23 October 1892 Emin Pasha murdered in Kinene, Congo Free State #otdimjh

Who was Emin Pasha?


Bernstein’s short note again calls for further investigation:

Emin, Pasha (Edward Carl Oscar Theodor Schnitzer), born at Oppeln, Prussian Silesia, in 1840; killed at Kinena Station, Congo Free State, October 23, 1892. When he was only six years old his parents had him baptized in the Protestant Church at Neisse. Whether this famous explorer remained a Christian or not is uncertain, but his parents must have either embraced Christianity before or at the time of his baptism.

Many of us have heard the name of Emin Pasha, the famous explorer, without realising that he was Jewish or a believer in Jesus. I did not know he was a distant relative of mine, but my relative Daniel Kester had made the genealogical connections here. The Hirschlands (see here ) were related to the Pappenheim and Bassevi families.

For our purposes, the nature and quality of his faith are open to question. He was baptized at the age of 6, along with his family, typical of the assimilation of Jews into wider society in the 19th century. Did he affirm his Jewish identity? Did he genuinely believe in Yeshua?  His Jewish birth, his irregular baptism, even his name, were a subjects of popular anti-Semitic jokes in Germany. ‘Emin Pascha (Passover)” cigarettes were popular and he was the talk of children in the streets. Everyone discussed his sensational exploits in Africa and whether he was truly Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or even properly German.

The Berliner Tageblatt (January 7, 1890) published a full report on his Jewish status, giving details of the family’s synagogue membership in Oppein. Some reports attacked him for being Jewish and the ‘frivolous nature of Jewish baptism’, others praised him for possessing the ‘administrative talents and diplomatic inclinations of the Jews’. He was accused of being an ‘ivory Jew’ by the anti-Semitic press, more a Muslim or a Jew than a German or a Christian. But his fame continued to rise. Had he lived to return to the growing anti-Semitism in Germany, who knows how he would have been received?

Prayer: Lord, only you know the secrets of our hearts, and what Emin Pasha truly believed. Thank you for his life of action and adventure, and the way it spoke to the imagination of so many. Thank you for his opposition to the slave trade, and the courage of his exploits. Yet he lived at a time where the effects of colonialism were not fully realised, and he was the victim of the popular prejudice against Jews of all faiths and none which would lead to the destructive inferno of the Holocaust. Father, forgive us, for the things we have done to one another. Forgives us our pride in ethnicity, our sense of superiority, our allowing of prejudice to become poisonous to others. May your world be a better place because of men and women like Isaak Scnitzer. May we too make a difference. In the name of Yeshua our Messiah. Amen.


Further study:

Christian s. Davis, Colonialism, Antisemitism, and Germans of Jewish Descent in Imperial Germany (USA: University of Michigan Press, 2012),147-162.

From Daniel Kester’s website: Possibly the oldest of Seligmann Pappenheim’s four sons, Simon Pappenheim had eleven children.  Their descendants are shown on this page. For an overview of the Pappenheim and Mühsam families, see THIS page.


One of Simon’s daughters, Margolis, married Josef Schnitzer.  Their grandson was Isaak Eduard Schnitzer, who went by Eduard Schnitzer and became known as Emin Pasha.  Born in Oppeln in 1840, he was well educated, getting an MD degree at the University in Berlin, and also had a high degree of interest in zoology and ornithology. At the age of 24 he headed to Turkey, where he worked as a doctor and was appointed as a medical officer in the town of Antivari, Albania (now Bar, Montenegro). While there he studied Turkish, Arabic, and Persian.  In 1875 he went to Cairo, and continued on to Khartoum in Sudan.  In Khartoum he took the name Mehemet Emin, started a medical practice, and collected plants, birds, and other animal specimens, which he sent to museums in Europe.


In 1876, Charles Gordon, the governor of the province of Equatoria, invited Schnitzer to be chief medical officer of the province. Equatoria was a province of Egypt (which was part of the Ottoman Empire), consisting of the southern portion of present-day Sudan, along the White Nile, plus most of present-day Uganda. In addition to his medical responsibilities, Gordon used Schnitzer for political and diplomatic missions. Schnitzer performed so well on these missions, partly due to his fluency in the African languages, that when Gordon was promoted to Governor of Sudan, Schnitzer was made Governor of Equatoria.  During this time he was given the title of Emin Pasha.  Both he and Gordon worked against the slave trade in Sudan, with good success.  The slave trade was run by a small number of Arab slave traders who also controlled much of the region, and the slave trade was the largest part of the Sudanese economy. Therefore the ending of the trade was very detrimental to the Sudanese economy overall.

In 1881 a rebellion led by Muhammed Ahmad, known as “The Mahdi,” began in the Sudan, with the goals of ending Egyptian and Turkish rule, and of making Sudan an Islamist state (sound familiar?).  The Mahdists, as they were called, had the support of various ethnic groups, plus the support of the Arab slave traders, who were hoping to return to power.  The Mahdists were quite successful, defeating the small number of British troops who were stationed there, and in 1885 they captured Khartoum, during which battle Gordon was killed.


Emin Pascha (Schnitzer) who was south of the area controlled by the Mahdists, was forced to retreat further south to Wadelai, near Lake Albert, between present-day Uganda and Congo.  There he was cut off from communication with the north, although he was able to communicate to the outside world via Zanzibar, on the Indian Ocean. His plight caught the attention of Europeans, and Henry Morton Stanley (of “Doctor Livingstone, I presume” fame) organized the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition to rescue him.  Stanley’s expedition went from the Atlantic coast of the Congo, up the Congo River and through the Ituri forest.  This was a difficult trip even when I did it a hundred years later, in 1981. Two thirds of the expedition members died en route. Stanley finally arrived in Wadelai in April 1888, to the surprise of Emin, who hadn’t realized that he needed to be rescued. Stanley spent a year there, with Emin insisting on staying in Equatoria, believing he was doing good and worthwhile work there.  The year included a three month period during which Emin was imprisoned by mutinying troops. Emin finally left with Stanley, but got injured in Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian coast, so needed to recover, and Stanley continued to Europe without him.  Stanley later wrote about his expedition in IN DARKEST AFRICA or the Quest, Rescue, and Retreat of Emin, Governor of Equatoria(published 1890).  This turned out to be the last of the great exploration expeditions in Africa.


After returning to health, Emin set out early in 1890 into the interior with the aim of securing territory for Germany. However, in mid-1880 Germany and England signed an agreement defining spheres of influence in Africa, making Emins trip unnecessary.  Emin continued on his expedition never-the-less, entering into the Congo and traveling through areas that had never before been visited by Europeans. Heading towards the Congo River, he reached Ipoto on the Ituri River, in a region controlled by Arab slave and ivory traders.  Apparently angry about Emin’s efforts against the slave trade, one of them had Emin Pasha murdered in the village of Kinene on October 23 or 24, 1892.

About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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