28637, Hitler's forgotten Black Victims|
Posted by Brooklynbeef, Tue Feb-22-05 09:58 AM
Hitler's Forgotten Black Victims, September 26, 1997
The Nazi's final solution had a dress rehearsal in Namibia, writes Delroy
At a time when the fight for justice for Jewish Holocaust victims makes
front-page news, few people know that a significant number of black people
suffered, too, under Nazi rule. Revelations about their experiences are
made in a documentary, to be screened in Britain next month, entitled
Hitler's Forgotten Victims.
It reveals that sterilisation programmes of blacks were instituted by
Germany's most senior Nazi geneticist, Doctor Eugen Fischer, who developed
his racial theories in German South West Africa (now Namibia) long before
World War I. In Namibia, Fischer claimed there were genetic dangers
arising from race mixing between German colonists and African women.
The documentary also provides disturbing photographic evidence of German
genocidal tendencies in Africa. In 1904 the Herero tribe revolted against
their German colonial masters in a quest to keep their land. It was a
rebellion that lasted four years and led to the death of 60 000 Herero
people ó 80% of their population. The survivors were imprisoned in
concentration camps or used as guinea pigs for medical experiments, a
foretaste of things to come.
Hitler's Forgotten Victims shows that Germany's 24 000-strong black
community were the number-one target for Hitlerís sterilisation programme.
The film makes it clear that Hitler's view on racial superiority did not
develop in a vacuum. He was influenced by the work of the 19th- century
German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, whose views were based on distorted
versions of Darwinism. He wrote of woolly- haired Negroes incapable of
higher mental development.
The film shows that the Nazis' obsession with racial purity and eugenics
was provoked and intensified in 1918, following Germany's defeat in World
War I. Under the terms of the peace treaty signed at Versailles, Germany
was stripped of its African colonies and forced to submit to the
occupation of the Rhineland. The deployment of African troops from the
French colonies to police the territory incensed many Germans.
To many it was the final humiliation that began with their 1918 defeat in
the World War I. The film shows Germans complaining bitterly in newspapers
and propaganda films about African soldiers from the French colonial army
having relations with their women.
As soon as Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, he retaliated by
targeting black people living there. At least 400 mixed- race children
were forcibly sterilised in the area by the end of 1937, while 400 others
disappeared into camps.
Hans Hauck, a victim of Hitlerís sterilisation programme, says: 'We were
lucky that we werenít victims of euthanasia; we were only sterilised. We
had no anaesthetic. Once I got my vasectomy certificate, I had to sign an
agreement that we were not allowed to have sexual relations whatsoever
In 1932 in Bresau, Hitler gave a speech in which he ordered Africans, Jews
and anyone not Aryan to leave Germany or go into the camps. But most
blacks in Germany could not heed Hitler's warning as they were German
citizens with German passports and had nowhere else to go. While a fair
number escaped to France, others tried to return to the former German
colonies, taken over by the League of Nations in 1920. The British
colonial authorities in the newly named South West Africa would not allow
black Germans refugee status on the grounds that they had fought for the
Germans in World War I.
Hitler's Forgotten Victims does not give enough insight into the lives of
black Germans who resisted the Nazis, such as black activist Lari Gilges,
who founded an organisation of entertainers that fought the Nazis in his
home town of Dusseldorf. He was murdered by the SS in 1933, the year
Hitler came to power. More insight is given into black and mixed-race
Germans who toured in the Hillerkus Afrikaschau circuses, films and shows
to escape persecution.
Says interviewee Elizabeth Morton: 'My father was one of the founders of
the Afrikaschau. There was everything: dances, songs and acrobatics, music
breaking, tap dancing. It was like a variety show. The Afrikaschau
actually became the place to go for all black people; it was something
These shows were eventually taken over in 1940 by the SS, who considered
them racially unacceptable and used them for racist propaganda. But
eventually Hitler's propaganda chief, Josef Goebbels, realised that in
order to spread the Nazi gospel of Aryan supremacy, he needed to exploit
the most popular medium of the time - German feature films. Propaganda
films such as Kongo Express, Quax in Africa, and Auntie Wanda from Uganda
presented Germany as a benevolent colonial power.
Says black actor Werner Egiomue: We had an agent then who had all the
addresses of black people in Berlin. The Reichís chamber of commerce was
in touch with him when they were casting a film. It was fun inside the
studio. Outside the door you could be arrested. But inside you were as
safe as in a bank.
Another experience is given by the Michaels family, who were orphaned and
separated at an early age. Theodore Michael, one of Germanyís greatest
character actors of the time, gives a gripping account of how he survived.
He says: 'Black people in Germany were aware that if the Nazis wanted to
get rid of us, they could catch us in one swoop. I was eventually sent to
a munitions factory, where I was liberated by Russian soldiers. They were
surprised to see a black man still alive'.
Not only black Germans suffered at the hands of the Nazis black soldiers
were also targets. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 200 000 black
troops from African colonies were serving in Europe. The Nazis segregated
black inmates for extra special treatment of the fatal kind. In breach of
the Geneva Convention, black prisoners were denied food, and given
dangerous jobs. In film never seen before, black soldiers and civilians
are seen scavenging for scraps of food in garbage heaps at the Hemer POW
camp near Dortmund in north-west Germany. No one knows how many black
soldiers or civilians died in the camps at the hands of the SS guards,
producer Moise Shewa says, because where Jews were noted as Jews, blacks
were noted by nationality.
One description of concentration camp life is given by Johnny William,
born to an African mother and white Frenchman, who was transported by the
Gestapo to the Neugengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. 'There were
five or six of us. As soon as we arrived, we were immediately separated
from the white deportees by the SS. They considered us to be subhuman
beings like animals, chimpanzees.
Hitler's Forgotten Victims makes it clear that the treatment of blacks in
the Holocaust should be acknowledged. Most black Germans were stripped of
their nationality, so it has been difficult for them to claim reparations.
Hopefully, this film will go some way to force the German government to
acknowledge their experience at the hands of the Nazis and recompense
black Germans in the same manner as the Jewish community, who suffered the