Ohlmer, Ernst (1847 – 1927), Seezolldirektor

Ernst Ohlmer was born March 21 st 1847 in the village Betheln near the city of Hildesheim in Germany. His father was running a restaurant and later moved to the small town of Gronau, were Ernst grew up. As a boy he developed a strong interest in maritime topics and so after his school visit, where he had also learned foreign languages, he became a sailor on commercial ships and absolved many voyages to other continents. During one of those voyages his ship sank near the Chinese coast, he jumped into the sea and could hold fast on a wooden plank, the waves washed him ashore. He stayed in China and earned his money as a photographer and learned the Chinese language. Since May 1 st 1868, he was now 21 years old, he had an employment in the Chinese Maritime Customs. From 1870-72 he was positioned in Shanghai, and during that period wrote a memoir an the opium trade. Through this memoir he came to the attention of Robert Hart, the general inspector of the Chinese Maritime Customs from 1861 to 1911. Hart recognized, that Ohlmer was a talented young clerk and in August 1872 he called him to Peking as his private secretary. From 1872 till 1880 Ohlmer lived in Peking as the private secretary of Hart. During that period he collected a large amount of old Chinese porcelain. In 1880 he was on furlough in Germany, and after his return he served for the Chinese Maritime Customs in Canton. In 1885 he was again on a visit to Germany and married in Wiesbaden Louise von Hanneken, a sister of Constantin von Hanneken, who at that time served as military adviser to Li Hong-zhang. In 1887 Ohlmer was appointed customs director in Canton. From 1887 until 1898 he served as customs director in different cities: Pakhoi, Foshan, Peking, Macao and Jehang. After the Jiaozhou Leased Territory had been created by the treaty of March 6 th 1898 between China and Germany, Ohlmer was appointed customs director for Tsingtao, where he arrived in 1899. He built his own house inYüshan Road and served here until May 1914. In that month he was pensioned and returned to Germany, where he took residence in the city of Hildesheim. There he died on January 1 st 1927, nearly 80 years old. His large collection of Chinese porcelain he had given to the Roemer-Museum in Hildesheim, where nowadays a part of his collection is exhibited and can be seen by the visitors. A catalogue of his collection, with biography and photo was published in 1981 by Ulrich Wiesner with the title: “Chinesisches Porzellan. Die Ohlmer’sche Sammlung im Roemer-Museum, Hildesheim.” Mainz 1981. This book has a photo of Ohlmer. In the museum stands a bust of Ohlmer.

There is no direct blood relationship to the customs director Gustav Detring. Detring’s son-in-law was Constantin von Hanneken, who served as military adviser to Li Hong-zhang from 1879 till 1887 and from 1894-95. Ernst Ohlmer married on Dec. 29 th 1885 in Wiesbaden/Germany Luise von Hanneken, a sister of Constantin von Hanneken. She was born in Aachen Nov. 11 th 1856 as daughter of Generallieutenant Hermann von Hanneken und Julie, née von Hanneken. Luise’s parents had 10 children. The Ohlmer couple had no children. Mrs. Luise Ohlmer died on January 9 th 1935 in Hildesheim.
Ohlmer has published 2 booklets.
The first has the title: “Stand und Aufgabe der deutschen Industrie in Ostasien. Ein Weck- und Mahnruf an dieselbe.” Hildesheim 1905, 22 Seiten.
The second: „Tsingtau, sein Handel und sein Zoll-System. Ein Rückblick auf die Entwickelung des Deutschen Schutzgebietes Kiautschou und seines Hinterlandes in dem Jahrzehnt von 1902-1911“. Tsingtau 1913, 41 Seiten.

(This text was compiled by Wilhelm Matzat)