Sunday, 23 February 2014


                                  BLACK                 SOCIAL             HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                 Black Germans? Non-Germans may be understandably surprised to learn that there are Afro-Germans (Afrodeutsche), but many Germans themselves are unaware of the concept of a German who is also black (ein Schwarzer). While compared to other minorities, such as the 2 million Turks living in Germany, blacks are definitely a tiny minority among Germany's 82 million people. While EU countries do not keep track of ethnicity, there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Blacks living in Germany today.
Early History
The history of black people in Germany goes back much further than most people think. One of the first Africans known to have lived in Germany was Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-1759). Born in what is today's Ghana, Amo came under the protection of the Duke (Herzog) of Wolfenbüttel in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) and grew up in the duke's castle. He was both the first African known to attend a German university (Halle) and the first to obtain a doctorate degree (in 1729). As a professor, under his preferred name of Antonius Guilelmus Amo Afer, he taught at two German universities and published several scholarly works, including a Latin treatise entitled De Arte Sobrie et Accurate Philosophandi(1736, "On the Art of Philosophizing Soberly and Accurately"). Knowing the level of his achievements, it is all the more surprising to learn that Amo returned to Africa in 1747. Most accounts claim the reason for his return to his native Africa was the racial discrimination he encountered in Germany. Then as now, Africans in Europe were seen as something exotic and foreign.
Some historians claim that the first sizeable influx of Africans to Germany came from Germany's African colonies in the 19th century. Some Afro-Germans living in Germany today can claim ancestry going back five generations to that time. Yet Prussia's colonial adventures in Africa were quite limited and brief (1890-1918), far more modest than the British, the Dutch, the French, or other European powers, so there could not have been any great numbers. But Prussia's South West Africa colony was the site of the first mass genocide committed by Germans in the 20th century. In 1904 German colonial troops countered a revolt with the massacre of three-quarters of the Herero population in what is now Namimbia. It took Germany a full century to issue a formal apology to the Herero (in 2004) for that atrocity, which was provoked by a German "extermination order" (Vernichtungsbefehl). But Germany still refuses to pay any compensation to the Herero survivors, although it does provide foreign aid to Namibia. 
Afro-Germans Prior to World War II
After World War I, more blacks, mostly French Senegalese soldiers or their offspring, ended up in the Rhineland region and other parts of Germany. Estimates vary, but by the 1920s there were about 10,000 to 25,000 Afrodeutsche in Deutschland, most of them in Berlin or other metropolitan areas. Until the Nazis came to power, black musicians and other entertainers were a popular element of the nightlife scene in Berlin and other large cities. Jazz, later denigrated as Negermusik ("Negro music") by the Nazis, was made popular in Germany and Europe by black musicians, many from the U.S., who found life in Europe more liberating than that back home. Josephine Baker in France is one prominent example. Both the American writer and civil rights activistW.E.B. du Bois and the suffragist Mary Church Terrell studied at the university in Berlin. They later wrote that they experienced far less discrimination in Germany than they had in the U.S.
It is interesting to note that in the 1920s and 1930s, and even during Nazi times, Afrodeutscheappeared as extras in German movies portraying Africans, notably in the German color spectacle Baron von Münchhausen (1943), produced by the Ufa studio. (Blacks did not always volunteer to be extras; some were recruited from Nazi POW camps. More below.) To this day, it is in the field of entertainment, particularly on German television, where German blacks are most visible. Cherno Jobatey, a black man born in Berlin in 1965, has been a co-host of the popular morning show (ZDF-Morgenmagazin) on Germany's public ZDF TV network since 1992. Other Afro-Germans can be seen hosting music video shows on VIVA and Germany's MTV. American-born fashion model Bruce Darnell is famous for his broken German in several television commercials and got his own ARD TV show in 2008 after appearing as a juror on "Germany's Next Topmodel."

The Nazis and the Black Holocaust
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1932, the racist policies of the Nazis impacted other groups besides the Jews. The Nazis' racial purity laws also targeted gypsies (Roma), homosexuals, the mentally challenged, and blacks. Precisely how many Afro-Germans died in Nazi concentration camps is not known, but estimates put the figure at between 25,000 and 50,000. The relatively low numbers of blacks in Germany, their wide dispersal across the country, and the fact that the Nazis concentrated on the Jews were some factors that made it possible for many Afro-Germans to survive the war. One such survivor, who now lives in the U.S., published a book about his experiences as a black child growing up in Nazi Germany.
Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi, the retired managing editor of Ebony magazine, was born in Hamburg to a Liberian father and a German mother in 1926. In his book, Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, Massaquoi describes with stunning frankness how as a young boy he so badly wanted to fit into the Nazi culture that he had a babysitter sew a swastika on his sweater. He wore it to school only once before his mother removed it and tried to explain to him why he could not join the Hitler Youth. The German title of his book, Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger ("Negro, Negro, chimneysweep"), reflects one of the many taunts he heard as a young boy.
When the war came to Germany, Hans-Jürgen had more than the Nazis to worry about. Heavy Allied bombing forced him and his German mother Bertha Baetz to flee Hamburg. He attributes his survival to good luck and the help of his mother and German friends. In 1947 he went to Liberia before immigrating to the United States and joining the army as a paratrooper and later studying journalism at the University of Illinois. That led to his career at Ebony.
In Germany Massaquoi had avoided the tragic fate of many blacks during the Nazi era, but it was usually more difficult for adult blacks. The luckier ones were forcibly sterilized but allowed to live. Others were sent to concentration camps. Some Allied prisoners of war, including black French colonial soldiers and African Americans, were interned in Stalag-III-A at Luckenwalde near Berlin. In the summer of 1940 about 4,000 black POWs were sent to Luckenwalde. In 1941 300 of them were forced to act as extras in the German film Germanin (1943). Other black POWs also appeared in Quax in Afrika (1943, with Heinz Rühmann).
Speaking of movies, Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger, a German TV movie based on Massaquoi's book, is scheduled to air on German TV in fall 2006. Actress and producer Whoopi Goldberg, who owns the English-language rights to his book, has been trying to get Massaquoi's story made into a major motion picture for at least eight years, so far without success.

African Americans in Germany
The next influx of blacks to Germany came in the wake of the Second World War, when many African-American GIs were stationed in Germany after 1945. Colin Powell, in his autobiography My American Journey, wrote of his tour of duty in West Germany in 1958 that for " GIs, especially those out of the South, Germany was a breath of freedom--they could go where they wanted, eat where they wanted, and date whom they wanted, just like other people. The dollar was strong, the beer good, and the German people friendly..." But not all Germans were as tolerant as in Powell's experience. In many cases there was resentment of the black GIs having relationships with white German women. The children of German women and black GIs in Germany were called "occupation children” (Besatzungskinder)—or worse.Mischlingskind ("half-breed/mongrel child") was one of the least offensive terms used in the 1950s and '60s. (More German vocabulary below.)
A prominent example of a Besatzungskind is Barbara Becker, the ex-wife of German ex-tennis star Boris Becker. Barbara Becker neé Feltus is the daughter of an African-American soldier and a German woman. The model and fashion designer was Becker's wife for seven years and is the mother of his two sons. The couple went through a messy divorce in 2001.
More Categories:
Afrodeutsche (Afro-Germans), Afrikaner (Africans), Afroamerikaner

Blacks living in Germany today fall into several categories. German-born blacks are sometimes called "Afrodeutsche," but the term is still not widely used by the general public. This category includes people of African heritage born in Germany. In some cases only the father or mother is black, with the other partner being German or European. But just being born in Germany does not make you a German citizen. (Unlike many other countries, German citizenship is based on the citizenship of your parents, and is passed on by blood.) This means that blacks born in Germany, who grew up there and speak fluent German, are not German citizens unless they have at least one German parent. However, in 2000 a new German naturalization law made it possible for blacks and other foreigners to apply for citizenship after living in Germany for three to eight years.
Another category is blacks from Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, or some other place, who are living and working in Germany, sometimes for decades. A well-known African American example is Ron Williams, born in Oakland, California, but unknown in the U.S. Germans know him from his frequent television appearances and his wide-ranging entertainment activities. Williams is active in Germany in combating prejudice and racial discrimination. He has visited over 80 schools for his "Schultour für Toleranz." Lately he is best known for his theatrical Ray Charles show in Germany and other European countries. Before that he portrayed Martin Luther King on tour in 300 cities across German-speaking Europe. Williams, a former GI who got his start as an announcer for AFN (Armed Forces Network) in Stuttgart in the 1960s, is a multitalented performer who sings, acts, plays in a band, and appears on German talk shows. He has directed films and played various roles in movies and on German TV, and has done the German voices for feature and animated films, includingHarry Potter and The Little Mermaid.

Die Neue Schwarze Bewegung
As mentioned earlier, the general awareness of Germans that there are German black people is a relatively new phenomenon. In their 1986 book Farbe bekennen - Afrodeutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye opened up a debate about being "black in Germany." Although the book dealt primarily with black women in German society, it introduced the term "Afro-German" into German vocabulary (borrowed from "Afro-American" or "African American") and also sparked the founding of a support group for blacks in Germany, the ISD  in that same year.
Famous Afrodeutsche - Past and Present
The following list is a sample of Afro-Germans who are known for their work in the arts, on television, in sports, or in other areas of public life.
  • Nadja Abd el Farrag (1960- ), TV announcer, authoress
  • Mola Adebisi (1973- ), TV host (VIVA 1993-2004), musician
  • Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-1759), philosopher, professor
  • Gerald Asamoah (1978- ), pro soccer player (Schalke 04)
  • May Ayim (May Opitz, 1960-1996), writer, poet
  • Liz Baffoe (1969- ), actress, "Lindenstraße" soap opera
  • Barbara Feltus Becker (1966- ), model, fashion designer, ex-wife of Boris Becker
  • Roberto Blanco (1937- ), singer
  • Karin Boyd (1960- ), actress, Mephisto (1981)
  • Bruce Darnell (1957- ), U.S.-born model, TV personality
  • Pierre Geisensetter (1972- ), actor, TV announcer
  • Charles M. Huber (1956- ), actor ("Der Alte" TV series), author
  • Cherno Jobatey (1965- ), TV host (ZDF-Morgenmagazin)
  • Arabella Kiesbauer (1969- ), Austrian-born TV personality
  • Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi (1926- ), journalist, retired magazine editor
  • Xavier Naidoo (Xavier Kurt Naidoo, 1971- ), musician, singer
  • Katharina Oguntoye (1959- ), historian, writer
  • Ron Williams (1942- ), U.S.-born actor, singer, TV personality
GLOSSARY: 'afrodeutsch' Vocabulary
Neger, Neger, Schornsteinfeger
Up until the late 1980s and early 1990s Germans freely used words such as Neger ("negro" or the n-word), Negerkuss ("negro kiss," a type of chocolate candy), Farbige ("colored"), and other terms that are considered either offensive or inappropriate today. But the relatively new word Afrodeutscher (Afro-German) is still not widely used in the German language today.
Because black Germans are such a small minority, many Germans really have not developed the sensitivity and awareness of how to act around people with dark skin. It was not many years ago that a Duden editor, when asked why his respected German dictionary still listed "Neger," but did not contain the word "Afrodeutsche/Afrodeutscher," defended the use of the word "Neger" by saying that skin-color discrimination was not a language problem, but a social-political one. My 1999 Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary lists severalafro/Afro- compound words, includingAfroamerikaner and even Afrokubaner, but not Afrodeutscher! The 2006 Duden does listafrodeutsch and der/die Afrodeutsche, plus a commentary on the problem with "Neger" words. For Germans the issue of "political correctness" in this regard resembles the American debate over the use of "Indian" names for sports teams. In the German music world, the Afro-German rapper B-Tight caused a stir with his song "Der Neger in mir" ("The Nigger in Me"). Many of his fellow black hip-hop and "Deutschrap" singers took offense at the song's lyrics, containing words like "Scheißnigger."