Tag Archives: German children

Growing up in German speaking Europe

Hey everybody and welcome back!

In my previous blog I announced to describe the everyday racism in Germany and how it led to the current state of mind of Black people in Germany and so now I’ll try to.

Many Black people in Germany live very isolated lives, or are organized into smaller local, mostly African, communities. In comparison to for example the USA or the UK, Black people here seldom live in segregated groups. This has advantages, but also disadvantages. The advantage is probably, that many of us had at least theoretically the same access to white structures at the latest after 1945. But this does not change the fact, that we experienced and experience to this day massive racist discrimination in public institutions. But in comparison to for example South Africa or the USA the access to those structures were not prohibited by law. This means as a Black person most German institutions were not trained in the same excessive way to keep Black people away from the public life or education. This is an advantage. The only exception are Germany’s immigration laws and the police. It is not enough that the police harasses Black people in Germany in general but with the immigration laws Germany has, it’s police practically have permission to mistreat African refugees as much as they want in “the name of the law”. Black African refugees are the group of Black people, who experience the most intentional racism from all institutions as well as from the average mostly white citizens. The government does everything to deport them – throwing the most vulnerable of us out of the country and once again keeping Black lives away from Germany.

As Black children in Germany the greatest problems we had growing up in mostly white areas were, that we often lived very isolated lives and had nobody to exchange our experiences with . Many Black people here don’t know that they are Black. Sisters,* and brothers from the US or the UK ask us how one could not know, that one is Black? Because you have nobody to exchange your experience with . For many of our people don’t know that their experiences of discrimination are not individual but are instead collective, institutionalized and global. And of course white people try to talk them out of such truths instead of sharing Black knowledge. Most of us (sometimes including myself) are still struggling to understand, that racism is not predominantly about color but much more about power. Also many of our people still believe, that racism works both ways including “reverse racism”. They define themselves with racist slurs or prefer to not recognize the fact, that race matters. It is widely believed by every person in Germany, that racism only happens in the USA – as if the cities of Hamburg and Bremen did not get incredibly rich from colonialism and much of Berlin’s museum culture did not only exists because of the stolen art during colonialism. AS if the German state of Brandenburg was not once one of the most frequented trading places for enslaved Africans and like the ministry of justice of Germany is not on a street, which has the racist name “Mohrenstrasse” – street of the moors while “Mohr” is a German slur for Black people. This is by the way also why some of us growing up in Germany get a stomach ache when we see Black Americans speaking of the glorious empire of the “moors”. The similar sounding word “Mohr” is probably best translated into “Coon” for Americans.

Germany does not want to see racism and denies its very existence to the fullest. Even when isolated Black children between the age of 8 and 10 try to commit suicide because of the racist bullying at school the teachers rather try to help play the tragedy down. The parents, weather they’re Black or white, for the most part don’t know how to deal with the situation since only in bigger cities do you have even a tiny handful of Black people to exchange with. You don’t have to be neurodiverse to get into psychological extreme situations as a Black individual in Germany. Whenever racism happens the county always tries to reduce it to “a single tragic incident,” denying that those “single incidents” are the everyday life for each of us.

… when I told my white mother for the first time that I didn’t want to live anymore when I was about 11 or 12 she was very alarmed and sent me to a (white) therapist. It was a good decision. Though it didn’t really change my feelings at least I felt as if I was taken serious. I think it was my mother’s intervention, that prevented me from seriously thinking about ending my life. I know I didn’t say that to gain attention, but rather to say how I honestly felt and her reaction was right on a very basic level. And I didn’t really know why I felt like I felt. As a person with an ADHD and Aspergers it is easy for me to feel, but much more complicated to put these feelings in an order or to really know which feeling came from which situation. I just knew the school played a major role in the way I felt.

Compared to many sisters,* and brothers I had a lot of material luxury. But even with this I had and still have no words for the bullying I experienced at school, no words for the terror my soul was running from at school but also in my mind and in my dreams. In some of my dreams I got haunted by zombies in a post apocalyptic world being totally on my own. In my case they didn’t call me racist slurs at my school in Switzerland – at least not in primary school. They were “just bullying”. In comparison to sisters,* and brothers in east Germany I was lucky I didn’t get chased through the streets by a mob. Switzerland was too rich for its citizens to carry that much frustration in themselves so they’d unleash all of it on me in comparison to East Germany. Also nobody told me that they’d love to see me dead or that I am a n***** – at least not in prime school. But even if they didn’t voice it in so many words my time as a Black child in primary school was horrible. There was one white boy (I’d call him a sociopath ), who was intelligent and knew it. His intelligence made him much worse than the openly racist but stupid idiots I faced at secondary school. He barely used racist slurs but managed turned half of the class and many young people of our tiny village against me. He was sensitive and got bullied too when he was younger. But when he became older he was the bully and he knew how to do it. He recently tried to add me on Facebook. When I saw it I asked myself how small one can still to be? – petty and pathetic **********! It is like in every system of oppression: The oppressor needs the oppressed to be in his life, to maintain his unjust status of power, while the oppressed can live perfectly without the oppressor, and would find greater joy in life without them. I decided to live without his smile emoticon.

When I came in secondary school the words became more obvious and it became more clear what the bullying was all (or very much) about. The word n****** ( or the German colonial equivalent word “Neger”) became part of my everyday life. There I was one of two Blacks at the entire much larger school. But the white people there using these slurs were stupid so I could fight back – something I usually don’t do because I’m highly sensitive and a horribly bad fighter, though I’m very tall and I work out. People with autism or also ADHD will understand me. I tried so many martial arts but they’re useless when your much more likely to start crying because you’re so overwhelmed by impressions of violent emotions instead of remembering what you’ve learned. Starting to cry is a no go for a Black man in the province, who “has to be strong and male”. But at secondary school many white boys, who bullied me were so dull, that I could simply hit some of them and run away before they could fight back. In secondary school white boys had fun comparing me with shit. This is why I believe the American slur “piece of shit” comes from slavery and is a racist one, but that’s just my outside perspective. They also constantly made the gesture of whipping me as a parallel to the whipping during slavery. When I think back, I think I should have hit them much harder!

I haven’t spoken about this with anyone. I have not even my therapist about my childhood. I feel right now, that it might be time but I simply don’t know if I want to unfold my childhood in front of white therapist. In Berlin – a city with nearly 4 million people living in it, I know only about 4 psychologists, of which 2 are working as therapist. It is not easy to acknowledge, that you might have had a hard childhood, while on the meantime you grew up in the safest and wealthiest country on earth in a upper middle-class family. But I have to acknowledge it. Otherwise I’ll never heal.

I processed much of my experiences in the wars my toys were leading – desperate wars of defense against an always unknown and terribly supreme enemy, while most other children were building peaceful cities, drew pictures of animals or played soccer outside. I stayed inside my room and played wars – my everyday inner and outer wars. When I look back I think my toys were probably defending themselves and therefore simply did what I couldn’t in school. And the enemy was always unknown because I had no real words for my experiences and sometimes still don’t have them today. I didn’t understand how the other children were connected through their whiteness and their neurotypic being. Some Black people can channel the everyday aggression they experience in sport but when you have an ADHD/Aspergers intersectionality every ball becomes a terribly complicated object in your hands and between your legs.

If I had to summarize the experience of Black people in Germany in one word I’d choose “isolation”. And if I had to summarize the experience of Black ADHD/Aspie people in Germany in 2 words then I’d choose “TOTAL isolation”.

Me being Black and becoming conscious in all white Germany, while at the same time being neurodiverse in such a childhood needed much time, much self love, a lot of patience from many of the beloved Black people around me. The willingness to face the history from a Black perspective, to my past and current traumas and a thirst to understand, and to BE and STAY Black aware in Germany means for me to acknowledge, that as soon as I leave my flat I’m in a battle zone , a battlefield – post apocalyptic world. Like in my dreams. In a post apocalyptic world, post colonial, but also post world war two, I find myself in as soon as I leave my flat , leading desperate wars of self defense while being surrounded by zombies – brain dead creatures trying to invade my beautiful Black body and my beautiful Black hair. They’re hungry for my Black flesh, to eat my body, to infect me with their colonialism and their Nazi race theories, to turn me in one of them: Brain dead (without memory and Black perspective and Black knowledge) and lifeless. This is, what my reality feels like being a Black man in Germany.

But I didn’t come so far to loose myself in self pity or grief! I did not sharpen my eye to all the dangers around me, acknowledging in what colonial world I am living in to spend my life in frustration. I’ve cultivated my Black neurodiverse self love far too well for that . Since I see the danger and the challenges I don’t just want to continue the bare survival. I want to live, to build and create, to love and to fight – to honor all our fellow sisters,* and brothers, who fought before me and to leave all sisters,* and brothers coming after me a better world to live in. Also for this I write, I speak, I think and I dream!

By Noah Hofmann


A Story of Black People in Germany

Hello and welcome to my second blog post!

In this blog I want to briefly summarize the history of the Black German movement from my perspective. I think it is important to understand the current situation and the current state (of mind) of Black people in Germany. For more detailed information about the history I also want to refer to the other great blogs on the “Arriving in the future” website, which greatly describe and summarize many chapters of Black history in Germany.

We’ve always been a part of this country, and sometimes even a significant one. Until now we know, that the earliest mentions of Black people in Germany were Saint Maurice and his Theban legion, which were Black Egyptians around 200 ad. If you ask me I personally believe the common picture of Christian saints with a golden halo around their heads standing on a mountain is the sun shining through the Black African hair and the white Celts and Germans saw the sun shining through our hair, because they had to look up and they had to look up because we sat on moving gray mountains – elephants, when people like Hannibal or earlier African queens,* and kings rode through the European mountains. But these are so far only my personal conclusions.

We make a little jump until the 18th century, where the enslavement and colonialism were going on. The German state Brandenburg was one of the most significant trading place for enslaved Black people in whole Europe but nowadays nobody knows about it. Why this is the case I’ll explain later. The German philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo was an enslaved African himself. As a child he was sent as a gift to a German aristocrat in the 1700’s, who decided to see how far a (insert colonial slur for Black people) could make his way in the German education system. Amo got two PhD’s, became a lecturer at a German university and wrote wonderful texts that shattered the capitalistic system down to its foundations, which was responsible for the enslavement and colonialism. But after his death Germany did, what it did best since colonialism and still does best until today: It burned his works and made Black German work, history and people invisible.

Before World War I Germany committed the first genocide in the twentieth century by killing between ten thousands if not hundred thousands of the people of the Herero and Nama tribes in Namibia. Briefly summarized, millions of Africans died of the direct or indirect influence of German colonialism. Germans often try to claim, that their ruling was not that bad because they themselves “only” shot hundreds of thousands out of a few millions of Africans, while the British and the French killed dozens of millions. But the German invaders manifested the already existing hierarchy between the Tutsi and the Hutu – a hierarchy, that already existed before, but never had this incredible tension and hate in it until both people experienced the German oppression. The genocide of the Tutsi was, if you ask me, an aftershock, which would have never been possible without the huge trauma of colonialism. But all of this happened in Africa, not in Germany and therefore it was much easier for Germans at home to deny their history.

During World War I Black French soldiers were stationed in Europe and had children with white German women. These kids were the so-called “Rheinland bastards”. The Rheinland was the German region, where these kids were born. But Germany eradicated this evidence of Black people and Black history too according to its race theories and because they believed their white race would not be upgraded but made more impure through the existence of mixed race children. Most of these children were sterilized by force when they were still young and/or were killed as adults during the Nazi regime. There is a wonderful project from Mokoari street productions where they’re shooting a film right now about these children. The film itself is called “Rheinland” and is made by predominantly Black filmmakers! So even today we ourselves are still the ones who have to arduously uncover our own history.

During the Nazi time many Black people in Germany were killed or imprisoned in the concentration camps. Only a few people like Gert Schramm (judge), Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi (later and in the magazine “Ebony” in the U.S. ) or Theodor Wonja Michael (actor) survived the horror and later wrote books about their lives in Nazi Germany. Germany mentions Jews, Sinti, Roma and homosexuals as victims of their crimes – but until today it never mentions Black people. We were invisible then and are kept invisible until today.

During the 80’s tiny groups of Black people all over Germany started to form and organize. I can only assume that the U.S. civil rights movements had also activated Black people in Germany. During this time Audre Lorde came to Berlin and spoke with Black German women. She gave us THE initiating kick and is also the reason the core of the small Black German movement always consists and consisted of feminist, academic and modern thinking Black women and not patriarch Black men. Through Lorde’s encouragement and influence two young Black German women Katharina Oguntoye and May Ayim wrote one of the first and most important Black literary milestones in Black German history – the book “Showing our colors: Afro-German women speak out (1986)”.

Also at this time the “ISD – Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland” (Initiative of Black people in Germany) was founded, which by the way celebrate its 30th birthday this year! The organization “Adefra” (Black women in Germany) was also founded at this time. These initiatives did and still do until today again and again continue the work of making us visible and giving us a voice. A project, which incorporates this idea really well is the exhibition “Homestory Deutschland”. It was launched 10 years ago and still travels through the world and shows beautiful portraits of Black people in Germany who have lived and/or still live in Germany together with short and wonderfully biographies.

So when I speak of Black people making themselves visible, many people am I speaking of? We don’t know, since Germany still doesn’t talk about race, but it is estimated we’re roughly about 1 Million out of around 83 million people living in Germany. I think the fact that we still are so few in number adds to the fight for our rights and our recognition.

But brave as we Black people are all over the world, in the last decade we have become LOOOUUDEEER! Which is a wonderful thing.

In my next blog I will try describe the everyday racism one faces as a Black person in Germany and will try to describe common states of minds of Black people in Germany. I will also articulate a little bit more from my neurodiverse perspective. Thanks for reading this post and I would love to welcome you on my next one.

By Noah Hofmann



Hello and feel warmly welcomed to my blog

Who am I? I am a Black German in his early 30’s living in Berlin. To be more exact: I am a light skinned queer but until now mostly straight performing feminist cis-man – and I am neurodiverse. Being neurodiverse means, that I am blessed with in my case even two mental dispositions that are unluckily marked as illnesses by society. I am a highly sensitive Asperger autist having an ADHD on the meantime. While both dispositions are not that strongly distinct, their presence in society creates an interesting and challenging intersectional reality I don’t want to exclude from future blog posts. Concerning my exterior: I don’t challenge the Eurocentric beauty ideal by having the privileges of being thin, tall and by trying to work out my body, but I do it by being Black and wearing my natural curly hair, which since winter 2011 has become quite a big kinky (I call it ) crown. By having a face, that rather matches Eurocentric beauty I often got asked in the past whether I have been in the tanner for very long since I have some tan, but people didn’t immediately associate my parents with East Africa, from which one of my two fathers is. But since I have my hair all questions concerning my tan seem to be answered.

Why do I describe myself this meticulously? Because I think every single feature makes a difference in the experiences one makes in (German) society.

I was born and raised in Switzerland in a privileged, complicated but very loving, all white upper middle-class German family; which is probably the main reason, why an actually more or less average (or slightly over the average) intelligent Black man with an ADHD and Aspergers autism is not dead, in jail or homeless but can reflect about racism and about being Black and neurodiverse in Germany.

I also speak as someone coming from a specific group of Black Germans, sharing the circumstance, that many of our fathers are African academics or US GIs, who came to Germany, got together with white German women and often went back to Africa or the US afterwards for various reasons (I can only assume, that visas ran out, they didn’t find a job for racist reasons, couldn’t take the amount of racism in general, some probably didn’t plan to stay anyway and I’m sure some were simply scared from becoming a father). So many of us grew up without any Black parents in all white environments. In later blog posts I will get more detailed about this experience. Though Blacks like me are a significant percentage inside the tiny Black community in Germany I though don’t believe we’re the majority. But I can only guess, since I don’t even know how many of us, Black people in Germany, there are. This is because there are no statistics. Because of Germany’s colonial history Blacks were kept as silent and as invisible as possible for centuries, though some of us have been writing and creating art for centuries and blogging for decades.

As our existence was and partly still is denied so to is the language for our reality. We don’t even have a working word that is used like the English term ‘race’ in German, because the translation of ‘race’ is the same word for ‘breed’ in German. This is one of the reasons why many Black Germans including me reject the term mixed race or race in general: Nobody wants to be associated with a certain ‘breed’. I simply define myself as a Black person and in matters of shade I describe myself as (still) light skinned while recognizing the privileges connected with it. I also mostly speak and exchange with Black people from the US or the UK, so if I try to take a distance from Germany and reflect about things in the German context I will be mostly comparing the situations with the US or the UK, but I’m looking forward to get more especially non western perspectives!

This is roughly who I AM and how I’m positioned in the hierarchies of race, class , gender, disability and body. And what I WANT in this blog is to articulate my Black German reality, share my neurodiverse perspective while being another Black voice breaking the silence inside and outside of Germany. I want to continue the work of my predecessors analyzing racist realities, showing opportunities of empowerment and maybe even generating tiny pieces of knowledge

You’re most invited to join me on this journey!

The Black Experience in Nazi Germany

At the height of the Jazz Age in the 1920s it is estimated that roughly 20,000 – 25,000 Black individuals of African, Afro German, or Afro-Diasporic descent were living in Germany.[i] However, with the rise of National Socialism what little racial acceptance Germany had had would disintegrate.

On January 30, 1933 Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor of Germany, and celebrated with a torch-lit rally where thousands of SA, SS and Stahlhelm[1] formations marched through the Brandenburg Gates saluting their newly appointed leader.

The central focus of Hitler’s racial obsessions would be Germany’s Jews, but they were by no means alone. All other “non-Aryan” people were equally in his sights, and would be subjected to laws and regulations concerned with racial hygiene, including the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. Germany’s estimated twenty-thousand-strong Black German community was in particular a thorn in the Nazi’s eye, and bizarrely linked in Hitler’s mind to the Jews. Years earlier in Mein Kampf he had already written that, “Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland, with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate.”[ii] Now they, along with millions of others, would be subjected to his rule.

As thousands of drunken SA, SS and Stahlhelm men marched beneath the torch-lit figure of their leader on that January 30th, life, which for many Afro-Germans had previously been lived in isolation, became life lived in isolation and fear. The Afro-German Erika Ngambi ul Kuo, an eye-witness growing up in Nazi Germany,[2] recounted about looking for a training position in the late 1930s, “I heard at every turn: ‘What, you want to work for us! We only hire “Aryans”’ … One good friend who I had been close to dropped me like a hot potato. Later, in Berlin people spat on us in the street and taunted us with ‘bastard,’ and ‘mulatto.’ It was awful.”[iii]

In the 1940s the SS took over independent preexisting Black establishments and performance groups to present a primitive image of Africa and to subvert them into vehicles of Nazi political propaganda confirming their own racial stereotypes.[3] During the course of the war many performers from such shows would simply disappear, or were deported to concentration camps.[iv] But it was not just Black individuals in the theatrical and live performance world who were used to promote Nazi agendas. Not long after the Nazi seizure of power Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels began exploiting the German feature film industry, the most popular entertainment medium of the time, to spread the Nazi gospel of Aryan supremacy.

As a young extra used by the Nazis, Werner Egiomue, describes in an interview, “they had an agent. He knew all the blacks in Berlin. He had all of their addresses. The Cultural Department contacted him when they were casting a film. They’d say we need six blacks, or four Chinese, three Japanese. All were available in Berlin. Then we’d play the natives in films like ‘Congo Express’, ‘Quax in Africa’ or ‘Auntie Wanda from Uganda.’”[v]

Through such films Black extras and actors were able to network and connect with one another. The film studios also provided some level of protection from the full brutality of the Nazi regime. Others were not as fortunate.

As narrated by James Earl Jones in the documentary Black Survivors of the Holocaust,

“Between 1939 and 1945 an estimated 200 thousand black troops recruited from France’s African colonies were serving in the European theater of war. The Africans were especially loathed by the SS because of the history of the Rhineland occupation. In many POW camps the Nazis segregated the Black prisoners of war from the rest of the camp’s population. Often, in what was a breach of their rights under the Geneva Convention, Black prisoners were denied food and given dangerous jobs…Black civilians in Germany’s concentration camps received much harsher treatment at the hands of their SS guards. No one knows how many Black soldiers and civilians perished in [Germany’s POW and Concentration] camps.”[vi]

The French African soldiers were not alone, they would be joined by thousands of African American and colonial Black British soldiers. The Nazis however were notoriously inconsistent in how they dealt with the Black soldiers they captured in combat. There is evidence[4] of colonial and African American soldiers and Air Force personnel being summarily killed and mutilated across the European theater of war in complete disregard and abuse of their rights as POWs under the Geneva Conventions.[vii]

There are equally many accounts of Black civilian victims sent to work as slave labor in concentration camps and being deported directly to death camps. These stories include the eye witness accounts of Gert Schramm, a Black German survivor who was sent as a young boy to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and also that of his African American father Jack Brankson, who was deported to Auschwitz in 1941 and was never heard from again.

As Paul Gilroy writes in Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line,

“Baker, Fanon, and Senghor are probably the best known of many blacks who opposed fascism in battle and in the resistance. There are other, little-known and largely unremembered people who joined the opposition to Hitler, passed their lives in camps and detention centers of various kinds, or who survived quietly and retreated back into the strange ambiguities of their existence as black Europeans. Among those who should be brought to mind here are Hilarius “Lari” Gilges, who was beaten to death by Nazis in Dusseldorf in 1933 and is one of the few black victims of Hitler to have a public memorial of any kind. The Belgian activist Johnny Voste was a member of the resistance movement. He was arrested in 1942 and not only survived Dachau but helped some of his comrades to do so as well. Another was Johnny William, a Frenchman originally from the Ivory Coast who was deported to the Neuengamme camp complex near Hamburg…”[viii]

In an interview Johnny William later described his deportation to the Neuengamme concentration camp, one of the harshest camps in Northern Germany.

“The journey [there] was apocalyptic, horrific. 120 of us packed in a single cattle car. Imagine all of those people locked up together for four or five days and nights, with no air to breathe and hardly any food. We had to relieve ourselves in there too. By the time we arrived some people were dead … in the Neuengamme camp there were 5 or 6 of us [Black prisoners]. As soon as we arrived, the SS separated us from the others. We didn’t know what to expect so we were scared. We thought we would be killed there and then. Then to our great surprise when the SS arrived they inspected us, touched us, and said ‘Ah, blacks…good.’ They had a good laugh at us because they considered us to be sub-human, like animals, chimpanzees…”[ix]

During the Nazi period many Afro Germans also escaped, fleeing the nation, while others stayed aided by friends, relatives, and their own sheer inventiveness. Good examples of survival would include the Afro-German Hans J. Massaquoi, and the Michael family.[5]

Massaquoi not only survived years of Nazi persecution, and the American and British bombings of Hamburg, but would later immigrate to the USA, becoming a journalist, author, and the managing editor of the Black publication Ebony magazine in the US. In 1999 he published his autobiography titled Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany.[6]

The father of the Michael family, Theophilus Wonja Michael, was born in Cameroon and migrated to Berlin in 1894 where he started a family with his white German wife. Four children were born from this union, James, Juliana, Christiana and Theodor. After the death of their mother in 1926, and then the passing of their father in 1934, the children were left to fend for themselves and escape the Nazi regime of terror. Theodor found work in the Berlin film industry and after the war would go on to become one of Germany’s oldest and most distinguished character actors. While Theodor remained in Berlin his surviving siblings gained employment in a variety of traveling circuses, as these provided some protection from coming into close contact and conflict with the Nazi government.Through the nature of this work, and the need for anonymity, the siblings eventually became separated and only decades later would again be reunited in the 1960s in Cologne. And even after all of that time one brother, James, recalled one of the worst moments of his life:

“We were in Paris and had just pulled down the circus tent. My passport had just run out, so I went to the German consulate to have it renewed. I went in and said: ‘Good morning.’ It was early in the morning when I entered. They told me, ‘Here we don’t say, “Good morning”, we say, “Heil Hitler!”’ Had I again done something wrong? So, good, as I didn’t have any other choice, I also said, ‘Heil Hitler.’ ‘What do you want?’ the clerk demanded. ‘To renew my passport,’ I answered. ‘Your passport!’ he said. ‘What are you, are you German?’ ‘Yes, here is my passport,’ I answered. He examined it. ‘Born in Berlin on the October 2, 1916 and so on and so forth.’ Then he took my passport and went away with it. A quarter of an hour or more went by before he returned – but without my passport. I said, ‘I thought you were going to give my passport back to me.’ He said, ‘No, we are going to keep your passport. You are no longer German. Black Germans do not exist.’[x]

Recommended Reading:

9780415932950Hitler’s Black Victims by Clarence Lusane: Drawing on interviews with the black survivors of Nazi concentration camps and archival research in North America, Europe, and Africa, this book documents and analyzes the meaning of Nazisms racial policies towards people of African descent, specifically those born in Germany, England, France, the United States, and Africa, and the impact of that legacy on contemporary race relations in Germany, and more generally, in Europe. The book also specifically addresses the concerns of those surviving Afro-Germans who were victims of Nazism, but have not generally been included in or benefited from the compensation agreements that have been developed in recent years.

Notes and Sources:

[1] “Steel Helmet, League of Frontline Soldiers”, one of the many paramilitary organizations that arose after the German defeat of World War I.

[2] Her story was published by May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye in Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out.

[3] A good example of this would be the Hillerkus African Show founded by Julietta Tipner and Adolf Hillerkus

[4] The evidence was first drawn up in a collection of material from postwar investigators into war crimes by Robert W. Kesting, an archivist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

[5] For more on the subject of Black experience in Nazi Germany please read: Schwarz und Deutsch, by Theodor Wonja Michael; Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, by Hans J. Massaquoi; Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich, by Tina Campt; The Black Military Experience in Germany, by Monroe H. Little Jr.; Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line, by Paul Gilroy; “African Germans in the Third Reich” by Susann Samples, published in The African-German Experience, edited by Aisha Carol Blackshire-Belay; Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historical Experience of Afro-Germans, European Blacks, Africans, and African Americans in the Nazi Era, by Charles Lusane; Black Europe and the African Diaspora, edited by Darlene Clark Hine, Trica Danielle Keaton, Stephen Small; and Rewriting the footnotes : Berlin and the African diaspora, by Paulette Reed-Anderson.

[6] Hans Massaquoi sadly passed away on January 19, 2013.

[i] Sources: Chiponda Chimbelu, “The fate of blacks in Nazi Germany“. Deutsche Welle. 10.01.2010. Retrieved 9 November 2011. Anne Frank Guide, Black people in Nazi Germany.

Afrodeutsche – Black Germans, <http://german.about.com/od/culture/a/blackhistger.htm>

[ii] Hitler, Adolf, Mein Kampf (translated by James Murphy, February, 1939) Vol. I, Chapter XI (A Project Gutenberg of Australia)

[iii] Ayim, May, Katharina Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak out. Trans. Anne V. Adams. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1992. 56-76. Print.

[iv] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[v] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[vi] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[vii] Gilroy, Paul, Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line. Belknap Press, October 2, 2001. 303. Print.

[viii] Gilroy, Paul, Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line. Belknap Press, October 2, 2001. 302. Print.


[ix] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[x] Sources: Africa in Europe: Studies in Transnational Practice in the Long Twentieth Century (Liverpool University Press – Migrations and Identities Edited by Eve Rosenhaft and Robbie Aitken Pp 244, Reed Anderson, Berlin and the African Diaspora, p. 80. Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


Rhineland Children

Rhineland Children

Germany’s brief colonial period saw an increase in the community of Africans and Afro Germans in Germany. Many Black Germans were also descendants of Black Askari troops recruited from Germany’s former colonies. Thousands of these men had fought and died for Kaiser Wilhelm during the First World War in Germany’s East African campaign.[i]

Living within a self proclaimed “white” society with a history of misunderstanding, mistreating, and misrepresenting “People of Color,” life was never easy. This was especially so since much of the Colonial German literature at that time depicted Africa and its people in a negative light. The sexuality of African women and men was often described in white colonial literature in base, animalistic ways. In the 1800’s there were even exotic exhibitions of live human zoos[1] where African individuals[2] were displayed in recreated African villages within regular zoos and toured through major European metropolises including Hamburg and Berlin.[ii]

The end of the First World War and the occupation of the Rhineland by French soldiers, including many Afro French soldiers, resulted in the birth of another generation Afro German children that were often referred to within German society by degrading terms such as Besatzungskinder “War Babies” or Rheinlandbastard “Rhineland Bastard.”[iii] For white German nationalists the occupation and policing of the former German colonizer by Black African solders was the final humiliation.

The children of these “interracial”[3] unions, unlike the offspring of white occupying solders, stood as living breathing proof of this shame. Monroe H. Little Jr. reports in The Black Military Experience in Germany that despite the citizenship of their German mothers, these Afro German children were treated like foreign outsiders by fellow Germans and the German government alike.[4]

As narrated in Black Survivors of the Holocaust, “Shortly after Hitler’s election, the Nazis organized medical teams to develop a sterilization program to eliminate future generations of those considered racially unfit to reproduce. Most of the victims were those with physical and mental disabilities. But also those targeted were mixed race children growing up in Germany’s Rhineland.”[iv]

The sterilization program was led by one of the leading Nazi geneticists, Dr. Eugen Fisher. The parents or guardians of young Afro German children on the cusp of puberty were ordered to deliver them to their local Department of Racial and Hereditary Welfare. There they would be examined and measured (their skulls, eyebrows, eye color, noses, all carefully recorded), after which the children were condemned to undergo sterilization surgery with or without full anesthesia.

The program began in 1937 and by the end almost half of all the Black German Rhineland children, estimated roughly between 400 – 500, had been sterilized by the Nazi doctors.[v] Amazingly, degradingly, even after they had received an official sterilization certificate from the local Gestapo headquarters, these children were still required to sign a paper agreeing never to marry or have sexual relations with people of German or even half-German blood.[vi] As they themselves were half German by such a law they were not even allowed to marry one another. An additional 200 would disappear over the course of the war.[vii]

[1] An article that I really appreciated on the subject of Ethnographic zoos and the exhibition of Black bodies and the white gaze was Obioma Nnaemeka’s ‘Bodies that Don’t Matter: Black Bodies and the European Gaze’, published in Mythen, Masken und Subjekte: Kritische Weißseinsforschung in Deutschland, edited by Maureen Maisha Eggers, Grada Kilomba, Peggy Piesche, and Susan Arndt.

[2] The most famous African individual to be exhibited in Europe was Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman born in South Africa in 1789. Sold and shipped to Europe in the 19th-century she was exhibited as a “wild or savage female” in freak show attractions under the name “Hottentot Venus”. Her exhibition in London shortly after the passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 caused an abolitionist scandal. A campaign was conducted for her release in London, but she continued to be displayed across Europe until her death. Visually her exhibition and scientific examination were used to amplify and reinforced racist ideologies of the day. Drawings and cartoons of her were often exaggerated to highlight how far her features strayed from the perceived “norm” of the Caucasian female. Her remains were finally returned to South Africa in 2002.

[3] Here race is used as a socio-political construct and not as a biological term, as modern biology and genetics have proven that it is a myth to speak of separate human races, they do not exist.

[4] For more on the subject of the Rhineland Children please read: Sterilisierung der Rheinlandbastarde: Das Schicksal einer farbigen deutschen Minderheit, 1918-1937, by Reiner Pommerin; “The ‘Black Horror on the Rhine’: Race as a Factor in Post-World War I Diplomacy,” by Keith L. Nelson, published in The Journal of Modern History Vol. 42 (1970); “Black Watch on the Rhine: A Study in Propaganda, Prejudice, and Prurience,” by Sally Marks, published in the European Studies Review 13 (1983); and Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis, by Robert Proctor.

[i] Sources: Holmes, Richard (2001). The Oxford Campanion to Military History. Oxford University Press. p. 361. ISBN 9780198606963. Farwell, Byron (1989). The Great War in Africa, 1914–1918. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 109 ISBN 0393305643. Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[ii] Blanchard, Pascal. Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2008. Print.

[iii] Poddar, Prem, Rajeev S. Patke, Lars Jensen, and John Beverley. “Black Germans.” A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures: Continental Europe and Its Empires. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2008. Print.


[iv] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[v] S. Samples, “African Germans in the Third Reich”, in The African German Experience, edited by Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay (Praeger Publishers, 1996). Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[vi] Black Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.


[vii] Survivors of the Holocaust. Film. Director, David Okuefuna ; producer, Moise Shewa ; an Afro Wisdom Films production for Channel 4 and International Family Entertainment. Narrator, James Earl Jones. Publisher, SpiritWorld Entertaiment.