Recollections of the Herero War by Walter Sobtzick

    Walter Sobtzick (1884 or 1885-1952) was the son of Franz Sobtzick a wealthy chocolate factory owner from Ratibor in Prussian Silesia (modern Raciborz in Poland). Walter attended Breslau University but had to drop out of his studies after fathering a child out of wedlock. To avoid the family disgrace his father sent him to South West Africa with enough money to set himself up as a farmer. There he married had a son and built a farm.

    There he also did his military service as a one year volunteer in the Schutztruppe. He was decorated for bravery while taking horses to water under fire during the Herero Rebellion and was wounded in the left knee by an enemy arrow while serving with the camel mounted 7. Feldkompangie in the Kalahari Expedition of 1908 chasing the rebel leader, Simon Kooper, into British Bechuanaland.

    While in Africa, Walter and his new family all caught malaria and his young son tragically died. His marriage ended in divorce soon after and Walter emigrated again this time to Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. Here it was hoped the climate would be better for his recurring malaria but the weather was too harsh for his new farm and his crops failed. When the First World War broke out, as an enemy German citizen in Canada, his firearms and lands were confiscated. After the war he changed his nationality to Polish, as his place of birth was now in Poland. With his new Polish passport he emigrated again in 1919, this time to Rochester, New York in the United States of America. Here he settled down, married again and started a new family.

    While in Rochester, he gave a series of public lectures on life in German South West Africa. The notes from his lecture on the Simon Kooper Expedition are shown below. His eye witness account describes how the Africans lived off the land, life on campaign with the Schutztruppe, combat with the Nama and their poisoned arrows, the death of the expedition leader Hauptmann Friedrich von Erckert and the machine gunning of Nama survivors of the final battle in Bechuanaland.

    Kind thanks to Walter's grandson Paul Denk, for sharing these previously unpublished documents with us.



    Walter Sobtzick (on the left) in the South West African Schutztruppe

    The last cut off line of the document reads: "Well, gentlemen, I hope you have enjoyed this breif talk, and if any of you are interested in taking a trip to Africa, I shall be glad to give you further details".

    The 7th Camel Mounted Company of the South West African Schutztruppe
    Illustration by Fritz Grotemeyer

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