Sobtzick (1884 or 1885-1952) was the son of Franz
Sobtzick a wealthy chocolate factory owner from Ratibor in
Prussian Silesia (modern Raciborz in Poland). Walter
attended Breslau University but had to drop out of his
studies after fathering a child out of wedlock. To avoid the
family disgrace his father sent him to South West Africa
with enough money to set himself up as a farmer. There he
married had a son and built a farm.
There he also did his military
service as a one year volunteer in the Schutztruppe. He was decorated for bravery while taking horses to
water under fire during the Herero Rebellion and was wounded in the left
knee by an enemy arrow while serving with
the camel mounted 7. Feldkompangie in the Kalahari
Expedition of 1908 chasing the rebel leader, Simon
Kooper, into British Bechuanaland.
While in Africa,
Walter and his new family all caught malaria and his young
son tragically died. His marriage ended in divorce soon
after and Walter emigrated again this time to Regina,
Saskatchewan in Canada. Here it was hoped the climate would
be better for his recurring malaria but the weather was too
harsh for his new farm and his crops failed. When the First
World War broke out, as an enemy German citizen in Canada,
his firearms and lands were confiscated. After the war he
changed his nationality to Polish, as his place of birth was
now in Poland. With his new Polish passport he emigrated
again in 1919, this time to Rochester, New York in the
United States of America. Here he settled down, married
again and started a new family.
Rochester, he gave a series of public lectures on life in
German South West Africa. The notes from his lecture on the
Simon Kooper Expedition are shown below. His eye witness
account describes how the Africans lived off the land, life
on campaign with the Schutztruppe, combat with the Nama and
their poisoned arrows, the death of the expedition leader
Hauptmann Friedrich von Erckert and the machine gunning of
Nama survivors of the final battle in Bechuanaland.
Kind thanks to
Walter's grandson Paul Denk, for sharing these previously
unpublished documents with us.