East Africa 1700-1950
by Sanderson Beck
Evolution of Currency in Tanzania
1.0 Arabian and Portuguese Era
The first foreigners to visit East African Countries particularly Tanzania were Portuguese in the 15th century and Arabs in the 17th century. In this era barter trade was used as the main medium of exchange.
1.1 Germany Era
Prior to 1919, monetary arrangements were different in Tanganyika (which was under the Germany rule) and Zanzibar which had its own Government. The currency on the Mainland was the German Rupee, made of silver, while the subsidiary coin was the Heller, which was 1/100 of the Rupee. Subsequently, in Zanzibar, the Indian Silver Rupee and its subsidiary coins were in circulation, while in addition, shells and cattle used to serve as a store of value, and, to a certain extent, even as a medium of exchange. Germans introduced commercial banking in the country in 1905, when the Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Bank opened its office in Dar es Salaam. This bank had a temporary minting company in Tabora; the bank had a responsibility of issuing Germans notes and coins in the country, to help the bank meet the demand for coins in exchange for its notes.
The Usambara Railway
MY REMINISCENCES OF EAST AFRICA
Loyal North Lancashires in East Africa
GERMAN EAST AFRICA AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The area comprising German East Africa, according to the 1886 and 1890 Partition Treaties, was substantially the same as that of Tanganyika to-day, except that German East Africa included the Ruanda and Urundi areas, which are now, 1961, under the United Nations. It was unfortunate for Germany that the man who set the pattern of her early colonisation was Carl Peters. But the Germans were not all like Peters.
The first missionary to East Africa was Krapf, who was a German; the most thorough early agricultural research was done by Germans; and the greatest early advances in African education were made by Germans.
By 1914 the European population was about 5000, mainly Germans. The world war which broke out in that year affected Tanganyika more than any other part of Africa, for elsewhere in the continent fighting had ceased by the end of 1915, while in Tanganyika it lasted until the Armistice. The German troops were led by General von Lettow- Vorbeck, who earned the respect, publicly expressed, of General Smuts, Northey and Van Deventer. His character and ability as a soldier is indicated by the following extracts from his book.
In the Colony also it was our duty, in case of universal war, to do all in our power for our country.
It was to be considered that hostile troops would allow themselves to be held only if we attacked, or at least threatened, the
enemy at some really sensitive point
In examining the question where to find a point so vital to the enemy as to afford us the prospect of a successful attack, or at any rate, of a threat of such an attack, one thought at once of the frontier between German and British East Africa. Parallel with it, at a distance of a few marches, runs the main artery of the British territory, the Uganda Railway, an object which, with a length of quite 440 miles, was extremely difficult for the enemy to protea, and would, therefore, if effectively threatened, require a large part of his troops for the purpose.
My Reminiscences of East Africa, by Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (1920),
Edward Twining, Baron Twining
Edward Francis Twining, Baron Twining, GCMG, MBE, KStJ, (29 June 1899 – 21 June 1967), known as Sir Edward Twining from 1949 to 1958, was a British diplomat, formerly Governor of North Borneo and Governor of Tanganyika. He was a member of the Twining tea family. In 1960 he published a book titled A History of the Crown Jewels of Europe; at over 700 pages it is probably the most extensive book on the subject.
Kondoa in the late 1940s early 1950s
SS Grass Gotzen - SS Liembe
The ‘Liemba’ Returns to Service
The end of 1952 has seen the return to service of the E.A.R. & H. steamer “Liemba” on Lake Tanganyika after being laid up for two years
The Liemba is a ship with an interesting history. She was built as ship No. 300 by Jos. L. Meyer of Papenburg in Germany in the year 1913, was sent to German East Africa in parts and was reassembled at Kigoma, entering service as the s.s. Goetzen just before World War I broke out in 1914.During the early days of the war she was in action under the German flag against light British naval craft which had been brought overland and erected and launched from the Northern Rhodesian shore of Lake Tanganyika.
Scuttled to Avoid Capture
In July, 1916, she was scuttled by the Germans in deep water off the mouth of the Malagarassi River in order to avoid capture. First, however, they carefully greased all the working parts in the hope, no doubt, that when they had finally won the war, they would recover the ship and find her in reasonable condition. But things did not turn out like that and to the Belgians, who occupied West Tanganyika immediately after the war, fell the task of raising the “Goetzen”. This they succeeded in doing with the aid of balloons but, unfortunately, in towing her to the slipway at Kigoma she again sank off Luansa Point at the entrance to Kigoma Bay.
Raised by Pontoons
There she lay until 1924 when a British team of salvage experts from Devon port under Commander Carr and Lieut.-Commander Sharp, R.N.R., succeeded in raising her by means of pontoons which were flooded and subsequently pumped out. The raising was done in a series of lifts with adjusted slings under the ship. She was then towed to a fitting-out basin where the work of reconditioning and refitting was put in hand. It was not until January of 1927, however, that she was re- commissioned and went into service as the s.s. “Liemba”. The word “Liemba” signifies “Lake” in the Kirungu dialect of the people living in the Kasanga area on the south-west shores of the lake.
Renewal of Boilers
For 20 years the “Liemba” continued in service without any major overhaul or alterations so that by 1948, the year of amalgamation, an extensive refit was overdue. After a detailed survey it was decided to renew the old wood-burning German boilers by two modern oil-burning boilers. When the order was placed in 1949 delivery was promised in 12 months and it was hoped that the ship could be retained in service until the new boilers arrived. Unfortunately, towards the end of 1950, it was found that the condition of the supports of the old boilers had seriously deteriorated and the ship had to be withdrawn from service. The boilers did not arrive until February, 1952, and as the work of conversion centred round their installation, the bulk of the other work had to be delayed until that date. The other work included the extension and modernization of the passenger accommodation, the fitting of modern cargo handling gear and new telemotor steering gear. New propellors, a new rudder and a new windlass were also fitted. The work was completed early last December at a total cost of £42,443. This figure is probably greater than the initial cost of the vessel but has to be considered against a present-day replacement cost estimated to be approximatelv £400,000.
Bilge Keels Reduce Rolling
After successful trials, the ship made her first scheduled voyage to Northern Rhodesia on 18th December, 1952. She now has a maximum speed of about 11 knots against a previous 7 knots, her steering and handling is improved and she shows far less tendency to roll in rough weather, thanks to the new bilge keels which have been fitted.
Welcomed Back by Old Friends
The “Liemba” has always been a popular vessel on Lake Tanganyika and many people retain happy memories of her. It is hoped that the work now completed will enable her to continue to serve the public for many more years to come. On her first voyage after conversion she was given an enthusiastic welcome by the African population along the Lake shores. They crowded on the beaches to cheer and many came out in canoes to greet the ship, cheering, singing and clapping. Africans from miles around gathered on the pier at Mpulungu in Northern Rhodesia, together with a large number of the European population of Aber- corn, to welcome the “Liemba” as she drew alongside with all her flags flying.
“THE AFRICAN QUEEN”
An interesting dispute between Romulus Films, Ltd.. the producers of the film “The African Queen”, and the Administration has been concluded. During the shooting of the film in Uganda, stomach trouble became so widespread amongst the film operatives that the shooting of the film had to be suspended for upwards of ten days. It will give some indication of the cost of film production when, in respect of these ten days’ lay-off the company claimed to be in the red to the extent of almost £25,000.
An amount of over £4,000 was due to the Administration in respect of various services, including the conversion of one of its motor boats to become “The African Queen”, the hire of certain ships and marine and catering facilities. Without these services and the facilities provided by the Administration the film could not have been made. The film company declined to pay the Administration this amount and counter-claimed for £25,000. They alleged that the outbreak of stomach trouble, or diarrhoea, was caused by impure water supplied to their staff by the Administration. The Administration denied liability and in so doing pointed out that it is not unusual for newcomers to the tropics to suffer from stomach trouble if they consume iced drinks and lie under fans after working in torrid equatorial conditions. This tendency is exacerbated where, as in the present case, long hours are worked.
In the event, neither party was willing to give way and the Administration therefore brought an action in the United Kingdom claiming the amount due. Judgment was given for this amount but the company were granted leave to counter-claim for the full amount of their loss. On the Administration remaining adamant in refusing any compromise the company eventually gave way, withdrew their counter-claim for £25,000 and paid the amount of the Administration’s judgment and costs.
EAST AFRICAN RAILWAYS&HARBOURS STAFF MAGAZINES ANDSPEAR
The Battle of Lake Tanganyika, how the war on the lake was won
Ships don't come with much more historical ballast than the Graf Gotzen (MV Liemba). The steamer still shudders and belches its way across Lake Tanganyika every Wednesday and Friday, a century after it was built as a warship in Germany.
Started in 1947, to grow peanuts in Tanganyika as a contribution to both the African and British economies, the Groundnuts Scheme was abandoned four years later on January 9th, 1951.
How Tanganyika and Zanzibar Became Tanzania
The story of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar has puzzled many Tanzanians and others alike. Pieces of this puzzle continue to elude most of the public while the few remaining witnesses maintain their silence. Lack of information has led many to conspiracy theories, rumours, and outright lies. There are those who credit the West for the whole scheme. Others see Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and Abeid Amani Karume as the masterminds each motivated by different factors. Was it African nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Communism, political survival? All these elements factored into a web of events that led to the Union.
The Zanzibar Revolution of January 12, 1964 changed everything. ASP had the Presidency for the first time even though they had majority support from voters in the first elections in 1957 and the last elections of 1963. Zanzibar was ruled by a loose alliance of different factions under President Karume starting in mid-January 1964. A Revolutionary Council made up of different factions wrestled for power. Karume was caught in a conundrum. He presided over a Council made up of individuals, some of whom had a different agenda. Meanwhile a little over thirty six Kilometres away in mainland Tanganyika, a nervous government attempted to provide assistance to stabilize the situation. Tanganyika flew in 150 police in January and more police were sent later. The Tanganyika police were there to help maintain order and lend support to Karume. Nyerere and Karume worked out a plan to remove John Okello from the island. The plan worked out as planned and Okello was out of Zanzibar for good March of 1964. The challenges mounted up against Karume in the month of March. Tanganyika leaders worried that Karume’s days in office were numbered.
The web of intrigue and conspiracies kept getting wider in the two months proceeding the Revolution. This web entangled Cold War politics, African nationalism, Communism, Pan Africanism, and sheer political survival, in one messy bundle. Abdulrahman Babu was a busy man by all accounts. He had managed to secure support from Communist countries. Money and weapons poured into the island. Babu and former members of his UMMA Party eventually came to be seen as a threat to Karume, and ultimately, Tanganyika. To make matters worse, reports of plots by supporters of the former government and the Sultan kept coming. Karume realized that his very political survival was in jeopardy. He increasingly turned to Tanganyika for support.
The relationship between Karume and Nyerere, TANU and ASP, was not new in 1964, nor was the idea of establishing some form of political association between the two countries. Nyerere was invited by the Zanzibar African Association in 1956 and again in 1957 during a meeting that brought together members of the Shirazi Party and the African Association. TANU increased assistance to ASP following complete breakdown of talks with ZNP by 1960. As for political unity, the idea of a regional federation was presented at the PAFMECA conference in 1958 and tabled for another time. Karume, Babu, and Ali Muhsin from Zanzibar were present. Nyerere pushed for the idea of federation that included Zanzibar in 1960 and 1961. Some ASP and TANU leaders discussed the possibility of either a “federation” or “union” between their two countries in 1962. Oscar Kambona, then a Minister in 1963, reported an approach by ASP leaders with a proposal for union in January of 1963. Yet it was the circumstances in the aftermath of the January 1964 Revolution that led leaders to take steps to cement the idea.
Nyerere had his own reasons for pushing for unity and embracing the idea of a union. He pushed for a political unification of East Africa since 1960. Most of his efforts were placed in negotiations for an East African Federation. The efforts had failed by the end of 1963. There was still a glimmer of hope; East African leaders wanted to give the idea another try in April of 1964. Nyerere flew to Nairobi in April 10th to meet with Jommo Kenyatta and Milton Obote to discuss federation. It was clear by the following day, April 11, that the talks had failed to produce any positive results. Nyerere tried to convince his colleagues to help in Zanzibar, but his plea were mostly ignored. The failure of the East African Federation talks was a turning point for Tanganyika.
Tanganyika government watched carefully the deteriorating situation in Zanzibar in the months of February and March of 1964. Nyerere remarked in March 28 that he “did not know if the present Government of Zanzibar would last.” The situation in Zanzibar deteriorated further in April. Nyerere expressed deep anxiety about the course of events in Zanzibar in April 9; he mentions a report of plans by former Sultan and his supporters to launch a coup with assistance from Arab countries. Karume, Kambona and Nyerere met just before Nyerere left for the East African Summit of April 10. Karume’s grip on power was slowly slipping away. Yet Karume refused to take part in the East African Federation talks.
Babu and his supporters came to be seen as a threat. Money and weapons kept pouring into Zanzibar. The small number of Tanganyika police equipped with outdated rifles were no match to the automatic weapons from USSR and China. Alarm bells started ringing in the capitols of Western nations. Washington and London jumped into action. Repeat of a “Cuba” in East Africa was intolerable. US and UK representatives urged Nyerere to take action; they approached Kenya and Uganda to see what they can do to help remove what they saw as a Communist threat in the island. The fears stemmed from the idea that Zanzibar could be used as a launching pad for Communist infiltration into East Africa. With all the pitching and manoeuvring, the final decision was in the hands of Nyerere and Karume. What ultimately emerged was an African solution motivated by a multiple factors.
Kambona was authorized to embark on a secret project starting around the second week of April 1964. Kambona worked closely with a Zanzibar counterpart Kassim Hanga. It was ultimately Kambona and Hanga who did most of the ground work for securing an agreement and implementing the Union. Kambona and Hanga were close friends and had been roommates during their school days in London. Kambona mentioned talks of a “union” or “federation” taking place on April 17. He was asked if he needed any help for his “project?” He replied “If this doesn’t work, I’ll let you know at once.” Kambona had just sent one of his trusted friends on the morning of April 17 to Zanzibar to see what was needed to move the negotiations forward. Karume gave a tentative agreement provided that certain demands were met.
The situation in Zanzibar in mid-April had turned for the worst. A security organization under Makungu had received a tip about a possible plot to overthrow Karume. Makungu and the Police Commissioner, Eddington Kassisi, jumped into action and made the initial arrests. Kassisi reportedly had mainland roots. Ali Mahfoudh and Yusuf Himid joined in on the arrests afterwards. More than 150 people were arrested. Some of those arrested were badly mistreated. The threat to Karume’s position was real.
Reports reached Nyerere that some of the people arrested on suspicion of involvement in the coup were mistreated. He remarked on April 17 that “Zanzibaris are getting wilder and wilder and it seems as if no one was in control.” He at this point wanted to withdraw Tanganyika police from Zanzibar. An order was issued sometime between April 18 and 19th to withdraw Tanganyika police from Zanzibar. Karume flew to Dar es Salaam immediately after hearing about the order in April 19th and went straight to the State House. Details of the discussion between Nyerere and Karume on that day are not clear. However, it is possible to deduce from the actions taken afterwards. Tanganyika agreed to send more police officers to Zanzibar; more police were sent between sometime between April 23 and 24th. The two leaders appear to have reached an agreement on the Union on the 19th.
A flurry of flights between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar took place between April 20 and 21st. Hanga flew to Dar es Salaam on April 21st. It was important to outline details of the agreement and sign it while Babu was away. As far back as March 17, 1964 when Babu was finalizing plans to travel to Asia, one particular Western power was busy trying to extend his visit to keep him away from Zanzibar. One report states “…Since Babu planning visit Indonesia, probably returning via Karachi…may wish suggest to Malaysians that they extend invitation…” A senior Tanganyika official remarked at the time that he was convinced Babu was plotting with the Chinese over the Government of Zanzibar. Ministers representing Tanganyika and Zanzibar had reached an agreement by the end of the day in April 21. Nyerere, Kambona, and Job Lusinde flew to Zanzibar on April 22. Nyerere and Karume held a private meeting before coming out to meet cheering Ministers and government officials. The two leaders signed Articles of the Union. This was the first step. More challenges were to come.
Nyerere remaked on April 23rd that he was worried of possible negative reactions from some members of the Revolutionary Council and a possible armed resistance. He pointed out that since the Council authorized Karume to sign the Declaration of Union, then he was confident it would agree to ratify it. The Council met to deliberate on the Union on April 23rd. According to one observer who was present, the “Union idea had a rough passage in the Revolutionary Council. Karume and Hanga pushed hard. Out of the 20 members present during the meeting, 10 members including Yusuf Himid initially abstained during the voting. Karume threatened the Council with intervention from Kenya, Uganda, and finally the UK. This was no empty threat, at least when it came to the UK. Documents from the UK reveals an elaborate plan to invade Zanzibar. The British military sketched out a plan to invade Zanzibar; the plan involved sending paratroopers to Zanzibar if necessary with the approval of the British Prime Minister. It is not clear if Karume was aware of the details, but his threat to the Council suggests he may have been aware of it. At one point, Karume told Salim Rashid he was “nothing but a schoolboy.” At least one report claims that Hassan Moyo was conspicuously absent during the deliberations. Most reports suggest that the Council ultimately ratified articles of the Union.
Babu left Karachi on April 25 for Zanzibar. He was asked about the union while en-route to Zanzibar. He told reporters in Nairobi that the “Union was no surprise to him. It was planned before revolution, even before independence.” Babu was aware of talks of a union before and shortly after the revolution. However, he was not involved in the talks that led to it during the third week of April 1964. He arrived back in Zanzibar with little fanfare. Only Salim Rashid was there at the airport to meet him. He would later hold a secret meeting on Sunday April 26 with Moyo, Twala, and Ali Mwinyi Gogo. Not much could be done to torpedo the union at this point. The Union marked the end to the political ambitions of many of those who posed a challenge to Karume.
Karume was comfortable to talk about the union during the Idd Baraza in April 24, 1964. He gave a speech in Kiswahili. Here is what he had to say: “Tanganyika and Zanzibar are neighbours geographically, historically, and linguistically; they are neighbours by custom and culture, and by politics. The friendship between the Afro-Shirazi party and TANU is well known to you all. The friendship between the leaders of these two Parties did not start yesterday….” It was a remarkable turn of events. His position of power in Zanzibar was sealed.
Talking to representative of a Western nation in April 28, 1964, Nyerere remarked that United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was a “miracle so good I can’t believe it.” He went on to say “I’ve worked one miracle but I can’t go on working miracles alone….” The very idea of establishing either a “union” or “federation” was first and foremost an African idea. Even the CIA point man in Zanzibar, Frank Carlucci, remarked in May of 1964: “US Government remained on side lines during merger recognizing that this was an African initiative..” Indeed, the idea of a Union and steps taken to initiate a union came from within Africa. The West picked up on the idea and pushed it for their reasons; they calculated that it was in their interests to make sure the idea came to fruition. Yet the path to a union and the final decision lay with the African leaders involved. African nationalism, Pan-Africanism, the Cold War, fears of a counter-coup, the sheer determination to maintain a grip on power, all these factors came together to shape the environment that led to the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in April of 1964.
© Azaria Mbughuni
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Africa's 'forgotten genocide' marks its 50 anniversary: Revisiting the Zanzibar revolution.
Africa's 'forgotten genocide' marks its 50 anniversary: Revisiting the Zanzibar revolution
16 Aug 2014 12:00Samantha Spooner
Zanzibar massacre claimed up to 20,000 lives, left 26,000 imprisoned and 100,000 exiled
Many call it “the revolution”, but for the victims this year marks the 50th anniversary of the mass murder of Zanzibar’s Arabs and Indians by the black majority. This 1964 event was labelled by some historians a “genocide” for the deliberate targeting of specific communities which is said to have claimed up to 20,000 lives, left 26,000 imprisoned and 100,000 exiled. Despite this, it has been poorly documented and probably forgotten in African history because it affected mostly non-black African populations.
The genocide took place on the back of the 1964 Zanzibar revolution to overthrow the monarchy ruled by Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah. There had already been tension on the island between ethnic groups. The 1960s population of the island had a tremendously cultural heritage with extensive diversity - trade from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East had converged on the islands, bringing with it a multitude of influences. The island had about 600 Europeans, 50,000 Arabs and 20,000 Asians from the Indian subcontinent. Even though at independence Arabs constituted under 20% of Zanzibar’s population, they were economically and politically dominant.
The islands gained independence from Britain in December 1963 as a
The least the British could have done is at least protect, the many innocent men, women and children who were deliberately killed and to stop instilling fear amongst the populace, it was genocide, period!
The question further is asked, how is it possible that a so called revolution has nothing what so ever to show regards the overthrowing of a Sultanate regime, there was no mass arrest or imposition on any of members of the family of Sultan of Zanzibar, but were later conveniently shipped over to the South Coast of England.
This heinous act was never ever planned by indigenous people of Zanzibar, when in reality it was carried out by some foreigners, entwined with a political motive and other mercenaries that were recruited and some who also happen to came from the neighbouring Pemba Island.
So, what did really happen, dirty Politics, greed with own agendas entwined with carrying out pre-planned genocide against certain
ethnicity who were just ordinary human beings in men, women and children, who were going about their daily lives, selectively killed, the accumulations of thousands of innocent men, women and
children who were forced to march to their deaths, many innocent people in men, women and children were killed and dumped in mass graves, that substantiates the act of horror , a case of genocide. It
was horrible! Watch the video clip, innocent men, women and children were driven into isolation on to the shores and massacred in cold blood.
Put into a mix, was a self-made Field Marshall who had never served in any sort of Military training nor was he ever in the forces.
Okello was an odd job man in Pemba, a hired mercenary in the making with his goons, a foreigner with schizophrenic traits, who hears voices of his so called god commands him to carry out targeted
massacres on certain types and of background of people with abhorrence mixed into it, historic hate and animosity that had nothing what so ever to do with the present populaces at large at all,
Most importantly, add into intersperse “these disgruntled ousted former policemen of the Sultanate knew the layout of the police barracks and where weapons were stored and Okello and his goons had little trouble in overwhelming their untrained replacements”. Despite being out numbered and ill-equipped, the insurgents captured the capital fairly easily. This was mostly due to the fact that the government had recently fired all of its African police officers, prior knowledge in suspicion and fear of an uprising and they call that a revolution, a revolution that summoned to kill ordinary citizens in men, women and children dumped into considerable corpus graves others chased and slaughtered by the shores.
There was never any type of a defence, question is how many of Okello’s mercenaries got killed in this massacre, answer is ”nil reported”. This was a despicable genocide against innocent ordinary law abiding citizens of different back grounds.
This was a pre-planned political motive in terms of Geographical and Political move and not a revolution one; that is the very reason why
Okello had to hand over the reign to Karume and Babu, it was all pre-planned by Nyerere. It would in time see Abeid Amane Karume emerge as president of the resulting one-party state. His first step
is to negotiate for union with neighbouring Tanganyika, also left-wing in its policies though not Marxist. The two nations are merged in April 1964, becoming the United Republic of Tanzania,
with Nyerere as president and Karume as vice-president.
Most of these evils were killed some died of painful death, what goes round comes round, Karume got killed too.
So what has Zanzibar gained from a genocide, the answer is zilch.. zero in terms of progress, in terms of Economics and in terms of any
investments it hardly made any steps forward in commerce. Zanzibar is a beautiful island with a lot of disgruntled indigenous people who to this day are still having to live with others but the
difference now being they too have been let down badly by their own; now Zanzibar with acrimony and fragmented society who cannot be brought together due to the trust factor and subsequent of all
that progress in all departments is very slow.
Below video of the killings...
Mohd Iqbal born in Tabora is one of the people who Created the name of Tanzania, at present he is in Birmingham, UK
Memories of WWII refugees live on in Tanzania
ARUSHA – On the fringes of a small Tanzanian village called Tengeru lie buried 150 Polish war refugees, who did their best to make a life there.
Tengeru locals go about their daily lives.
The Third Reich invaded Polish territory on September 1, 1939 without declaration. It was the beginning of the Second World War. The Molotov Pact , signed one week before the invasion of Poland, partitioned more than half of Polish territory to the Soviet Union, beginning a campaign of terror against the civilian population.
Deportation to Siberia began on February 10, 1940 following purges of the Polish civil elite. When German armies invaded in 1942, the Polish government sided with the USSR in exchange for the release of Polish deportees, as well as 47 000 exiles. Many were sent to United Kingdom colonies – of those, about 18 000 Poles were sent on to refugee camps in East Africa. There were six camps in Tanzania, the largest of which was in the village Tengeru, with 5 000 refugees.
The Polish “settlers” developed a life for themselves, running specialized farms, small businesses, and nearly a dozen schools. They built clinics, hospitals, churches and one synagogue. In their history, it’s recorded as becoming a “scrap of distant homeland.”
With the end of the war, the refugees were able to return to Europe, but many had nowhere to go and no one to go home to. Some were taken from regions lost to Poland in the Yalta Agreement. Others were too afraid of the Soviet proxy governments to return. For almost a decade, these wayward peoples dispersed across the world. About 1000 remained in their African settlements – 151 of those stayed in Tengeru.
Young Edward Wojtowicz, perched amidst fellow refugees.
Today, hundreds of pilgrims come every year to the cemetery where 150 of them lay buried, the only vestige remaining of the refugee camp except for its sole survivor, Edward Wojtowicz. Wojtowicz, 94, still lives in Tengeru, and one day he will be the last person ever buried there. His mother was buried in 1985, his grandmother in 1955.
Simon Joseph is a local Tengeru man who operates the cemetery all on his own, as caretaker, gardener, contractor and guide for the many who visit. He says most visitors are descendants of the original 5,000 who lived there who come to trace a piece of their own history to those difficult times.
“All people buried here are refugees. They suffered here from malaria and influenza,” Joseph recalls.
“Before here they were in labour camps in Siberia. They were forced into slave labour.”
He lives just five kilometres away with his wife, Rota, and six children. He says he loves his work, and knows the history inside and out, telling the story again and again for each new visitor.
In 2015 all of the graves are set to be renovated, paid for by the Polish government, who has funded the cemetery all this time since the first Polish refugee, Michael Tchorz, was buried on October 23, 1942. There are just five Jews in the cemetery, buried separately near the wall which was erected in 2001. Joseph says the cemetery will be maintained in Tengeru forever.
The local villagers rarely come by, but they all know it’s there. The place where 5000 foreigners, abandoned by the rest of the world, made a little piece of home for themselves in the dusty plains.
The little known story of the Polish refugees who fled to East Africa during World War II
Mohamed Husen: the black immigrant actor who carved out a career in 1930s German cinema
Kul Bhushan: Kantilal and Urmila Zhaveri
Kul Bhushan: After India, Urmila Zhaveri fought for freedom in tanzania To pay tribute to an outstanding freedom fighter,