Curt von François

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Curt von François
Reichskommissar for
German South-West Africa
In office
March 1891 – November 1893
Preceded by Louis Nels
Succeeded by Theodor Leutwein
Personal details
Born (1852-10-02)2 October 1852
Died 28 December 1931(1931-12-28) (aged 79)
Königs Wusterhausen

Curt Karl Bruno von François (2 October 1852 – 28 December 1931) was a military and political figure in the early days of German colonialism in Africa. He is remembered as one of the pioneers of German Southwest Africa (present-day Namibia).

François was of French Huguenot ancestry, and was born in Luxembourg on 2 October 1852. He served as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. In 1883 he worked as a geographer on an exploratory expedition of the Congo region under the leadership of Hermann von Wissmann (1853–1905). Later on, he became a member of the German Imperial General Staff, and in 1887 was stationed in Togoland.

In 1883, the German merchant Adolf Lüderitz purchased Angra Pequena following negotiations with a local African chief. He called this coastal region of southwestern Africa- "Lüderitz". Fearing that Great Britain was soon to declare the area a protectorate, Lüderitz advised the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck to claim it, which he did at the Berlin Conference of 1884.

In order to provide security to the territory, in 1889 Germany sent Hauptmann Curt von François with 21 troops to the British-held enclave of Walvis Bay. Soon afterwards François stationed himself at Otjimbingwe (against the advice of acting imperial commissioner Heinrich Göring) in order to deal with opponents to German authority in the interior of the territory. Eventually he occupied the completely destroyed settlement of Windhoek (founded by Jonker Afrikaner decades earlier). At Windhoek, François set up headquarters of the German occupation (which he called Alte Feste, Old Fortress). This location was chosen because the Germans felt it would serve as a buffer zone between the Nama and Herero tribes.

From March 1891 until November 1893, François was commissioner of German Southwest Africa. Within this time period (1892) he established the coastal town of Swakopmund as the main harbour of the colony.[1] In 1893 he was promoted to Major and given the title of Landeshauptmann. During the same year he led an attack on Nama leader Hendrik Witbooi's headquarters at Hoornkrans.

In 1894 François was replaced by Theodor Leutwein as Landeshauptmann of German Southwest Africa, and during the following year he retired from military life. In retirement he wrote extensively about his experiences in Africa. He died in Zernsdorf, Germany on 28 December 1931.

The original Schutztruppe headquarters built by François in 1890 at Windhoek was expanded in 1912, and has been a museum since 1962.

His brother, Hermann von François, also served in the German army and was one of the key contributors to the German victory at the 1914 Battle of Tannenberg.

Written works[edit]

  • Die Erforschung des Tschuapa und Lulongo : Reisen in Centralafrika, Brockhaus, Leipzig 1888. - Exploration of Tschuapa and Lulongo: Travels in Central Africa.
  • Deutsch-Südwest-Afrika, Verlag D. Reimer, Berlin 1899. - German South West Africa.
  • Kriegführung in Süd-Afrika, Dietrich Reimer, Berlin 1900. - Warfare in South Africa.
  • Lehren aus dem Südafrikanischen Kriege für das deutsche Heer. with eight sketches, Verlag E. S. Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1901. - Lessons from the South African War for the German army.
  • Der Hottentotten-Aufstand. Studie über die Vorgänge im Namalande v. Jan. 1904 bis 2. Jan. 1905 u. d. Aussichten d. Niederwerfung d. Aufstandes., Berlin 1905. - The Hottentot uprising, etc.

References and external links[edit]

  1. ^ Historical Dictionary of Namibia by Victor L. Tonchi, William A. Lindeke, John J. Grotpeter