Albert Hahl the Second Governor of German New Guinea Albert Hahl the Second Governor of German New Guinea By Rainer Buschmann Albert Hahl (1868-1945) was a German colonial officer and the second governor of German New Guinea (1902-1914) who originally hailed from Bavaria. After a studying economics and law, he joined the German colonial service in 1895. Between 1896 and 1898, Hahl was stationed in the Bismarck Archipelago as Imperial Judge and served in several other functions throughout the colony. In 1899, he became deputy Governor and was located on Pohnpei in the Caroline Islands, a region that the German government had recently purchased from Spain. When Governor von Bennigsen retired in 1901, Hahl took over this important office first on an interim basis and then, following 1902, as official Governor of German New Guinea. Parting with the tradition of punitive retaliation against indigenous resistance of his predecessor, Hahl opted to install local dignitaries luluai to solve conflict. He was also responsible of opening a number of governmental stations throughout the Bismarck Archipelago, the northeastern part of New Guinea, and the German Solomon Islands. Hahl was an avid collector of local material culture although he never quite shared in the theoretical outlooks of German anthropology. In fact, Hahl argued in his extensive correspondence with German ethnographic museum officials that it was time to end collecting and to rather push ethnographic investigations into avenues more useful for his colonial administration. He thus maintained close ties with prominent researchers, such as Richard Thurnwald and Emil Stephan, who visited the territory following the turn of the century. Despite his negative opinion on ethnography’s emphasis on material culture, Hahl collected close to 1,500 artifacts that can still be located in many German museums. He has important collections in the Grassi Museum in Leipzig, the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, the Museum Five Continents in Munich, and the Natural History Museum in Nuremberg. Hahl opted to collect material culture not because of the salvage agenda permeating turn-of-the-century anthropology, but for propagandistic purposes. Realizing that the colony of German New Guinea was a distant stepchild to the German African colonies, frequently in the news due to indigenous uprising and harsh reprisals, the governor regarded ethnographic museums and the display of material culture as a inexpensive way to raise public awareness on the Pacific. Given his emphasis on highlighting German New Guinea through the lens of ethnographic museums, Hahl had a clear preference for “showy” artifacts that he knew would be displayed rather than locked away in storage. The governor was thus a much welcome supplier of uli figures from New Ireland or the famously tall hareiga display pieces of the Baining of New Britain. Hareiga pieces supplied by Albert Hahl, probably collected by Sacred Heart missionaries. From Ernst Sarfert “Zwei Bainingmasken” Jahrbuch des Städtischen Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig 2 (1907): 29-33. Hahl also alerted the colonial officials working under him to the possibility of obtaining German state decorations through ethnographic collections. Although he resisted monopolizing his service exclusively by a single museum, which was counterproductive to his above delineated agenda, Hahl obtained two, Saxon and Württemberg, state decorations and one scientific medal from Bavaria because of his ethnographic donations. Hahl vehemently opposed the German Federal Council’s Decree of 1889, which sought to centralize all natural scientific or ethnographic collections in the capital of Berlin and resisted meddling in his distribution of artifacts to German Museums. Albert Hahl together with some of his colonial officials. Hahl is furthest left and his pristine uniform contrast nicely with that of the most decorated individual featured in the middle of the picture, Franz Boluminski, who obtained his “heavy chest” through strategic ethnographic donations. Courtesy of Frank Baumann collection. The Governor rarely talked about his particular collection methods, but they can be pieced together from a number of sources. Before his tenure as governor, Hahl was probably personally involved in artifact acquisition. His early collections reveal prominent emphases on Micronesia and the Bismarck Archipelago where he was stationed. Subsequent collections revealed different locations and newly opened regions throughout German New Guinea. His ethnographic efforts were greatly supported by the introduction of governmental steamers—Seestern (Starfish, which sunk in the year 1909) and Komet (Comet)—following 1903, which allowed the governor to travel through the vast territory on inspecting journeys that also provided opportunities to gather indigenous objects. Hahl likewise expertly employed the vast networks of resident collectors residing in the colony. He enlisted commercial agents, colonial officials, ship captains, and missionaries to enrich his ethnographic treasures. For instance, of the close to 230 artifacts Hahl donated to the Munich Ethnographic Museum (today the Museum Five Continents) between 1910 and 1913, over 40 objects stemmed from officials of the protestant Neudendettelsau Mission operating along the northeastern coast of New Guinea. In an additional example from 1912, Bremen-based collector Ludwig Cohn closely observed the distribution of artifacts following a large Sulka celebration on New Britain. Governor Hahl reserved the first cut of the artifacts for his shipment to Munich, leaving the rest of the objects to Phoebe Parkinson who was commercially collecting in the region. The governor was also no stranger to commission “reproductions” of indigenous canoes and houses. He encouraged colonial officials to put together reduced replicas of local traditional hamlets and stimulated missionary societies to produce models of regional boats. In this production, Hahl followed a clear set of rules: all models had to be built by indigenous peoples and had to employ local materials. When Georg Zwanzger, a colonial official stationed in the Admiralty Islands, dared to employ western sourced timber in the construction of a house model, the governor had it destroyed rather than forwarding the hamlet to Germany. A mask for the Vitu Islands collected by Albert Hahl, Linden Museum Digital, 004549 Hahl left German New Guinea shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. After the conflict, he retired from colonial service and, in 1919, served as director of the New Guinea Company and sought investments in South America and Africa following the company’s expropriation in the former German colony. While Hahl stayed active in the political engagement to recuperate the German colonies, he never joined the wave of German national resentment that culminated in the rise of the National Socialist Party.