Curt von Francois
Curt Karl Bruno von François (October 2, 1852 – December 28, 1931) was a military and political figure in the early days of German colonialism
German colonial empire
The German colonial empire was an overseas domain formed in the late 19th century as part of the German Empire. Short-lived colonial efforts by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but Imperial Germany's colonial efforts began in 1884...

 in Africa. He is remembered as one of the pioneers of German Southwest Africa (present-day Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...


François was of French Huguenot ancestry, and was born in Luxembourg
Luxembourg (city)
The city of Luxembourg , also known as Luxembourg City , is a commune with city status, and the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. It is located at the confluence of the Alzette and Pétrusse Rivers in southern Luxembourg...

 on October 2, 1852. He was a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 of 1870–71, and in 1883 worked as a geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

 on an exploratory expedition of the Congo
Colonisation of the Congo
Colonization of the Congo refers to the period from Henry Morton Stanley's first exploration of the Congo until its annexation as a personal possession of King Leopold II of Belgium .-Early European exploration:...

 region under the leadership of Hermann von Wissmann (1853–1905). Later he became a member of the German Imperial General Staff, and in 1887 was stationed in Togoland
Togoland was a German protectorate in West Africa from 1884 to 1914, encompassing what is now the nation of Togo and most of what is now the Volta Region of Ghana. The colony was established during the period generally known as the "Scramble for Africa"...


In 1883, the German merchant Adolf Lüderitz
Adolf Lüderitz
Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz was a German merchant and founder of the first German colony in Southwest Africa....

 purchased Angra Pequena
Angra Pequena
Angra Pequena was a small coastal area in what is now known as Lüderitz, Namibia.First discovered by Europeans in 1487 by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias. On April 10, 1883 Heinrich Vogelsang first landed at Angra Pequena...

 following negotiations with a local African chief. He called this coastal region of southwestern African "Lüderitz
Lüderitz is a harbour town in south-west Namibia, lying on one of the least hospitable coasts in Africa. It is a port developed around Robert Harbour and Shark Island.- Overview :...

". Fearing that Great Britain was soon to declare the area a protectorate, Lüderitz advised the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , simply known as Otto von Bismarck, was a Prussian-German statesman whose actions unified Germany, made it a major player in world affairs, and created a balance of power that kept Europe at peace after 1871.As Minister President of...

 to claim it, which he did at the Berlin Conference
Berlin Conference
The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period, and coincided with Germany's sudden emergence as an imperial power...

 of 1884.

In order to provide security to the territory, in 1889 Germany sent Hauptmann
Hauptmann is a German word usually translated as captain when it is used as an officer's rank in the German, Austrian and Swiss armies. While "haupt" in contemporary German means "main", it also has the dated meaning of "head", i.e...

 von François to the British-held enclave of Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay , is a city in Namibia and the name of the bay on which it lies...

. From there François and a handful of men trekked to the completely destroyed village of Windhoek
Windhoek is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area, at around above sea level. The 2001 census determined Windhoek's population was 233,529...

 in the interior of the territory, which was earlier founded by Jonker Afrikaner
Jonker Afrikaner
Jonker Afrikaner was the fourth Captain of the Orlam Afrikaners in South West Africa, succeeding his father, Jager Afrikaner, in 1823...

. At Windhoek, François set up headquarters of the German occupation (which he called Alte Feste
Alte Feste
The Alte Feste is a fortress and museum in downtown Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It was designed by Curt von François and made provision for an inner courtyard with high walls and accommodation for the troops on the inside, as well as four towers...

, Old Fortress). This location was chosen because the Germans felt it would serve as a buffer zone between the Nama
Nama are an African ethnic group of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. They traditionally speak the Nama language of the Khoe-Kwadi language family, although many Nama now speak Afrikaans. The Nama are the largest group of the Khoikhoi people, most of whom have largely disappeared as a group,...

 and Herero tribes.

From March 1891 until March 1894, François was commissioner of German Southwest Africa. During this time (1892) he established the coastal town of Swakopmund
Swakopmund is a city on the coast of northwestern Namibia, west of Windhoek, Namibia's capital. It is the capital of the Erongo administrative district. As a seaside resort, the weather is cooler here in December to January so the territorial administration moves to Swakopmund for these months...

 as the main harbour of the colony. In 1893–94 he was involved in a series of battles with the Nama tribe led by Hendrik Witbooi
Hendrik Witbooi
Hendrik Witbooi may refer to:* Hendrik Witbooi * Hendrik Samuel Witbooi * Hendrik Witbooi , deputy prime minister of Namibia...

. François was replaced by Theodor Leutwein
Theodor Leutwein
Theodor Gotthilf Leutwein was colonial administrator of German Southwest Africa from 1894-1904. Born in Strümpfelbrunn in the Grand Duchy of Baden, he replaced Curt von François as commander of the Schutztruppe in 1894...

 as commissioner of German Southwest Africa in 1894. He died in Zernsdorf
Zernsdorf is a village in Dahme-Spreewald, Brandenburg, Germany. Since 2003 it has been part of the city of Königs Wusterhausen. The population is approximately 2,900.-Geography:...

, Germany on December 28, 1931.

The original Schutztruppe
Schutztruppe was the African colonial armed force of Imperial Germany from the late 19th century to 1918, when Germany lost its colonies. Similar to other colonial forces, the Schutztruppe consisted of volunteer European commissioned and non-commissioned officers, medical and veterinary officers. ...

headquarters built by François in 1890 at Windhoek was expanded in 1912, and has been a museum since 1962.

His brother, Hermann von François
Hermann von François
Hermann von François was a German General der Infanterie during World War I, and is best known for his key role in several German victories on the Eastern Front in 1914.-Early life and military career:...

, also served in the German army and was one of the key contributors to the German victory at the 1914 Battle of Tannenberg
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...


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