Colonial Traces - The African Quarter in Berlin-Wedding

Berlin, BE, Germany
Distance: 1 km (Map)

Discover the African Quarter in Berlin-Wedding

Colonial Traces - The African Quarter in Berlin-Wedding - Cya On The Road

The narrated tour will guide you along four stations of altogether 22 streets referring to former colonial oversea possessions and German colonists in the African Quarter. The African Quarter in Berlin-Wedding lies in the northern centre of Berlin. It is an urban area of the sub-district of Tiergarten-Wedding defined by its thematic and eponymous street names.

Early street names with connections to African territories in the African Quarter were dedicated in 1899 (Togo Straße and Kameruner Straße) when the German Empire (1871-1918) owned overseas colonies and tried to establish itself as a colonial power competing with the British and French colonial Empires. Following the ‘loss’ of the colonies after the First World War (1914-1918), German authorities continued to name streets in reference to its former African territories and its colonizers. A formation of organised colonial revisionist movements in different German cities demanded to reclaim the ‘lost colonies’ backed by a broad approval in the population. The Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft [German Colonial Society] was the most influential of such revisionist organisations, where a significant number of former colonists and colonial politicians were involved. In Munich and various other cities African Quartes were established modelled after the African Quarter in Berlin (Schürmann 2006, p. 66). In Berlin, four streets were added in the time between the wars (Dualastraße, Sambesische Straße, Senegalstraße, Ugandastraße, all named in 1927).

The National Socialist regime (1933-1945) kept the policy of naming streets referring the colonial past. Furthermore, colonists like Carl Peters (1856-1918) were glorified as German ‘heroes’ fighting for German interests and immortalised in propaganda films, memorials and street names. The historian Joshua Kwesi Aikins explains that the purpose of the regime was a ‘fuelling of a colonial nostalgia and its manifestation in the cityscape’ (Wildermann 2014). In the African Quarter of Berlin, such nostalgia resulted in three street names (Damarstraße, named in 1937; Petersallee, named in 1939; Usambarastraße, named in 1938). In many regards, the colonial echoes reverberated strongly in the ideology of National Socialism; its aggressive stance, racial discrimination, patronising international community, and conservative family values. Simultaneously the economic recession was politically linked to the ‘loss of production’ of German ousting in Africa.

Post-war Germany (after 1945) kept these street names without challenging their colonial impact. In the 1980’s, first critical voices of initiatives and individuals demanded a renaming of the streets in Berlin-Wedding. To date, no renaming has taken place, but a rededication of one street in 1986 was presented, and an official decision was announced in April 2018 to rename three streets in the African Quarter.

This tour makes the controversy of the African Quarter accessible for non-German speakers, as all compiled sources are available in German. Please, enjoy!

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