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.

Between 20,000 – 25,000 blacks lived in Nazi Germany under Hitler’s rule.When asked about blacks in the Third Reich, Germans are most likely to talk about the Afrika Schau. In his book, “Hitler’s Black Victims,” American University researcher, Dr. Clarence Lusane writes that the Africa Schau was a traveling show that began in 1936. The show’s owners were Juliette Tipner, whose mother was from Liberia and her white husband, Adolph Hillerkus. The aim of their spectacle was to showcase African culture in Germany.

In 1940, the Afrika Schau was taken over by the SS and Joseph Goebbels who “were hoping that it would become useful not only for propaganda and ideological purposes but also as a way to gather all the blacks in the country under one tent,” writes Lusane. For blacks who joined the Afrika Schau, it became a means of survival in Nazi Germany.

Duke University historian, Dr. Tina Campt, whose research deals with the African Diaspora in Germany said that “it was possible that blacks who were involved in it used it for purposes that were not the intention of those who organized it. So if the Afrika Schau dehumanized people, there were ways that blacks involved in it could use it as an opportunity to make money, as a site to connect to other black people,” she told Deutsche Welle.

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”

German cover of Hans J. Massaquoi's biography.

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Afro-German Hans J. Massaquoi tried to join the Nazi youth

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. “I published a book in the 70s, which told the reader about the sterilization of mixed blood children. These were children who had been fathered by occupation forces – mostly French occupation forces,” he said. His book, “Sterilisierung der Rheinlandbastarde. Das Schicksal einer farbigen deutschen Minderheit 1918 – 1937” (“Sterilization of the Rhineland Bastards: the fate of a colored German minority 1918 – 1937”) publicized the sterilization of the Black minority in Nazi Germany.


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