More than 100 people attended a local history lecture given by a visiting German professor last Thursday evening at the American Memorial Park Theater.
During a 90-minute lecture, entitled "Micronesians and Germans: Old Ties, new perspectives,” Dr. Hermann Hiery provided the standing room only crowd a general overview of German colonial activities in the Pacific in the decades immediately preceding the First World War.
Dr. Hermann Hiery
Hiery noted that German colonial administrators, as a group, were well-educated and had primarily civilian rather than military backgrounds.
He contrasted them with German officials in Africa, noting that those who served in the Pacific tended to be more innovative and less rigid in their thinking.
Much of Hiery’s lecture focused on the German administration of the Northern Mariana Islands which ran from 1899 to 1914.
Hiery spent some time detailing the work of District Officer Georg Fritz who was responsible for running the colonial office on Saipan for the first seven years of German rule.
According to Hiery, Fritz routinely sought the advice of prominent Chamorro businessman Pedro Ada when drafting ordinances and policies that affected the local community.
He also revealed that Fritz arranged for Ada and his wife, Maria, to be granted German citizenship so that Ada could serve as a judge on the colonial court.
Fritz was also credited with promoting the indigenous languages and cultural values, and enacting ordnances intended to protect the islands’ natural environment.
German colonial rule came to an abrupt end following the seizure of the islands by Japanese naval forces at the start of World War I. A planned second lecture on this subject by Japanese scholar, Yuko Maezawa, was cancelled when Maezawa fell ill.
At the conclusion of the lecture, Hiery fielded questions from the audience which included a number of descendents of Pedro and Maria Ada.
Hiery is the Chair of the Department of Modern History at the University of Bayreuth in Germany and has authored a number academic articles and books on Germany’s colonial activities in the Pacific.
The lecture drew a full house.