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Karl Hanssen’s Memoirs of his Wartime Experiences in Samoa and New Zealand 1915–1916

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Edited By James Bade

Karl Hanssen’s memoirs provide an invaluable outsider’s view of life in New Zealand prisons and a unique perspective on German Samoa under New Zealand occupation. In October 1915, Hanssen, manager of the DHPG, a large German copra production company, was sent from Samoa to New Zealand to serve a six-month sentence imposed by a New Zealand military court for bypassing war censorship regulations. He served his sentence in a number of prisons in New Zealand, including two months in the high-security prison, Mt Eden.
Hanssen’s memoirs – in English translation and in the original German – are made available for the first time in this edition, which also features photos from his Samoan album and a comprehensive introduction by Bronwyn Chapman on the historical and political background.
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Bronwyn Chapman - The Historical and Political Background to Karl Hanssen’s Memoirs

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The Historical and Political Background to Karl Hanssen’s Memoirs

Bronwyn Chapman

1. Introductory Remarks1

At the end of October 1915, as the First World War raged on the battlefields of Europe, Karl Hanssen, manager of the Deutsche Handels- und Plantagengesellschaft (DHPG), a large copra production company, was on his way from Samoa to New Zealand aboard the SS Talune. Along with fourteen other Samoan Germans, he spent the fifteen-day journey in anticipation and uncertainty over what would greet him at his destination. Hanssen had visited New Zealand before on business trips, as a guest of the Union Steam Ship Company, but this time would be very different. Instead of being welcomed by business representatives, he expected to be taken immediately into military detention to serve a six-month sentence imposed by a military court in Samoa for bypassing censorship regulations. After the expiry of this sentence, he would be held indefinitely as a prisoner of war, until the termination of hostilities, which it was then hoped would not be far away.

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