Die Deutsche Woermann-Linie (Colonial History)

The advertisement featured in the catalogue of the Deutsche Kolonial-Ausstellung (German Colonial Exhibition) from 1896 ( German Wikipedia Link) refers to one of the central players in African maritime travel. As the Hamburg trading companies stepped up their business activities along the western African coast in the 1860s, German influence also rose exponentially and ultimately culminated in the proclamation of German “protective rule” of Cameroon as a German colony. The subsequent increase in trade prompted Adolph Woermann (1847-1911) to first establish the Hamburg shipping company Dampfschiffs-Aktiengesellschaft (Woermann-Linie) under the roof of the C. Woermann trading company and, in a second step, the Deutsche Ost-Afrika Linie (German East Africa Line) in 1890 (featured Image shows a Woermann-Linie Promotional Poster – from Wikipedia). Complete Archive available at the Link mentioned at the bottom of this Blog Post.

Woermann-Linie Shipping Route Map (by Wikipedia)

Soon thereafter, freight service was complimented with the transport of passengers, by adding interim stops in European waters. initially, only a few passengers would use the service of the WoermannLinie with most of the Africa travellers being missionaries or merchants, and passengers under the age of 30 being the exception. Nevertheless, the transport of passengers would still remain more of a domain of the East Africa Line. Since a concerted effort was made to offer the travellers every conceivable amenity, however, high officials of the British colony service soon started joining the ranks of passengers. Around 1900, the German Empire signed a contract with the WoermannLinie to provide regular subsidized steamWorlds of Travel ship service with a maximum travel time of 30 days between Hamburg and the colony Deutsch-Südwestafrika (German South West Africa). In return, the shipping line was obliged to offer reduced rates for all government freight and passengers.

Calypso, Woermann-Linie (from Wikipedia)

A similar deal was also struck with the German East Africa Line. As a direct result of the agreement, the Woermann shipping line came to organize German troop reinforcements during the colonial wars against the Hereros and Nama between 1904 and 1908. When World War 1 broke out, more than 50 steamships carrying over 190,000 gross register tons flew the flags of these shipping lines, which serviced 140 African ports and maintained 13 outbound lines from Hamburg. Every 36 hours a German Africa steam liner of the Woermann shipping line would leave European waters. After the war, only one small coastal steamer with 800 gross register tons remained in service and it would take until 1921 for Woerman to resume the regular service to Africa with his own ships. Among the multitude of companies and institutions that have contributed to the corporate archive over the course of more than a century, shipping companies make up a small but interesting portion.

One of the Woermann-Linie Ships travelling to Namibia in 1936 (from Wikipedia)

Its press folders include articles from international newspapers and magazines on approximately 35,000 German and international firms. In addition, it maintains business reports as well as news reports on 14,000 private, state and supranational bodies, business associations, state institutions, scientific institutions and international organizations. Tue press folders are archived on the basis of geographic criteria, the decisive factor being the location of a company’s headquarters (for more Information click the included Link listed below on this Blog). The company’s first initials followed by a count allowed for further classification. Business reports and statutes make up about two-thirds of the material, the remainder being news articles, essays in professional journals, advertising, commemorative publications and other information.

     + Complete Archive Documents from 1885-1941

• Free Archive Library Platform (various Text, Newspaper Clippings and Images)

     + See some of our past Blog Post’s:

A Haunted, Abandoned German Village In The Namib Desert

Photo Collection of Namibia pre-21’st century

A Haunted, Abandoned German Village In The Namib Desert

It’s one thing to “happen upon” an abandoned colonial town, but it’s another thing entirely when it’s an abandoned German-style mining village — in the Namib Desert.

Urban adventurers and explorers who are making their way to Kolmanskop, an old diamond mining town that was deserted in 1954 and is now filled with dune sand and, supposedly, haunted spirits. Kolmanskop’s uniquely Jugendstil German architecture makes its hospital, casino and theatre stand out and an extremely rare global destination.

Ghost Town in Desert

Kolmanskop’s History:

Situated only 15 km east of the harbour town of Lüderitz, Kolmanskop used to be a tiny colonial railway station in 1908, when the railway between Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz was built. As far as legend has it the station derived its name from a Nama man named Coleman, who got stuck at the site with his ox waggon and consequently died of thirst and dehydration. Back then, travelling from Windhoek to Lüderitz via Oxcart was a massive undertaking – taking approximately 14 to 29 days.

Pictures of a desolate ghost town at Kolmanskop Namibia. (Photo by Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)

In 1908 the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a shiny stone and took it to the chief railway foreman August Stauch. Herr Stauch had been stationed at the station “Grasplatz” with the instruction to keep the railway line clear of the all surrounding masses of Namib dune sand. He was a self-taught mineralogist and had advised his workers to collect any unique stones they might come across and show them to him for further analysis. Herr Stauch instantly assumed that the Rock Sample of Lewala to be a diamond, which was later confirmed, after the stone had been examined and thoroughly analysed by his friend and future partner Söhnke Nissen, an educated mining engineer. Stauch and Nissen did not shout their find from the rooftops, but instead quit their jobs and secured claims of 75 km² at Kolmanskop. They successfully continued their search for diamonds further down the line.

Africa, Namibia, Kolmanskop, entrance board of the ghost town

Nevertheless, the occurrence of Namibia diamonds did not stay hidden for long and soon a real diamond fever developed after the News spread across Europe. Big crowds, hordes and mining enthusiasts of diamond seekers and adventurers moved to Namibia and settled throughout Kolmanskop. As a result, within two years at a rapid speed, an unparalleled town developed. Following, a few years which started as a small Rail station, back then the new colonial town Kolmanskop became the richest town in Africa and one of the richest towns known to man. The thereby developed infrastructure was unmatched at the time; as from 1911 the town had electric power, luxurious stone houses, a casino, a hospital, a school, an ice factory to produce ice for fridges, a sport-hall and bowling alley, a theater, a ballroom, a salt-water swimming pool and much more although less than 400 people lived here. Apparently, the very first bathtubs were first introduced in Namibia, all exported from Hamburg via the Woermann Linie.

Pictures of a desolate ghost town at Kolmanskop Namibia. (Photo by Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)

Noteworthy is that the hospital had the first x-ray medical apparatus in southern Africa installed. Rumour has it that this equipment also probably served to control workers, who might have swallowed diamonds (?)*.

In 1908 no more claims were granted and the southern coastal strip was declared highly Restricted Diamond area. Diamond mining at Kolmanskop was industrialized and the diamond-yielding gravel was treated, washed and inspected in large factories. Predictions from 10 tons of sand only one to two carats of diamonds have been mined.

Pictures of a desolate ghost town at Kolmanskop Namibia. (Photo by Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)

With this method, 1 ton of diamonds was mined until the first World War. With the outbreak of the war in 1914 the production was nearly zero and with the loss of the German colony the German Era of diamond mining came to an end and was taken over by South Africa where Walvisbaai became the first Mandatsgebiet

Kolmanskop – Open Doors

In 1928 profitable prospecting sites were discovered south of Lüderitz all the way up to Oranjemund and as the deposits around Kolmanskop were nearing depletion the mining activities were discontinued resulting that until 1938 all machinery was taken south. The town was left to its own reckoning and the Namib desert claimed its lost territory back. The last inhabitant left Kolmanskop between 1956 and 1960.

Pictures of a desolate ghost town at Kolmanskop Namibia. (Photo by Hoberman/UIG via Getty Images)
Kolmanskop open door
Room of requirement



Video Kolmanskop, Haunted, Abandoned German Village Namibia (Narrated in German):

Video Kolmanskop, Haunted, Abandoned German Village Namibia (no Narration – Notice: Editor added a silly scare-prank!):

More Information on Kolmanskop (click here)