The 'Deutscher Club' in Rangoon

Deutscher Club Rangun 1867-1894

Before WW I Germany was the second-most important trading partner for British Burma. Only the United Kingdom, the ‘mother country’ had more trade with her colony. As could be expected, rice was Burma’s most important export commodity. Shortly before the outbreak of the war nearly 400.000 metric tons of rice were exported to Germany, making up 13 % of Burma’s total exports to that country. Burma’s imports from Germany accounted for 7 % of her total imports. Germany exported mainly cotton goods like blankets and hosiery as well as machines, metal and hardware and foodstuffs etc. to Burma. German goods probably were attractive because of their low prices. This trade resulted in the establishment of regular shipping lines between Burma and Germany. Rangoon, of course, was the major destination for German ships but they also called at Akyab (Sittwe), Bassein and Moulmein. The capital of British Burma, however, remained the most important trading centre for German businessmen.

Deutscher Club Rangun, built in 1895

The constant presence of a greater number of German businessmen in Rangoon led to the establishment of a German Club (Limited Company) in 1867. The original building was extended in 1890 (according to some sources in 1895) and thus the German community in Rangoon had a representative building in the city center (Commissioner Road, today: Bogyoke Aung San Street) at their disposal. According to the Rangoon Real Estate Register the compound was registered in the name of ‘H. Barckhausen and others’ on 28.9.1867. It was built in the typical Burmese style (teak wood on a brick base). It has been preserved in its original form until today and resembles a medieval German castle, a style popular in Germany those days. The centre of the building consists of a two-storeyed hall with an octagonal layout. It is adorned by two towers to the left and right. Especially noteworthy is the impressive staircase that leads to the first floor. The Club was situated in spacious grounds and the garden was very popular for parties and social events. Today the garden is used for the cultivation of vegetables. During cyclone ‘Nargis’ in 2008 the building was partially damaged but has been repaired since then.

German culture in the Far East
In the ring - note painted Burmese audience in the back