New book focuses on impact and role of Germans in Samoa

The family of respected Samoan businessman, pilot, politician and philanthropist the late Hans Joachim (Joe) Keil III gathered in Auckland over the weekend to celebrate and launch a special book.

The book, called Germans in Samoa: 1860-1914, by Kasia Renae Cook, gives an insight into the journey made by hundreds of men and women from Germany who travelled to Samoa from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

PMN News reports the book was commissioned by Keil who had dreamed of writing a book about his beloved Samoa and his German ancestry, as well as to share the stories of other Samoans who are of German descent.

Hundreds of people attended the launch at Auckland University’s Fale Pasifika, hot on the heels of the successful launch in Samoa just days before.

It was a family affair for the Keils as wife Celine and their children, Ronya “Violette”, Nerida Bella, Katrina and Nathan were present alongside Keil’s brothers and extended family. Their presence, ensuring that Keil’s wishes – he passed away in 2018 before the book was completed – were upheld.

Eldest daughter Ronya says the book holds special meaning for them all.

“When he had told us he had wanted to write this book his whole life, but because his time was cut short due to being diagnosed with cancer… and then we had Kaisa come into our lives at the right time, right place.

“We’ve had our family support us, encourage us, and love us through this whole process. But they come for my Dad because they knew that this was his dream and they all love my Dad,” shares Ronya.

Kasia, who first met Keil in 2016 when she was completing her PhD at Auckland University, says she is so happy to celebrate Joe and everything related to the project. The duo started on the book in 2018 but sadly Mr Keil passed away in August of that year.

“The Keil family and everything that I have experienced with them and with Joe and the trust that he had in me and the responsibility he gave to me and just carrying that forward…When Joe was alive he just treated people so well and he treated me so well, he made me feel special just being around him. I remember several times thinking that’s how I want to make people feel.”

Kasia says a lot of research was involved, going through old documents, newspaper archives, births, deaths and marriage notices, as well as personal histories. Germans In Samoa contains more than 775 individual histories, along with 132 women’s histories with 136 photos and images.

The researcher says she was heartened to hear the feedback while signing her book.

“I had a woman come up to me from the Peemüller line… because when we were writing the book I didn’t have a lot of information about the Peemüllers and wasn’t able to find too much about the descendants and she said ‘this is my family’, so I’m excited about the contributions that will come from the families to contribute to what is in the book right now.”

Another special guest at the launch was Germany’s Ambassador to New Zealand Nicole Mezenbach who took up the post six months ago. Ms Mezenbach says she looks forward to visiting Samoa in the future and is excited to be making connections with the Samoan community.

“There’s a lot of positive energy and you know relationships between countries are always relationships between people and when I look at this community I’m really confident and happy and grateful that we have these wonderful ties between Germany and Samoa.”

Ronya Keil says that connection is important and one they must continue.

“At some point in time between 1860-1914 so many of the descendants of this initial group of Germans are still living in Samoa today like me and my sisters. And the very special thing about this book is we have stories about our ancestors that we did not really know about.”

And she pays a special tribute to those who were brave and adventurous to travel across the world to come and live in Samoa.

“It’s very important to know where you come from… our ancestors make up part of us; they live in our souls. Some of the things we do that aren’t explained come from these amazing men and women and they’ve paved the way for us and we have to continue paving the way for our children and our next generation.”


Author Kasia Renae Cook with family of late Hans Joachim (Joe) Keil III. Photo: Germans in Samoa FB