference for the photographer which allowed him to match the photograph to a specific client.

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