During the Third Reich, Germany had a small black community, yet relatively little is known about their life in the Nazi era. Deutsche Welle takes a look at survival strategies under Hitler's oppressive regime.
In 1940, the Afrika Schau was taken over by the SS and Joseph Goebbels who
Duke University historian, Dr. Tina Campt, whose research deals with the African Diaspora in Germany said that
However, the show was unsuccessful and was shut down in 1941. Also, it could not gather all the blacks in the country under one tent possibly because it only accepted dark-skinned blacks who appealed to the stereotype of what was considered African.
The fate of the "Rhineland Bastards"
Most of the light-skinned blacks living in Germany during the Third Reich were of mixed blood, and a good number of them were the children of French-African occupation soldiers and German women in the Rhineland. The existence of these children is and remains common knowledge because they were mentioned in Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle"). In Nazi Germany, the derogatory term, Rheinlandbastard (Rhineland Bastard), was used to describe them.
Deutsche Welle spoke to leading German historian Prof. Reiner Pommerin to find out what happened to these children.
Prior to the publication of the book in 1979, this information was unknown to the public. The sterilization of biracial children was carried out secretly because it went against 1938 Nazi laws and procedures. The exact numbers remain unknown, but it is estimated that 400 children of mixed blood were sterilized - most without their knowledge, Pommerin said.
Today, the fate of the "Rhineland Bastards" still remains largely unknown. The lack of public knowledge regarding their fate may have to do with the "lack of public interest in minorities," said Pommerin. Campt attributes it to the secrecy behind the sterilization program and the nature of the Afrika Schau. "It has to do with the status of the Afrika Schau as a spectacle. So that was set up as a visual spectacle that was supposed to get people to notice something as a display. In that way, it was really publicized in order to get people to think about," she said.
Recognition of the black experience in Nazi Germany
According to Campt, the major difference between the experience of blacks and that of other groups in the Third Reich is the lack of a systematic Nazi extermination plan. Moreover, because of the small number of blacks living in Germany, few people are ready to recognize that there was even a population whose experience can be discussed.
Furthermore, there is little or no support in Germany for researchers working in this area. Unlike in the United States where research on minorities is well-funded due to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement,
All the same, it should be noted that even though the publication of Pommerin's book on the sterilization of the "Rhineland Bastards" did not generate much public interest at the time, it received some attention from a German politician. The member of the Social Democratic Party asked if he could obtain the names of the victims, so that they could be compensated.
Pommerin told Deutsche Welle that "(the politician) wanted to hand over 3,000 German marks ($2,190). I knew where they were living, but I didn't want to bother these people because I could tell that this was more a political interest. And I could see the TV cameras standing in front of the house in the village and money is handed over. And all of a sudden the sensation is great in the village - here is someone who had been sterilized."
Author: Chiponda Chimbelu
Editor: Rob Mudge
Also see: "Black Assimilation Nazi Style"