Trade fairs for colonial and tropical technologies

Former trade fair grounds, Prager Straße 119

Kolonialmesse 1939

During National Socialist times colonial revisionist ideology was widespread, conveyed amongst others through the trade fairs for colonial and tropical technologies (here in 1939).

As a »window to the world« the Leipzig trade fair has throughout its history always reflected the political spirit of the times. Accordingly, colonial trade fairs took place on the fair grounds at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in 1937 and 1939. Colonial revisionist thought was widespread.

On this fair the German industries and research establishment presented the newest developments in the area of tropical technologies, regardless of the fact that the German empire at this time did possess neither tropical nor any other colonies. Colonial propaganda was omnipresent on the trade fair: next to implicit propaganda there were stalls by the Reichskolonial-Bundes and the Kolonialzeitung. The head of the colonial-political department General Knight von Epp wrote 1937 in the »Völkischen Beobachter«:

»When Germany proves its colonial capacities over and over through its accomplishments in the colonial economic field, the allegation of colonial incompetence is refuted by itself. The colonial fair thus outgrows its primary aim by demonstrating not only at home and abroad the excellence of German colonial technologies but also the profound wish to apply these technologies in its own territories and for the benefit of the homeland.«(1)

Likewise, colonial and tropical technologies were shown on the regular trade fairs in autumn, which at that time were spread throughout the entire city. Amongst the articles presented there, there were things on offer for the colonisers (»tropical garments«, »tropical car repair kits«, »hunting and sporting riffles«, »tropic-resistant colouring pencils«) as well as articles for those colonised (»short trousers for [N*]«, »cheap blankets for indigenous«, »loincloths«, »plantation knives«).

The example of the Leipzig trade fair illustrates the societal signifance of German colonialism. Even beyond the time that the German empire in effect possessed colonies, colonial propaganda was actively pursued and the normality of colonial structures affirmed.

  • (1) Völkischer Beobachter, 27.02.1937.


For National Socialist ideologues, the advancements in the field of tropical technology refuted the claim of the »colonial incompetence« of Germany.



Colonial propaganda was omnipresent on the trade fairs – for example in the form of the Deutsche Kolonialzeitung (German colonial newspaper).



The pursuit of regaining the German colonies blended in well with the National Socialist ideology of a »Volk ohne Raum« (people without a land) and was propagated on the trade fairs.