The Kaltenhausen Bohnstedt Line:
Hermann Wilhelm Otto Bohnstedt in Deutsche Südwestafrika

by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
     (the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)


1909 map of Colonial Deutsche-Südwestafrika (German Southwest Africa)

During the 1800s large numbers of Germans had settled in Africa, and by 1884 Imperial Germany had established three major colonies on the African continent; Deutsche-Südwestafrika (German Southwest Africa), Deutsche-Ostafrika (German East Africa), and Togo. In 1911 Germany also acquired Cameroon from France, and renamed it Neukamerun (New Cameroon). These African holdings were lost during the First World War: Togo in 1914, Südwestafrika in 1915, Neukamerun in 1916, and Ostafrika in 1918.

1. The German Colonial Empire at it's height, just before the First World War. This map does not show smaller German holdings such as ports and small islands.
2. Colonial Africa in the late 1800's

Deutsche Südwest Afrika continued under German rule until 1915 when DSW was conquered by the military forces of the nation of South Africa during the First World War. The debate over South African military presence in Southwest Africa continued in the international court of justice until 1990 when SWA, now known as Namibia, attained complete independence.

Hermann Wilhelm Otto Bohnstedt, the seventh child of Friedrich Wilhelm Bohnstedt, and a grandson of Ludwig Ferdinand Wilhelm Bohnstedt moved to German Southwest Africa with his wife, Carolina, his niece, Armgard (Bohnstedt) Heilig, and her husband Hermann Franz Heilig.

1-2. A postcard from Felix Buettner in Swakopmund to Frau C. Bohnstedt in April 1921. The recipient is without a doubt Carolina Bohnstedt, wife of Hermann Wilhelm Otto Bohnstedt, the proprietor of the Kaltenhausen Farm, and later the Erora farms, in Deutsche Südwest Afrika. This postcard was acquired by Martin Bohnstedt, a stamp collector and a relative of Hermann Otto Bohnstedt, at a personal sale of old stamps and letter covers. The seller was a complete stranger to the Bohnstedt family, and it appears that he/she simply acquired the postcard from someone else.

Martin Bohnstedt came across a postcard sent from Felix Buettner to Hermann Otto Bohnstedt's wife, Carolina, addressed to Wilhelmstal. Page 37 of the 1923 Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt describes Otto as a

Besitzer [owner / operator] der Farm Kaltenhausen / Erora, Karibib, Sud-West-Afrika

Wilhelmstal was probably the nearest town of any consequence with a post office in proximity to the Kaltenhausen and Erora farms. For a long time I thought that the Kaltenhausen farm being referred to here was the Kaltenhausen estate in Germany. Otto had been born at the Kaltenhausen estate, as his father had been before him. But the Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch [German Colonial Handbook], by Rudolf Fitzner, 1904, places "Kaltenhausen" in the Karibib district of German Southwest Africa.

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1. Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch, 1904, by Rudolf Fitzner.
2. Page from
Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch, listing the Kaltenhausen Farm, with the farmer: Otto Bohnstedt.

The Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch was a listing of various holdings by German colonists throughout the German colonial empire just after the turn of the century. Among other things it listed townships and farms in white-settled areas of Togo, German Cameroon, German Southwest Africa, German East Africa, and German New Guinea.  From this it becomes clear that there were two Kaltenhausen farms, the Kaltenhausen estate back in Germany, and Otto Bohnstedt's Kaltenhausen farm in Southwest Africa.

In The Autobiography of Eugen Mansfeld: A German settler's life in colonial Namibia, Eugen Mansfeld tells of Otto Bohnstedt's ill-fated attempt at horse breeding in 1897

The Autobiography of Eugen Mansfeld: A German settler's life in colonial Namibia tells of an experiment in horse breeding that was undertaken by Otto Bohnstedt in 1897 by importing pregnant mares to his farm in Southwest Africa. It did not go as planned; Otto may not have had the necessary experience to know how to handle this kind of business, nor did he take into account the mistreatment of the animals at the hands of the ship's crew;

In March 1897 a sailing ship from Argentina brought Herr Otto Bohnstedt ad his wife, with 120 horses for their farm. There was still no jetty, and the horses had to be landed on rafts. Bohnstedt thought he was being clever by buying a number of pregnant mares, hoping that they would foal soon after arriving at the farm. During the course of the two-month voyage the animals had suffered terribly from sea-sickness, had been thrown back and forth and maltreated, and most had miscarried as a consequence. ... The whole undertaking was an utter fiasco; these mares were naturally useless for further breeding purposes; still more animals died on the long overland trek to the farm; and Bohnstedt's horse breeding ended with this expensive experiment.

War broke out in Europe in 1914, and as a consequence, European colonial territories in Africa and other parts of the world found themselves at war with each other. Military forces of British-ruled South Africa attacked and invaded German Southwest Africa and defeated it in 1915.

Apparently Otto Bohnstedt served in the army because he is listed in For Valour, The History of the Iron Cross and Wound Badge in German Southwest Africa, 1914-1918, by Gordon McGregor. This book describes the medals and decorations awarded to soldiers of Deutsche Südwest Afrika (German Southwest Africa) during the First World War, particularly the Iron Cross. Page 59 lists Otto Bohnstedt as a recipient of the Iron Cross 2nd Class. He is listed with the ranking: "Lt.d.L.", which may have been a Leutnant (Lieutenant).

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1. For Valour, by Gordon McGregor, 2005, lists Otto Bohnstedt as a recipient of the Iron Cross, 2nd Class
2. Iron Cross, 2nd Class

No doubt when British South African forces conquered and took control of German Southwest Africa, the African natives hoped that they would have a better life under the South Africans, that they would have more land, freedom and rights. If so they were disappointed. According to Namibia Under South African Rule: Mobility & Containment, edited by Patricia Hayes

Indigenous Namibians, who first welcomed the South African invasion of German South West Africa in 1915 in the belief that a new colonial power might restore lands and privileges that had been lost under German rule, saw their hopes rudely dashed. Lands were not returned, privileges were not restored and ensuing attempts by indigenous Namibians to protest directly were forcibly put down. Non-white Namibians were forced into Native Reserves; increasingly their social and economic options were limited.

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1. Namibia Under South African Rule: Mobility & Containment, 1915-46, edited by Patricia Hayes, 1998
2. A typical example of the terrain near the Kaltenhausen and Erora farms in German Southwest Africa / Namibia.

As the government was trying to organize these reserves German farmers began maneuvering to profit from the new venture by selling unproductive pieces of land to the government for the reserves. Otto Bohnstedt was one of those hoping to sell his farm. Namibia Under South African Rule states that

Apart from wanting the best land and a supply of cheap labour, land speculation - particularly if it was at the government's expense - was on the agenda of the settler farmers. While Otto Bohnstedt, chairman of the Farmer Verein [a farmer's association] was sending off missives arguing against giving too much land to Africans, he was waging a private campaign to include his own farm, Kaltenhausen, in a proposal for any native reserve. He was willing to trade his farm in return for Neubrunn. [Neubrunn was a government owned farm with a high concentration of native Africans living on the land there]. Located in the southern portion of the Karibib District, Kaltenhausen sits inside the 15,000 ha. per economic farming unit portion of the area, while Neubrunn is in the 5,000 ha. per economic farming unit portion. Obviously, Bohnstedt was looking to step up to a better-quality farm, and his desires may have influenced the Farmer Verein's decision to support the plan for a reserve at at Otjimbingwe (which just happened to be close by Kaltenhausen).

This exchange was first proposed by Otto in a letter to government officials dated 16 September, 1922. In another letter 11 January, 1924, another government official

...complains about the excessive prices being asked for various farms considered for purchase to form the reserve, especially by the owner of the farm, Kaltenhausen, Otto Bohnstedt.

Negotiations and deliberations for forming the reserve, and the purchase of farmlands from the white farmers were still continuing as late as 1929. According to Namibia Under South African Rule a final round of negotiations began that year.

With the Karibib Magistrate acting as an intermediary, negotiations between the government and Otto Bohnstedt, owner of Kaltenhausen, and G. Ufer, owner of the Audawib West [another large farm nearby], began. As in his prior attempt to sell Kaltenhausen to the government, Bohnstedt demanded a heavy price. This time he was more interested in cash, since his letterhead shows that he now owned the farms of his earlier desires, Erora West and Erora Ost. He wanted £2,500 for the farm - £1,000 for the land and £1,500 for improvements. The price was considered excessive by officials in Windhoek, and they set about checking the veracity of his claims about improving the farm.

I've not found anything that tells of what became of Otto's attempts to acquire Neubrunn, but Otto's acquisition of the Erora farms may have occurred as early as 1923. Again, in page 37 of the 1923 Stammbaum der Familie Bohnstedt we read that Otto was

Besitzer [owner / operator] der Farm Kaltenhausen / Erora, Karibib, Sud-West-Afrika

1-2. Satellite images of the area surrounding the Erora Farmstead. Two locations were identified for the Erora Farmstead, with the western location being named "Erora West".

Erora (Erora Ost/East) was placed at Longitude 16.48333E, Latitude 22.01667S, and Erora West was placed at Longitude 16.3833E Latitude 22.03333S. Both sites are very close to Wilhelmstal in Namibia.  Both locations with precise longitude and latitude were taken from several Worldwide Web sources which I have not been able to verify.  It's possible these are accurate, although I don't know where the authors of these sources originally acquired such information.  It's also possible that inaccurate locations were posted on the WWW, and that website became an inaccurate source for other websites.

Otto and his wife had no children, and so the family line under the Bohnstedt name did not continue in Southwest Africa. However, Armgard and Franz had two daughters, Cara and Iris, both born in Africa, and at least eight grandchildren under the surnames Ritzdorf and Jauss.


Book References:
- Fitzner, Professor Dr. Rudolf. Deutsches Kolonial-Handbuch. Hermann Paetel. Berlin, Germany. 1904
- Mansfeld, Eugen. The Autobiography of Eugen Mansfeld: A German settler's life in colonial Namibia. Jeppestown Press. 2017 (ISBN 0957083750, 9780957083752)
- McGregor, Gordon. For Valour, The History of the Iron Cross and Wound Badge in German Southwest Africa, 1914-1918. Namibia Scientific Society. 2005 (ISBN 9991640614)
- Hayes, Patricia. Namibia Under South African Rule: Mobility & Containment, 1915-46. Ohio University Press. 1998 (ISBN 0821412442)


See Also:
1-18 / The Bohnstedt Lines in Prussia
1-20 / The Bohnstedt Noble Estates
1-33 / The Kaltenhausen Bohnstedt Line: The Descendants of Friedrich Wilhelm Bohnstedt
1-46 /
Genealogy 1-6-5: Prussia and Eastern Germany: Kaltenhausen


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