Paul Barschdorff in German New Guinea - Historical Figures In Oceanic Art Paul Barschdorff in German New Guinea By Rainer F. Buschmann California State University Channel Islands In February of 1907 a letter from the German Colonial Division within the Foreign Office arrived in Ober-Langenbielau, a town now called Bielawa in Poland, then part of the Prussian state. Its recipient was a Paul Barschdorff, a locally respected teacher, who had applied for service in the German colonies. Since he was deemed suitable to work in a tropical climate, the Colonial Office ordered Barschdorff to German New Guinea to take on the headmaster position at the new indigenous school located at Namanula near Rabaul. He was to embark from the port of Genoa later that month and report to the Governor upon his arrival. Since the school was still under construction, Barschdorff was instructed to acquire a working knowledge in Kuamua, the language of the Tolai residing on the Gazelle Peninsula, and whose tongue was to serve as instructional language at the new school. Barschdorff was also told to endeavor himself in the planning of the curriculum, secure furniture, and to find teaching tools for the new school (German Colonial Division to Teacher Barschdorff 2 February 1907). Barschdoff, left, with his colleague Jesper, the Namanula school in the background, photo courtesy of the Dieter Klein Collection Born in 1875 in Langenbielau, Barschdorff embarked on an early career as a teacher. He took exams in Münsterberg (1896) and Hamburg (1899) before moving overseas. Between 1899 and 1904, he served as a middle school teacher in Valdivia, Chile. In this country he also educated teachers at the Chilean seminary. In 1905, Barschdorff returned to his native Langenbielau to serve as a teacher there. It is here where he applied to serve in his area of expertise for the colonial office and was accepted (Baumann 2009). After a roughly two-month journey via sea, Barschdorff arrived in Rabaul in April of 1907 (Deutsches Kolonialblatt 18 (1907): 658). He immediately immersed himself in the business of the school, the inauguration of which he witnessed on September 16, 1907. The two-story building had instructional halls on the bottom with the top floor reserved for dorm rooms for pupils from remote areas of the territory. The school in Namanula, photo courtesy of the Dieter Klein Collection Involving himself in recruitment and curriculum, Barschdorff realized that while Kuamua was a suitable language for most pupils throughout the Bismarck Archipelago, it was difficult to learn for students from the northern Solomons or the mainland of New Guinea. German, nevertheless, was only taught in year three of the school. Once the first three years of basic training were completed, other more specialized subjects would be taught: health sciences, carpentry, locksmith, and clerical aids to the colonial administration (Anonymous). Barschdorff prided himself in establishing a printing and book making business associated with the school that in 1909 started to issue an official governmental newspaper for the colonial territory (Amtblatt für das Schutzgebiet Deutsch-Neuguinea). Governor Albert Hahl deemed this event important enough that he wrote about it in his memoirs (Hahl, 133). The newspaper continued printing until the arrival of Australian troops in September of 1914. Paul Barschdorff with teacher Medenwaldt and pupils, the girl with the bright dress standing in the middle is German Governor Albert Hahl’s oldest daughter Berta, photo courtesy of the Dieter Klein Collection Paul Barschdorff would not witness the Australian occupation as he returned home in April of 1914 (Anonymous). Before leaving, however, he published a brief article in the governmental newspaper (Barschdorff, 1914). Here he highlighted the important contribution by the missionaries before the opening of the two governmental schools in Saipan, Mariana Islands, and his very own in Namanula. The latter one had its first graduating class in October of 1913, less than a year before the outbreak of World War One. Twenty-three pupils graduated from the school ending up as administration scribes, locksmiths, carpenters, assistant teachers, and as printers. Barschdorff fully expected his school to continue to contribute to the growth of the colonial territory. Upon his return to Germany and with the outbreak of the Great War, Barschdorff enlisted in the infantry and served on the Easter Front until 1916. Following the conflict, the former teacher continued his studies in business as well as English and Spanish language studies. Between 1926 and 1928, Barschdorff served as the main bookkeeper of the New Guinea Company, which was, by then, based in Berlin (Baumann, 2009). We can only speculate on how the Malagan depicted here came into Barschdorff’s possession. He may have acquired it from one of the many dealers in the territory or, very likely, it was a present from one of his star pupils, perhaps one associated with the print shop. There is one lead, however, that speaks to Barschdorff’s interest in Pacific cultures. Emil Stephan, the leader of the German Naval Expedition (1907-1909) to New Ireland was seemingly impressed when he met the teacher: “In the governmental teacher Barschdorf [sic], I hope to have gained a true supporter for ethnography, he shows great promise. Hopefully I can report more about his work soon” (Stephan to Luschan November 14, 1907). With Stephan’s death of blackwater fever in May of 1908, this connection may have perished as well. Barschdorff may have used his conversation with the ethnographers to complement his collection activity. What is clear, however, is that Barschdorff did not engage in any large-scale collection or even the commercialization of ethnographic artifacts. In this reluctance, he differs, for instance, from government the teacher on Saipan, Hermann Höfer. In 1912 and again in 1913, Höfer donated a small collection of Chamorro artifacts to the Leipzig museum. (Höfer to Weule). The absence of a large cache of artifacts collected by Barschdorff highlights the uniqueness of the Malagan. Rainer F. Buschmann California State University Channel Islands Bibliography Anonymous, “Die Regierungschule in Namanula (Rabaul), last accessed 11.19.19. Barschdorff, “Überblick über das Fortbildungswesen im Schutzgebiet Deutsch Neuguinea.” Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Deutsch-Neuguinea 6 (1914) issue 7, pp. 110-112. Baumann 2009. Biographisches Handbuch Deutsch Neuguinea. Celle: Baumann. Deutsches Kolonialblatt 18 (1907) German Colonial Division to Teacher Barschdorff, 2 February 1907, German Historical Museum, Do 90/1016, last accessed 11.19.19. Höfer, Hermann, Letters to Karl Weule May 2, 1912 and February 19, 1913, Grassimuseum Leipzig, Copybook 1913 number 80. Hahl, Albert. 1980. Governor in New Guinea. Edited and Translated by Peter Sack and Dymphna Clark. Canberra: Australian National University Press. Stephan, Emil to Felix von Luschan, November 14 1907, Luschan Papers, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz.