The earliest known German settlement in Saint-Domingue was in Bombardopolis, south of the Môle-Saint-Nicolas. About a thousand Germans came to Bombardopolis in the eighteenth century and managed to make a living with growing coffee. They received Haitian citizenship from Jean-Jacques Dessalines after 1804, and gradually mixed with the rest of the population. Henri Christophe had German military engineers designed the Citadelle Laferrière and supervised its construction.
In 1910, Haitian Germans controlled 80% of Haiti’s International Commerce. Though German Haitians only numbered about 200, they wielded a disproportionate amount of economic power. For example, they owned and operated utilities in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien but also controlled the Port-au-Prince main wharf. These Germans competed with the French merchants over the customs receipts that represented Haiti’s flagrant debts to European creditors as well as control over Haiti’s vulnerable National Bank.
When the US declared war on Germany in 1917, the Haitian government protested against the heavy German submarine activity in the area. Haiti expelled Germans from the country and Germany severed diplomatic ties with Haiti. This gave Haitians the excuse to officially declare war on July 14, 1918. German property was confiscated by the Haitian government and placed in liquidation. In 1918, Germans return to the island after the war, and resumed their old business, and re-acquired their possessions.
Notable German Haitians
- Werner Jaegerhuber, famous composer
- Joe Gaetjens, soccer player for the United States national team in the 1950 FIFA World Cup