Reflections on the “Brown Babies” in Germany: the Black Press and the NAACP

By Yara-Colette Lemke Muniz de Faria

Rosemarie Peña's Passport

Between 1945 and 1955, an estimated 67,770 children were born to soldiers of the occupying forces and German women in the Federal Republic of Germany. Of these children, 4,776 children were the children of African American and Moroccan soldiers. The fate of this generation of Afro-German children (or “brown babies” as they were called in the U.S.) was the focus of public interest both in West Germany and the U.S.

During the 1940s and 50s, popular and scholarly publications in both countries printed detailed reports on these “brown babies” (“Mischlingskinder”) who were the subject of intense political and pedagogical debates and controversies. Indeed, both state institutions and private organizations in Germany and in the U.S. devoted considerable time and effort to planning out their lives. What underlay the public debate on the fate of Afro-German children both in postwar Germany and the U.S. was a very specific construction of their heritage—one that defined them as essentially “fremd” (both in the sense of “strange” and “Other” and, at the same time, “foreign” or “alien”), “not belonging and at risk in Germany.” Their German nationality and their socialization in the country of their birth were, thus, only of secondary interest. In other words, their national and cultural heritage were regarded as contrasting directly with their race. Consequently, an ambivalent and contradictory attitude developed toward them both in hypothetical discussions and in the concrete actions taken in their name. The debate around these Afro-German children reveals a paradoxical and shifting dynamic of caretaking and marginalization, inclusion and exclusion. Complete Article & Photo Gallery here….

Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960

Speaker: Carol Anderson (Emory University) – more about this lecture…
In 1993, shortly after his release from Robben Island, future President of South Africa Nelson Mandela addressed the NAACP annual convention. Mandela told the Association members, who “had contributed everything from $20 bills to $1,000 checks in a fund-raiser for the ANC”, that “‘We have come as a component part of the historic coalition of organizations, to which the NAACP and the ANC belong that has fought for the emancipation of black people everywhere.'”

Indeed, many of the strategies that brought about the collapse of apartheid – the isolation of South Africa in the UN, boycotts, divestment, and media attention focused on the brutality of white supremacy – were designed by a transnational team of activists in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

One of the first sustained skirmishes occurred when South Africa, swimming against the tide of colonial and racial history, attempted in 1946 to annex the adjacent international mandate of South West Africa (current-day Namibia). Pretoria was confident of UN approval for such an unprecedented move. Yet, into the breach -and into the United Nations – stepped an unlikely duo, the Reverend Michael Scott and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to stop the absorption of 350,000 Africans into a white supremacist state.

This seemingly odd couple, a maverick, communist-leaning Anglican minister and a staid, staunchly anti-communist bureaucratic organization, launched a skillful assault in the UN by linking the destructiveness of colonialism with white supremacist domestic rule. Within the span of five hard-fought years, the NAACP and Scott, wielding one human rights charter after the next, had carved out the political space in the UN for non-governmental organizations to debunk the myth of the white man’s burden and to challenge the legitimacy of apartheid.

In her talk, Professor Anderson will explore the intersection of domestic and international history, recapturing the vision and the actions of the black political center in the anti-colonial and global freedom movements.

Read Full Article Here…

The ISD Bundestreffen Celebrating 25 Years!

 

ISD BUNDESTREFFEN

Start Time:
Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 2:35pm
End Time:
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 11:35am
Location:
in Helmarshausen Germany
When Federal ISD meeting ISD- meets every year, the Black community in Germany.

In November 1985 called for the first time Black women and men nationwide at a meeting in Wiesbaden, step out to get out of that time experienced isolation in a white society. Many followed this call. That was the impetus for a nation (at the time the time being, the old West Germany) Movement of black people in Germany. A novelty in Germany under the Nazis. Much has changed since those early days. From a manageable number of contacts was a complex network. Black people work on topics with each other to create discussion forums, create knowledge, make their private and public space. There will be workshops, lectures, discussions, exchanges, information stalls, children’s program and lots of room to Selbstgestalten. In the evening there’s pure culture, e.g. Films, performance / reading, DJ and live music. And of course you can with ragga, soul, Soukouss, hip hop and everything else is fun to dance floor. Issues at the federal meetings are black history, black people in education and employment, blacks networks, Black Identities in Germany, strengthening of children and young people, self in everyday life, and much more …

Finding A Brother Across An Ocean Of Time

The airport isn’t a very happy place right now — grim-faced business travelers trudge in from another gloom-and-doom meeting, families fret over fares, airline workers seem jumpy and glum. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that a crowd of total strangers gathered around Angie Scurlock at the Dulles international arrivals gate to watch as she nearly burst out of her skin to meet her half brother, Hans Engel.

At 49, Scurlock was laying eyes on one of her three siblings for the first time. Five months ago, Scurlock didn’t know she had siblings.

Now, thanks to determined detective work by an American woman in Germany who devotes herself to reuniting adoptees with long-lost relatives, a black woman who was raised by the owners of a D.C. liquor store would find out just what she had in common with a German truck driver who grew up in an orphanage.

How would Scurlock even know which passenger was Hans, asked her friend from work at the U.S. Patent Office in Alexandria.

“I’ll know,” Scurlock said.

She did, instantly. So did everyone else in the hall. The color of their skin was different, but pretty much everything else about sister and brother seemed eerily familiar — eyes, nose, shape of the face, build, and their instinct about what to do first. They hugged and they kissed. They caressed each other’s cheeks and nestled against each other’s shoulders.

On the basis of a visit from a stranger bearing adoption records, Engel, 59, and his son, Benjamin, had gotten on a plane, making Engel’s first trip to the United States, to see a woman who was his first link to the mother he had never known.

The story begins, like so many of this sort, with war and love. Germany at the end of World War II was chockablock with American soldiers. Over the course of the decade after the war, Inge Engel, a German whose father had been killed in the war, had four children by four different men, two of them U.S. servicemen. Inge left one son to be taken into the German foster-care system at birth; another son was adopted by a German family. Her two daughters, both biracial, were adopted by black American military couples.

Inge eventually married another American soldier and moved to the United States. But aside from one quick visit when Angie was 3 years old, there was no contact between the mother and her children.

Angie didn’t find out that she was adopted until she was 11. One day at home in Southeast Washington, as they watched “One Life to Live” on TV, a friend of Angie’s adoptive mother asked the girl: “Do you know what ‘adopted’ means?”

In the vaguest terms, the friend told Angie that her parents weren’t who she thought. But not a word about adoption ever passed between Angie and her parents. “I had a good life,” Scurlock says. “I had a pony, I had a minibike. I didn’t see the need to rock the boat.”

Only decades later, after her adoptive parents had died, did she act on that shred of information.

In 1995, she found her biological mother’s sister in Colorado. But the sister wouldn’t divulge details, telling Angie only that “you were a one-night stand.”

Then, this year, over Memorial Day weekend, Scurlock got a call. “Hi,” a woman said. “I’m your sister.”

Deborah Bufford, 51, was calling from Oklahoma, where her adoptive family settled after their time in Germany. Bufford had always known she was adopted from Germany, but she knew little else. “I kept asking and asking, but my adoptive parents were reluctant to give anything out,” she says.

Three years ago, Bufford contacted Angela Shelley, a researcher who specializes in connecting American adoptees with their German relations. Shelley hit a dead-end when German authorities refused to open Bufford’s adoption files. Only after Inge died did the archives open up.

This June, after many months of calls and letters, Shelley obtained enough of the file to determine that there were four half siblings, none of whom knew of each other’s existence. She found one half brother, Hans, and visited him with the documents; the other half brother, Werner, has not been located.

Meanwhile, Bufford used the German records to find Scurlock on the Internet. But after that Memorial Day call, Scurlock wanted to be certain. “I made Deborah take a DNA test,” she says. “So many lies had been told to me, I just had to know for a fact. We did the test and she is my sister.”

Sadly, Bufford says, “finances and circumstances” prevented her from coming to Washington to meet Hans.

She’s missing a White House visit, a limousine tour of the monuments and a week at Scurlock’s home in Charles County. But mostly, she’s missing a brother’s smile and a lifetime of stories — and the answer to the question that most plagued Scurlock.

“I always longed for a family, especially around the holidays, my own family,” Scurlock told me before Hans arrived. “But I am very nervous. I don’t know what he’ll think when he sees me. I mean, when he sees what I look like.”

At the airport, Hans saw the sister he had always dreamed of. Four years ago, he says, he put himself under hypnosis and suddenly perceived two sisters.

“Until two weeks ago, I only knew that my mother left me lying in the hospital where I was born,” he says. “My father visited me a couple of times when I was very young, but we lost contact by age 8 or 10, and I never saw him again.”

Angie and Hans have no common language, so, over chicken wings in Reston, I translated stories back and forth. But Scurlock tapped me on the arm: “Ask him,” she said. “What did you think when you first saw me?”

“Oh, such joy!” Hans replied.

“But what did you expect to see?”

“My sister who looks like me.”

Angie wasn’t satisfied. “Ask him specifically,” she told me.

I translated her words: “Is it OK to you that your sister is black?”

Hans grabbed onto Angie by both shoulders. “As a child,” he said, “in the orphanage, I was with the guest workers” — the German term for immigrants brought to the country to do manual labor — “from Italy, Africa, everywhere. Those were my friends, and I saw how they were treated. I have no problem with black or yellow or any color. Seeing you answers my greatest wish. You are my greatest wish.”

Angie Scurlock turned to face her brother. They hugged for a very long time.

From the Washington Post…