The Bismarckstraße was named in 1871 after the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815 – 1898). Bismarck is still present in the collective memory as a European power politician of German unification. In addition, he must be considered as the co-initiator of German colonial policy. When serious colonial tensions arose between the major European powers of England, France, and Russia in 1883, Bismarck embarked on a more active colonial policy.
On November 15, 1884, the Congo Conference began in Berlin where representatives of 13 competing European states, including the United States and the Ottoman Empire, met at Bismarck’s invitation to discuss future action on the African continent. The participants agreed on February 26, 1885, on criteria under which colonial possessions should be recognized under international law. For Germany, this was the basis for the colonies in what are now Namibia, Cameroon, Togo, and parts of Ghana, as well as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. For the African population, bloody conflicts followed, such as the Maji-Maji War (1905 – 1907) and the genocide of the Herero and Nama (1904 – 1908).
In Berlin, four other streets bear the name Bismarck. According to the Berlin Street Names Act, the “elimination of multiple names” should be gradually enforced, so that now the Zehlendorf district council can debate a new street name there. Accordingly, it is appropriate to have this discussion in Berlin as a reminder of the division of Africa in the context of the Congo Conference and to honor those involved in the anti-colonial resistance.