What Happened to Black Children of WWII?

Where there are men and women…

Eventually there are going to be children.

Such was true in WWII where black American troops were stationed in Europe.

Prior to WWII, there were roughly 100,000 “black” Europeans, of which 24,000 were black Germans who were the children of black American troops, and post war African occupation troops. An estimated 25-50,000 of those died in concentration camps – which considering the brutal effectiveness of the “final solution” Hitler imposed on Jews, it is amazing that even half survived.

Black German Girl With Classmates, c 1930

Black German Girl With Classmates, c 1930

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 activist W.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.


Black Germans in Concentration Camp Stalag-IIIa

Black Germans in Concentration Camp Stalag-IIIa

Today, there are an estimated 300,000-500,000 Afro-Germans which are a very small minority in terms of Germany’s 82 million population. The German Government’s view of what to do with the new black Germans postwar was split -

The first view was for the Mischlinge (mixed race) children to “stay in Germany and be raised by their families or in orphanages with other white children so they could cope with like struggles from an early age.” (1) The second view was that any children that “showed physical signs of their father’s racial inheritance” should be sent to America. (2) The final view was that the Mischlinge children should be “segregated into group homes in Germany where they were educated with an eye to their future emigration.” (3)

Now, racism in Germany didn’t die just because Hitler did. The German people have fought a pitched 60+ year battle to kill it, and it isn’t dead yet – much like it isn’t dead yet in America. The Germany of today bears no relationship to the Germany of then.

Recognizing America’s Jim Crow hypocrisy, Germany apparently opted for solutions 1 and 3. Today, Afro-Germans are significant contributors to German Society.

But what about those mixed race children in other countries… Like England?

According to this article – Mixed-race babies ‘were sent to the US’

Thousands of illegitimate mixed-race children fathered by American GIs were given up by their British mothers and shipped across the Atlantic, according to newly released papers.

The issue of how to deal with the unwanted offspring of the illicit affairs divided the country towards the end of the Second World War and exposed the racial prejudices of the time.

It was considered so serious that there were dire warnings it could harm Anglo-American relations and the Government was urged to treat the children as “war casualties”.

The problem began to emerge in 1944, when increasing numbers of US servicemen were stationed around Britain.

Many of the women they fathered children with were wives of British soldiers fighting abroad.

The documents suggest that where the baby was white it was often possible for husband and wife to be reconciled and keep the child. However, this was rarely possible when the child was mixed race.

So how is it Germany, the former land of Hitler, wound up keeping those children…

While the UK, the land of Churchill and “freedom” wound up putting them on boats to be shipped to Jim Crow America?

Now, things get even more convoluted in 2009 -  as Americans go all over the world to adopt white or Asian babies spending tens, if not hundreds of thousands… The US has become one of the largest exporters of babies, predominately to European countries including England, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Black and mixed race babies that is…

Since 1995, US State Department records indicate that international adoptions by Americans have increased more than 140 percent. Couples often cite the lack of American babies as the reason for adopting from abroad.

But the US is now the fourth largest “supplier” of babies for adoption to Canada. Adoption by Shepherd Care, an agency in Hollywood, Fla., places 90 percent of its African-American babies in Canada. One-third of the children placed through Adoption-Link in Chicago, which specializes in adoptions for black babies, go to people from other countries.

The exact numbers are not available, but interviews with adoption agencies and families in Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands indicate that the US also sends babies to those four countries as well as Belgium and England. Most of the children are black newborns. Most of the adopting parents are Caucasian.

Here in post racial America, seems that some folks are still hung up on those racial ideas. Mayhaps Canada and Europe will have to lead the way.

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2 Responses

  1. Good article. What Happened to Black Children of WWII?
    We’re here and slowly waking from the coma of assimilation and beginning the ascent of owning our authentic selves.
    Co-Founder and Vice President of the Black German Cultural Society (BGCS)
    http://blackgermans.us/

    • Cool! I have a niece of Black German ancestry, from one of my brothers who married a German Woman while stationed in Germany. Through visits back and forth, I have gotten to know the German side of the family well, and enjoyed their company both here and there. I will tell my niece about your website.

      One of my closest friends is one of the first black members of the Gemania Society. His grandfather was a German immigrant, who was a dairy farmer in rural Virginia, who met, and fell in love with a black woman in the early 1900′s timeframe. Despite laws forbidding interracial marriage, and condemnation from some in the community – they lived together for over 40 years, until their deaths producing 6 children – all boys. To get around laws prohibiting the sale or willing of property to black people, he managed to get around the laws by setting each son up in a corporation and transferring nearly 2,000 acres of property and several businesses to his sons before his death.

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