Curt von Francois. Photo : Republikein

Exactly 51 years ago,on 13 October 1965, the Curt von François memorial was inaugurated in Windhoek, depicting a man in the Schutztruppe uniform. There might be some interesting facts about him that you don’t know.

He was Reichskommissar and Landeshauptmann of German South West Africa and left a remarkable legacy to the former colony:

Curt von François is recognised as the European founder of Windhoek and Swakopmund. Von François was not only a soldier but primarily a talented cartographer and researcher who contributed significantly to the development of the former German colony.

When Curt von François arrived in German South West Africa in 1889, he was 36 years old. He had already spent several years elsewhere in Africa and was awarded the Order of the Southern Cross for his contributions to the exploration of Africa. At his insistence the seat of government was moved from Otjimbingwe to Windhoek because it was located in no-man’s land between the Hereros and Namas and strong springs supplied plenty of water. On 18 October 1890 the first stone was laid for the fort Groß-Windhoek (now the Alte Feste), from which Namibia’s capital evolved.

Two years later von François founded Swakopmund to establish a harbour for the colony which so far had had to rely on Walvis Bay, earlier annexed by Britain.

The lack of success in dealing with the Nama tribes allied with Hendrik Witbooi soon caused discontent in German South West Africa as well as in Germany. Von François was more of a cartographer and explorer at heart than a soldier. He invested a lot of time in mapping the country. His cartographic work was the basis of the first military maps of the colony drawn a few years later.

In 1894 von François was released from his duties, discharged with a pension and called back to Berlin where he was assigned to the foreign office as an expert. In this position it was possible for him to follow his real passion and for study purposes he travelled the world.

Curt von François was married twice. During the five years that he spent in German South West Africa he married Amalia Gereses, a Damara princess, with whom he had a daughter. After Amalia’s death he married again. With his second wife he had four children.

The Curt von François memorial was inaugurated in Windhoek on 13 October 1965. As part of the celebrations to mark the capital’s 75th anniversary, Windhoek was also awarded town status.

The Curt von François memorial in front of the Municipality of Windhoek. (Photo: Wiebke Schmidt)

The Curt von François memorial in front of the Municipality of Windhoek. (Photo: Wiebke Schmidt)