all the victims of the Nazis were Jewish. Black and mixed-race people
also suffered. Thanks to A. Tolbert, III for this informative piece.
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
the 'Never Forget' Holocaust story--our dimension.
'Did you know that in the 1920's, there were 24,000 Black people 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 colonisation. 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 colonised 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 sterilization 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
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,
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)! Unfortunately, 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 dying.
Once inside the concentration camps, Black Germans 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
labour (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 Black Germans were killed every three months so that
they would never be able to reveal the
inner workings of the 'Final Solution'.
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
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 Constantine-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 Black people 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
For further information, read: Destined to Witness: Growing
Up Black in Nazi Germany, by Hans J. Massaquoi.