So much of our history is lost to us because we often don't write the
history books, don't film the documentaries, or don't pass the
accounts down from generation to generation.
One documentary now touring the film festival circuit, telling us to
"Always Remember" is "Black Survivors of the Holocaust" (1997).
Outside the U.S., the film is entitled "Hitler's Forgotten Victims"
(Afro-Wisdom Productions) . It codifies another dimension to the
"Never Forget " Holocaust story--our dimension.
Did you know that in the 1920's, there were 24,000 Blacks living in
Germany? Neither did I. Here's how it happened, and how many of them
were eventually caught unawares by the events of the Holocaust.
Like most West European nations, Germany established colonies in
Africa in the late 1800's in what later became Togo, Cameroon,
Namibia, and Tanzania. German genetic experiments began there, most
notably involving prisoners taken from the 1904 Heroro Massacre that
left 60,000 Africans dead, following a 4-year revolt against German
colonization. After the shellacking Germany received in World War I,
it was stripped of its African colonies in 1918.
As a spoil of war, the French were allowed to occupy Germany in the
Rhineland--a bitter piece of real estate that has gone back and,
forth between the two nations for centuries. The French willfully
deployed their own colonized African soldiers as the occupying force.
Germans viewed this as the final insult of World War I, and, soon
thereafter, 92% of them voted in the Nazi party.
Hundreds of the African Rhineland-based soldiers intermarried with
German women and raised their children as Black Germans. In Mein
Kampf, Hitler wrote about his plans for these "Rhineland Bastards".
When he came to power, one of his first directives was aimed at these
mixed-race children. Underscoring Hitler's obsession with racial
purity, by 1937, every identified mixed-race child in the Rhineland
had been forcibly sterilized, in order to prevent further "race
polluting", as Hitler termed it.
Hans Hauck, a Black Holocaust survivor and a victim of Hitler's
mandatory sterilization program, explained in the film "Hitler's
Forgotten Victims" that, when he was forced to undergo s terilization
as a teenager, he was given no anesthetic. Once he received his
sterilization certificate, he was "free to go", so long as he agreed
to have no sexual relations whatsoever with Germans.
Although most Black Germans attempted to escape their fatherland,
heading for France where people like Josephine Baker were steadily
aiding and supporting the French Underground, many still encountered
problems elsewhere. Nations shut their doors to Germans, including
the Black ones.
Some Black Germans were able to eke out a living during Hitler's
reign of terror by performing in Vaudeville shows, but many Blacks,
steadfast in their belief that they were German first, Black second,
opted to remain in Germany. Some fought with the Nazis (a few even
became Lutwaffe pilots)! Un fortunately, many Black Germans were
arrested, charged with treason, and shipped in cattle cars to
concentration camps. Often these trains were so packed with people
and (equipped with no bathroom facilities or food), that, after the
four-day journey, box car doors were opened to piles of the dead and
Once inside the concentration camps, Blacks were given the worst jobs
conceivable. Some Black American soldiers, who were captured and held
as prisoners of war, recounted that, while they were being starved
and forced into dangerous labor (violating the Geneva Convention),
they were still better off than Black German concentration camp
detainees, who were forced to do the unthinkable-man the crematoriums
and work in labs where genetic experiments were being conducted.. As a
final sacrifice, these Blacks were killed every three months so
that they would never be able to reveal the inner workings of the "Final
In every story of Black oppression, no matter how we were enslaved,
shackled, or beaten, we always found a way to survive and to rescue
others. As a case in point, consider Johnny Voste, a Belgian
resistance fighter who was arrested in 1942 for alleged sabotage and
then shipped to Dachau. One of his jobs was stacking vitamin crates.
Risking his own life, he distributed hundreds of vitamins to camp
detainees, which saved the lives of many who were starving, weak, and
ill--conditions exacerbated by extreme vitamin deficiencies. His
motto was "No, you can't have my life; I will fight for it."
According to Essex University's Delroy Constan tine- Simms, there were
Black Germans who resisted Nazi Germany, such as Lari Gilges, who
founded the Northwest Rann--an organization of entertainers that
fought the Nazis in his home town of Dusseldorf--and who was murdered
by the SS in 1933, the year that Hitler came into power.
Little information remains about the numbers of Black Germans held in
the camps or killed under the Nazi regime. Some victims of the Nazi
sterilization project and Black survivors of the Holocaust are still
alive and telling their story in films such as "Black Survivors of
the Nazi Holocaust", but they must also speak out for justice, not
Unlike Jews (in Israel and in Germany), Black Germans receive no war
reparations because their German citizenship was revoked (even though
they were German-born) . The only pension they get is from those of
us who are willing to tell the world their stories and continue their
battle for recognition and compensation.
After the war, scores of Blacks who had somehow managed to survive
the Nazi regime, were rounded up and tried as war criminals. Talk
about the final insult! There are thousands of Black Holocaust
stories, from the triangle trade, to slavery in America, to the gas
ovens in Germany.
We often shy away from hearing about our historical past because so
much of it is painful; however, we are in this struggle together for
rights, dignity, and, yes, reparations for wrongs done to us through
the centuries. We need to always remember so that we can take steps
to ensure that these atrocities never happen again.
For further information, read: Destined to Witness: Growing Up
Black in Nazi Germany, by Hans J. Massaquoi. Another book to read is:
Germany's Black Holocaust 1890 - 1945 by Firpo
W. Carr, PhD.
Junee' Barringer Hunt, M.P.A.
When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take a step into the
darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen.
There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to
fly. (Patrick Overton).