Ernst Eschenhagen had become a famous baker, restaurateur and caterer. His surname was surmounted on the turret, was painted on both windows and was sunk in brass letters into the footpath. Anyone passing could not help but be impressed. Even the inscription "By Special Appointment to His Excellency" above the door was not a commercial boast but a statement of Vice-Regal fact; his restaurant had catered scores of Government House receptions.
Things turned nasty for Eschenhagen at the turn of the century. As a result of Australia's involvement in the Second Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa, anti-German sentiment ran rampant, leading to a boycott of the Eschenhagen business. Before this war started, there was no more popular and prosperous caterer to be found in Brisbane. After the Boer War, his shop was a desert. The business did slowly recover, but Ernst Eschenhagen took his own life in 1906.
Who knows what part was played by the hatred endured during the war years. During the Second Boer War, there were certainly attacks on Germans in the press, in shops and on public transport in Great Britain, but clearly it happened in Australia as well.
ex Prussian Guard Artillery of Berlin
leading the artillery unit of the Boer republic of the Orange Free State
photo credit: Blankwaffen Forum
The 2nd Boer War was a major and very bloody conflict to which Britain and her colonies send 450,000 troops. The 16,500 Australian troops made up over half of the number of troops from participating British colonies. I know quite a lot about the connection between the British, the Australians and the Boers, but nothing about the relationship between the South African Boers and Germany.
By 1884 there were German Imperial colonies in Africa, for example in present day Ghana, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Namibia and Botswana. Perhaps that partially explains why, during the second Boer war, there was great German support for the Boer struggle. As The Soldier’s Burden has shown, the Boers were armed with weapons made by Mauser and Krupp. Major FWR Albrecht, the officer commanding the Orange Free State artillery, was a German army man. And note that the German Freikorps of Volunteers and officers fought on the Boer side.
There was no official monetary aid from the German government. However Boer emissaries toured Germany during the war, collecting funds for Boer soldiers and later for their widows and orphans. Pro-Boer associations met in bars and meeting halls like The Burenwirt, München. I am assuming they were raising money, as well as raising beer steins. Countless postcards were printed in Germany during the war, both to raise funds for the Boers and to make fun of the British. Many books were published during and after the war; Pro-Boer associations, German volunteer combatants and novelist wanted to publish their version of history in the German language.
Boers armed with German made 1896 Mauser rifles posing behind a small mortar
photo credit: The Warfare Historian
photo credit: The Warfare Historian
In the latter stages of the war, the Kaiser's support waned as he recognised that alienating the British by supporting a small nation on the tip of Africa was potentially more trouble than it was worth. Nonetheless once the war ended, Boers still chose to flee to German South West Africa to avoid surrendering to the British.
Even if we agree that German support (financial, equipment and volunteers) was vital to the Boer effort, we still have to ask vital questions:
1. How did Australian citizens, going about their daily business in Melbourne or Brisbane, know about semi-secretive German activities on behalf of the Boers? Australian newspaper journalists in South Africa did send back articles that mentioned German soldiers but was that enough to incite anti-German behaviour 10,000 ks away?
2. There was no shortage of Boer supporters in France, Netherlands and Belgium, so why did Australian citizens not seem to develop an antipathy towards these nations and their vast overseas colonies? The nationalistic Transvaal Irish Brigade marched into South Africa to support the Boers and to oppose the British. How did Australians react to Irish immigrants in Australia?
3. Did Australian citizens target all people with German surnames, regardless of how many decades they had been in Australia and whether they were Australian citizens or not? How widespread were the anti-German feelings spread around Australia, particularly in the large communities of German-speakers near Adelaide?
I still wonder about the surviving Boer fighters and their ongoing relationship with Germany. Note that at the outbreak of WW1, only a decade after the Boer War ended, the Germans equipped the Burenfreikorps and supported Manie Maritz when he went into open rebellion to topple South Africa's Union Government. Even in the 1920s and 1930s there was still a strong Boer force waiting for the moment that South Africa would shake off British influence. Certain sections of Boer society were involved in Right wing organisations that were loosely copied from the Freikorps.